Giving Back

A guide to volunteering.

It's easy to get caught up in our own affairs and ignore those in need all around us. But if we take a minute from our hectic lives, we'll not only see the need. We'll see countless ways to help. Check out our sampling of organizations that depend on volunteers to accomplish their missions. Whether we sign up to serve a hot meal, read to the blind, advocate for a child, or plant a garden, we'll enrich those we serve — and ourselves as well.


Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA)

Founded in 1968, MIFA has numerous programs that tackle homelessness, education, nutrition, and legal and financial concerns for thousands of people. Its mission is to help seniors maintain independence, transform the lives of families in crisis, and give teens the tools for success. Among many volunteer opportunities are assisting parents with child care, landscaping property, teaching a life-skills class, advocating for the rights of nursing home residents, and delivering meals and gift bags to MIFA meals clients.(271-6432/529-4514,

Volunteer Mid-South

This organization, a HandsOn Network Affiliate, works with hundreds of local nonprofits to connect volunteers with opportunities to serve at partnering agencies throughout Memphis and the Mid-South. Its Flexible Volunteer Program provides ways for busy people of all ages to serve, from tutoring children and feeding the homeless, to visiting seniors or preserving the environment. (523-2425, ext. 200,


House of Mews

House of Mews is a nonprofit cat sanctuary and gift shop dedicated to the rescue and care of abandoned cats and kittens in Memphis. Volunteers are needed to feed the felines, clean cages, screen clients for adoptions, work directly with the cats as caretakers, and serve in the retail area. (272-3777,

Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County

Walking dogs, socializing cats, cleaning kennels/cages, and providing foster homes for animals are just a few ways to help the HSMSC, located near Shelby Farms. Other opportunities include community outreach, humane education, and assisting with mobile adoptions, special events, and programs that raise money for the animals' medical needs. (937-3900,

Mid-South Spay & Neuter Services

This nonprofit provides affordable spay/neuter services to Memphis and the tri-state area. Volunteers are needed to help check in animals for surgery, monitor them, assist in post-surgical recovery, explain after-care needs to their owners, and help with cleanup. (324-3202/,


CASA of Memphis

A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a trained community volunteer assigned to an abuse or neglect case by a judge to represent the best interest of the child involved. With the support of a program director and staff social workers, the volunteer makes an in-depth investigation into a child's case and makes recommendations to the judge or referee on the child's behalf. The volunteer also locates services or resources the child may need, from such basics as school supplies to psychological evaluations, educational assistance, or summer camp programs. (522-0200,

Exchange Club Family Center

The Exchange Club Family Center provides programs and services to help end family violence and child abuse. Through parenting education and anger management programs, the center aims to help stop the cycle of abuse and neglect. Volunteers are needed as readers or proctors for testing in the Domestic Violence Assessment Center, provide refreshments for program graduation ceremonies, make presentations to community groups, recruit new volunteers, and help with fund-raising and special events. (276-2000, ext 131,

Youth Villages

Dedicated to serving emotionally and behaviorally troubled children and their families, this Memphis-based organization reaches some 15,000 clients each year. Volunteers can give their time as mentors, tutor children in various subjects, assist at special events, organize regular volunteer activities, or serve as a foster parent. (251-4827,


Clovernook Center for the Blind & Visually Impaired

Clovernook works to foster independence and promote the highest quality of life for those with visual impairments. Volunteers are needed to transport clients, read to them or write letters, serve as companions in a trusting relationship, work in the Braille production facility, or perform administrative tasks. (523-9590,

Memphis Center for Independent Living

The Memphis Center for Independent Living is a disability rights and advocacy organization. Volunteers are needed to carry out the center's various programs, which include transportation, housing, and employment assistance, fostering independence and pride in disabled youth, and working to raise awareness and make the community more accessible to those with disabilities. (726-6404,

The Arc of the Mid-South

This organization's goal is to empower people with developmental and intellectual disabilities to achieve their full potential. The Arc has a wide variety of volunteer opportunities, including teaching, communications, advocacy, mentoring, respite care, CPR and first aid, family support, and office/clerical work. (327-2473,

Raymond Skinner Center

The Raymond Skinner Center's mission is to provide community-based recreational opportunities for those with physical and/or mental disabilities in a safe, attractive facility. Volunteers can assist with after-school programs, summer camp, weekly dances, and other activities and programs. (272-2528,, click on communities/parks and recreation)

WYPL Talking Library

WYPL FM 89.3 provides the visually impaired and physically handicapped in Shelby County timely access to the news and other printed information over the radio. Volunteers read magazines and newspaper stories on the air. They are needed all times of the day, and on weekends and holidays. (415-2752,


Church Health Center

The Church Health Center's mission is to provide health care for the poor and promote healthy bodies and spirits for all. Health professionals from every field are needed to staff the clinic on a volunteer basis. Also needed are willing workers to make phone calls, perform clerical tasks, sort medicine, tend the grounds/garden, and perform other duties. (272-7170,

Crisis Center of Memphis

The Crisis Center is a free telephone hotline available 24 hours, 365 days a year. Trained volunteers provide confidential telephone counseling to individuals who may be suicidal, diagnosed with a mental illness, facing a crisis, or in emotional distress or physical danger. (To volunteer, 271-5492; suicide hotline, 1-800-SUICIDE; other help, CRISIS-7 or 800-273-TALK)

Friends For Life

Friends for Life provides supportive services — including education, housing, transportation, food, health care, and life skills training — to persons affected by HIV/AIDS. Volunteers assist in the food pantry and in the Positive Living Center, perform administrative tasks, and help with Feast for Friends, a twice-monthly meal program held at St. John's United Methodist Church, and assist with fund-raising and special events. Spanish-speaking volunteers are also needed. (272-0855, ext. 233,

Hope House

Hope House provides day care, respite care, and social services to children and families impacted by HIV/AIDS. It assists with activities, recreation, companionship, and emotional support. Volunteers can mentor children/parents, assist teachers, serve breakfast and lunch, help in school after-care, ride the bus home with children, rake the yard, paint rooms, and assist with fund-raisers and special events. (272-2702 ext. 214,

National Foundation for Transplants

The National Foundation for Transplants provides financial assistance, fund-raising expertise, and advocacy to organ and tissue transplant patients nationwide. For a description of volunteer opportunities call Emily Joyner (684-1697,


Memphis Union Mission

This Christian-based organization ministers to the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of men, women, and children who are homeless, addicted, and in crisis. Volunteers can serve meals, plant flowers or maintain the vegetable garden, work in clothing/food/book drives, assemble hygiene kits, or assist in the office. Other opportunities include baby-sitting, literacy/GED tutoring, mentoring clients, and participating in chapel services. (526-8403,

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis

Habitat is a Christian ministry dedicated to eliminating substandard housing in the Memphis area by building homes in partnership with families who need them and could not otherwise afford them. Volunteer opportunities exist for individuals, businesses, faith-based organizations, and community groups. Besides actually helping to build a house, volunteers can review applications, communicate with homeowners, serve on committees, work in the office, and assist with fund-raising and special events. (761-4771,

Mid-South Food Bank

The Mid-South Food Bank's mission is to fight hunger through the efficient collection of wholesome food, education, and advocacy. It also runs Kids Cafe sites and sponsors the Feed the Need program in local grocery stores. Volunteers can serve at Kids Cafes, sort and pack food items, clean and stock the food pantry shelves, and help in the office. (901-527-0841,


Many groups throughout the city operate volunteer-run soup kitchens, where those in need can obtain a good meal. Among them:

Emmanuel Episcopal Center (523-2617, 604 St. Paul, 38126)
First Presbyterian Church(525-5619, 166 Poplar, 38103)
Food, Not Bombs, Mid-South Peace and Justice Center (725-4990, 1000 S. Cooper, 38104; meals served at downtown's Court Square)
Friends for Life's Feast for Friends (272-0855/726-4104,1207 Peabody, 38104)
Highland Heights United Methodist Church (458-5966, 3476 Summer, 38122)
Holy Community United Methodist Church (523-2485, 602 Looney, 38107)
Memphis Union Mission (526-8403, 383 Poplar, 38105)
St. John's United Methodist Church (726-4104, 1207 Peabody, 38104)
St. Luke's United Methodist Church (452-6262, 480 S. Highland, 38111)
St. Mary's Catholic Church (522-9420, 155 Market, 38105)
St. Patrick's Catholic Church (527-2542, 277 S. 4th, 38126)


Literacy Mid-South

Formerly the Memphis Literacy Council, this organization offers free literacy instruction to adults who want to learn to read or improve their reading skills, as well as conversational English classes for those studying English as a second language. Volunteers are trained as tutors and work with students on an individual basis. They may also work in the lab or office, or assist family literacy programs. (327-6000,

Neighborhood Christian Center

The center's mission is to meet the practical and spiritual needs of the city's poor through such ministries as emergency assistance, the food pantry/clothes closet, and the single-mother empowerment program.

Volunteers can tutor or help children in grades K-12 with homework, help in the office, sort donated items such as clothing and food, or perform maintenance tasks such as landscaping, painting, or working in the warehouse. (881-6013,

Streets Ministries

Streets is a Christian ministry dedicated to serving the youth of Memphis in low-income neighborhoods. It has been serving the students of the 38126 zip code since 1987, and recently launched an expansion site in the Highland Heights community. Streets provides an after-school safe haven and programming to meet the specific needs of each student. Volunteers can read to younger children, mentor or tutor adolescents, participate in club meetings, or help at summer camps. (525-7380,


Alzheimer's Day Services, Inc.

This program for Alzheimer's patients provides a safe and stimulating social environment for participants in an effort to help maintain a maximum level of functioning, while providing respite care for their caregivers. Volunteers help with clerical or kitchen tasks, perform maintenance chores, accompany participants on field trips, help at holiday parties or special events, or serve on the speakers' bureau. (372-4585,

St. Peter Villa

St. Peter Villa is a nonprofit skilled and intermediate care facility. Volunteers can befriend residents, help them with daily activities, serve as small-group leaders, participate in activities residents enjoy such as birdwatching, games, music, and puzzles, and assist with special outings, or events (725-3568,


National volunteer resources are also available on the Internet, including:

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