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Five fun ways to help local McHenry County organizations meet their missions

Five fun ways to help local McHenry County organizations meet their missions

You have probably heard it before: Volunteerism not only helps the community but volunteering also helps you.

As a volunteer, you can meet new people, learn new skills and advance your career. Volunteerism provides a sense of purpose. It can boost your self-esteem and lift your spirits.

But some volunteer opportunities take it to another level and scream "fun" right in their descriptions. Following is a roundup of unique ways to do good, support a local organization or cause and have lots of fun to boot:

1. Tap into a sweet tradition as a volunteer for McHenry County Conservation District's Sugar Maple Festival. Since 1979, MCCD has educated thousands of visitors about the process of turning the sap from maple trees into delicious maple syrup. But the festival, held in Coral Woods Conservation Area near Marengo, wouldn't be a festival without volunteers who act as tour guides.

Guides escort small groups down a trail, about a third- to a half-mile long, explaining the sugar maple process, including maple tree identification and how sap travels up and down the trees. They also lead participants to various stations where the history of maple sugaring is discussed and tapping is demonstrated.

New volunteers must attend training from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Feb. 26, at the Marengo site and must commit to volunteering for at least one day of the event -- to be held on March 5-7, 12-14.

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Paul Minadeo, who has volunteered as a tour guide for four years, took it upon himself to read articles and books about maple sugaring. He is enthused by the people who attend.

"It's a very rewarding experience," he said. "I like passing the information on to people, including my wife, whether she wants to listen or not."

Sign up to volunteer by calling Bob Menard, an MCCD volunteer coordinator, at (815) 338-6223, ext. 1201 or emailing him at bmenard@mccdistrict.org

2. Tails will wag as you help turn a shelter dog into a service dog for Dogs on the Go. Dogs on the Go Assistance Dogs trains former shelter dogs to assist the hearing-impaired, a process that can move along slowly. They need "puppy raisers," volunteers who bring a rescue into their homes. "Puppy raisers" have the following roles:

• Obedience training.

• Socialization (acclimating the dog to stimulating public places).

• Taking the pup to classes to learn how to lead a person with hearing difficulties to a sound they would otherwise miss, like an oven timer or fire alert. (Classes are in the Harvard/Woodstock area and the Delavan/Lake Geneva/Burlington, Wis. area.)

Since the best hearing-assist dogs are high-energy, "puppy raisers" can expect to work with terrier-mixes and herding-type dogs. But please note, the word puppy has been used loosely. The rescues can be anywhere from 8 weeks to 2 years old.

"Hearing dogs primarily work in home settings," said Anna Evans, the group's president. "However, they can work in public situations, too. People bring their hearing-assist dogs to work, and their dog may have to alert them to a knock on a door or a telephone ring."

Interested? Learn more and fill out a "volunteer puppy raiser" application on the Dogs on the Go website, www.dogsonthego.us.

Five fun ways to help local McHenry County organizations meet their missions

3. Spare nothing to make Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County's bowling fundraiser a success. Bowl for Kids' Sake isn't until Saturday, March 19, at 3D Sideouts Sports Tavern in Island Lake and Sunday, March 20, at Kingston Lanes Bowling and Sports Lounge in Woodstock, but you may want to begin rallying your team and collecting your pledges now.

To participate, each bowler must have at least $75 in pledges, which in turn accords the bowler rental shoes for two games, pizza and a T-shirt.

The bowl-a-thon, now in its 19th year, is one of BBBS' major fundraisers and also features raffles. Monies raised will go toward pairing children facing adversity with volunteer mentors.

The group currently serves 432 children in McHenry County but dozens more on waiting lists for various programs.

You can register for the event online at bbbsmchenry.org/events/bowl/ or by calling (815) 385-3855. Corporate sponsors are needed and can call (815) 385-3855.

4. Party down while cleaning tack for BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding & Educational Center. BraveHearts offers equine-assisted services and therapies for children and adults with various diagnoses. It also has a no-cost horse program for military veterans.

That leads to lots of dirty saddles and bridles that need to be cleaned. Now, most equestrians view tack cleaning as a chore but add dinner to the mix, and it's a party. It will be 5-8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 22, at BraveHearts' Bergmann Centre, 4950 Route 173, Poplar Grove. Sign up at https://www.signupgenius.com/.../10C0F44AFAE29ABF9C43...

BraveHearts' volunteers are frequently called upon to lead a horse or walk alongside a horse during therapeutic sessions to ensure rider safety. However, "a lot of people who want to help, for whatever reason, they can't lead or sidewalk," said Meggan Hill McQueeny, the group's president and chief operating officer. "Tack cleaning is a great way for them to come together."

Call BraveHearts at (815) 943-8226.

5. Be the cat's meow volunteering for Purrfect Cat Rescue. The rescue on Route 31 in Crystal Lake shelters then re-homes about 400 cats and kittens each year. Currently, about 50 felines are in-house, and group founder Deb Parquette said she is working with a skeleton volunteer crew.

She needs help with a "bedtime tuck-in service" that involves volunteers "giving a few treats" and "petting the kittens and cats" after performing light cleaning, such as scooping litter boxes.

"It's a bit of cat care and a bit of kitty socializing," Parquette said.

Tuck-in services are provided from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday but help is needed earlier, too. "Kitty socializers" volunteer from 10 a.m. to noon daily -- petting, brushing and playing with the rescues.

And more fun is on the horizon. Purrfect Cat Rescue hopes to restart kitty bingo and kitty yoga soon -- both activities promote adoptions.

Go to www.purrfectcatrescue.com for the group's volunteer application form.

Call them at (815) 900-8221.

• This nonprofit highlight was presented by Not-for-Profit Resources, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping build awareness of local nonprofit organizations' needs and providing resources to help them grow stronger. To learn more, visit www.nfpresources.org.