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Give a Little. Get a Lot.

Few activities do more to boost the heart and soul than helping others.

Illustration by Jesse Kuhn

Whether it’s trotting out your pet to perk up a sick child, outfitting a pretty-in-pink teen for her prom, or weeding a city garden, the opportunities to chip in and improve our community are literally limitless. The commitment can run the gamut from a few hours on a Saturday to advocating for a child through the years—and crises.

Speak Up
More than 1,000 children reside in foster care in St. Louis. And every day in courtrooms across the city, teams of Voices for Children’s Court Appointed Special Advocates speak up for almost 350 of them. Sworn officers of the court, each CASA advocate is paired with a child-advocacy attorney. The goal is to ensure that those kids, many of whom have been abused or neglected, are getting educated, going to the doctor and dentist, receiving counseling as needed, and staying in contact with their siblings. The CASA volunteers help make crucial decisions for the betterment of each child, and through their advocacy get them into stable homes. 314-552-2352, voices-stl.org

Make a Date
Like a dating service, United Way’s St. Louis Cares pairs you up with a cause in need of manpower. You fill out a form specifying interests and time availability, and the nonprofit contacts you. There is no long-term commitment, just a chance to help out as needed. “People are capable of doing wonderful things, given the opportunity,” says Derek Rapp, the organization’s founder and now CEO of biotech company Divergence. “St. Louis Cares simply provides a vehicle where people can go, get involved, and make a difference as they want to. That, in many cases, is all it takes.” 314-539-4063, www.stl.unitedway.org/stlouiscares.aspx

Be a Sport
Whether your athletic inclinations lead you to the bowling alley, basketball court, baseball diamond, or soccer field, St. Louis Arc can use your help. The organization assists more than 3,000 St. Louisans with developmental disabilities, as well as their families. Volunteers are needed to coach and assist with sport leagues—as well as other events ranging from dances to book clubs. 314-569-2211, slarc.org

The Fairy Godmother
That old plaint “I’ve nothing to wear” tugs on heartstrings when you realize the young miss truly has—and can afford—nothing to don for the dance. “You always remember what you wore that night, even if you don’t remember who your date was,” says Diane Wolferding with Metro St. Louis Cinderella Project. The nonprofit is part of a national drive, donatemydress.org, anchored at Seventeen magazine and sponsored locally by the Community Council of St. Charles County. Local agencies and school counselors refer the girls; volunteers do everything from serving as personal shoppers to the “Very Important Promgoers” (VIPs) to staffing the boutique to altering the dresses (if you’re comfortable with a thimble and thread). Pull out those ball gowns and bridesmaid dresses that you really won’t wear again, because dress collection starts in January. (The biggest need is for sizes 14 and up.) 636-978-2277, cinderellastl.org

Take Your Dog
If your canine has the temperament of Mother Teresa or just a similar urge to serve, consider signing up for Support Dogs, Inc. First, you and your faithful Fido go through a three-month training program. After graduation, TOUCH (Therapy of Unique Canine Helpers) Program volunteers and their dogs visit local healthcare facilities, where patients and residents enjoy the nudge of a wet nose and the wag of a happy tail. 314-997-2325, supportdogs.org/programs/touch

Pack a Backpack
An estimated 1,755 homeless students attend St. Louis schools every day. Founded in 1990, StandUp For Kids sends out backpacks filled with nutritious, nonperishable foods that can sustain those children through the weekends and when school is out. Volunteers meet once a week to fill the book bags, which the organization then drops off each Friday. The empty backpacks are retrieved on
Monday and reloaded four days later. 800-365-4543, standupforkids.org/Saint Louis
 

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