Harried lifestyles and travel are no longer reasons to miss volunteering, hanks to two new public-service groups created to fit most schedules.
Founded in May 1989, D.C. Cares makes community service "educational, convenient and enjoyable for people with demanding and unpredictable work schedules," says founder Jeffrey Keitelman, a lawyer with Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge. "We want someone to be able to call up on Tuesday, come for orientation on Wednesday, and get involved with a group or a project by Thursday."
D.C. Cares has involved more than 500 volunteers in hundreds of events with 24 local community-service groups; projects include one-on-one tutoring and monthly or one-time group ventures such as teaching leadership skills to low-income housing tenants, or hosting Halloween parties for homeless children. All D.C. Cares activities take place before or after weekly work hours, or on weekends -- and they're all "over-staffed" to accommodate last-minute no-shows.
doingsomething, whose name parodies the self-involved characters of the morose yuppie drama, offers up to five group volunteer activities once a month, every first Saturday. "We do everything from Anacostia River cleanups to taking teenagers on bike trips to soup kitchen work," says co-founder Karen Hallerman. "We make sure we target projects that are doable, and try to ensure a certain success rate."
Hallerman and two friends founded doingsomething in May 1989, because they were fed up with schedules too hectic to allow volunteering. Since its inception, doingsomething has involved more than 400 people.
Does the group-service trend show a '90s fear of commitment? Not at all, Hallerman says. "It's not that people don't want to make commitments; they can't because they travel too much. They make a commitment to doing something. And if we serve as a kind of shopping mall for volunteerism, so be it."
James Lindsay, head of the Volunteer Clearinghouse, agrees, citing new findings by the group Independent Sector that volunteerism by baby boomers and blacks has grown markedly since 1987.
"If it's yuppies and buppies (volunteering), it's fine with me," says Lindsay, whose group connects volunteers with nonprofits. "I'll take help where I can get it."
D.C. CARES, 2300 N St. NW, Fifth Floor, Washington, D.C. 20037. (202) 663-9207.
doingsomething, P.O. Box 57153, Washington, D.C. 20036. (301) 891-2156.
The Volunteer Clearinghouse, 1313 New York Ave. NW 20005. (202) 638-2664.