Why Volunteer with ELK?

Environmental Learning for Kids
5 min readFeb 29, 2024

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ELK volunteers at the Kindness Rocks! volunteer event

With the beginning of a new year, and with our Volunteer Program up and running, come plans and opportunities for new beginnings, growth, and discovery! As we turn over a new leaf, we are each given the opportunity to reconsider where and how we will invest our time and energy. Many of us find that the demands of our day-to-day lives leave little energy or desire for acts of selflessness or service. It is understandable that you might be hesitant to volunteer your time for something that does not benefit you immediately. There are countless reasons why one might be hesitant to volunteer, such as a busy schedule or a lack of accessibility or representation. Maybe you have better things to do with your time or think volunteering comes later, once you have built a life comfortable enough for you to give a little back on the weekends.

In any case, it seems obvious that people tend to be more willing to sacrifice some of their time, or be of service to someone else, only once their basic needs are met. Volunteering has historically been a practice of giving by those who have, but in an ever-changing world, nothing looks the way it used to. While it may be true that most volunteer work is done by people who are around the age of retirement, the modern volunteer is proving to be an even more powerful force in the push for progress!

Who are modern volunteers, and what do they look like? They are you and me. They are our parents, siblings, coworkers, teachers, students, and leaders of tomorrow. They are those with sincere intentions, a strong sense of community, and a deep desire to help in any way they can. Those with a unique talent or valuable experience to share with the rest of us. Those who have it all figured out, but also those who give what they can, wholeheartedly. If you are willing to be of service, ELK has an opportunity for you!

Volunteering is not only a meaningful way to give back to your community; it can also have significant benefits to you and your personal growth. These are some of the top benefits you may personally receive from volunteering:

  1. Personal Fulfillment: Volunteering for causes that you are passionate about can bring a sense of personal fulfillment and satisfaction. Contributing your time and skills to a cause you care deeply about can lead to a profound sense of purpose and meaning. This can lead to increased happiness and overall well-being.
  2. Skill Development: Volunteering is a fantastic way for you to develop and enhance your skills. Whether it’s honing existing skills or learning new ones, you can gain valuable experience that can benefit you both personally and professionally. For example, volunteering for a cause related to your career interests can help you improve your leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills in that area.
  3. Building Connections: Volunteering offers a unique chance to connect with like-minded individuals who share the same passion for a particular cause. These connections can help you form strong friendships, larger networks, and a sense of community. By engaging in meaningful volunteer work, you can expand your social circles, establish valuable relationships, and feel part of something greater than yourself.
Caring for trees on Earth Day!

At ELK, we are dedicated and determined to offer fun, impactful, and rewarding volunteer opportunities for those who support us and believe in our mission as environmental stewards. We invite and challenge you to view volunteer work as a starting point and not just an end goal. With us, people of all ages, from 9 years old to 99 years old, can be of service. We offer a wide variety of opportunities, including community science projects, trail restoration, art projects, and more. Explore your interests, get exposed to new experiences, and grow your network through our upcoming events and service opportunities. To learn more about our 2024 volunteer projects, visit our Program & Events Calendar at elkkids.org or contact Damian Garcia at dgarcia@elkkids.org.

About Environmental Learning for Kids: Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK) is a local nonprofit that creates a sense of belonging, self-discovery, and adventure in the outdoors for underrepresented young people of color and their families, transforming youth into environmental stewards and trailblazers that promote equitable outdoor access, sustainable practices, and community uplift. Learn more at elkkkids.org.

About the Author: My name is Damian Garcia. I am a new and proud representative of ELK and the Montbello community. I am honored to work in such a tight-knit community and to have the privilege of leading major change in our organization by implementing ELK’s first-ever Volunteer Program. I have previous professional experience as an environmental educator for the State of Colorado, and I am a freelance bilingual interpretive guide, angler instructor, and now, Volunteer Coordinator. I firmly believe that you should have full confidence in what you do or consider doing something else. For me, it’s been a long journey as someone who started working at the age of 16 as a plumbing apprentice. Before starting my journey in the nonprofit space, I worked as a machine operator, on an assembly line, building diesel engines for a large motor company. I did a lot of things I was not necessarily passionate about in my chase for a good paycheck. In my off-time, I would find myself longing for more time spent outdoors and around like-minded people. I couldn’t stand the idea of doing what I enjoyed for only a fraction of my day. So, I did something about it. Instead of only doing what I had to, I started doing things I wanted to. I searched for purpose and got involved in any way I could. Instead of only doing work I was being compensated for, I volunteered my free time and disposition to people, organizations, and events that I believed in. Not everything stuck, but I learned more about what I enjoyed doing and what I was good at in the process. The more I showed up, the more experience I got, which led me to feel more confident in myself. It wasn’t long before the right people noticed, and I was given even more responsibility and opportunity. One door opened after another and now, I am here. I get paid to do what I enjoy most around people that I admire and learn from every day. I have economic stability, a great network of friends and colleagues, a voice in my community, and, above all, I get to share the natural beauty of this world with others.

So, give back when you can, in any way you can. Do good, work hard, expect nothing, and you might have it all!

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Environmental Learning for Kids

Environmental Learning for Kids cultivates a passion in science, leadership, and service in a diverse community of learners.