Guide to summer volunteer opportunities in Northern Virginia

Whether you love animals or the great outdoors, there’s a way to get involved in and give back to your community this summer.

Jill's House is one of the many places in Northern Virginia you can volunteer at this summer.
Picture courtesy of Jill’s House.

Whether you find yourself with some extra hours during the work week or you’re a college student returning home this summer, you can use your newfound free time to give back by volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about.


4paws Rescue Team: The 4Paws Rescue Team is made up of kitty-friendly volunteers who work together to improve the health and management of feral cats. // 10708 Lee Highway, Fairfax; 703-715-6369; sign up by emailing info@fourpaws.org. 

Volunteer Opportunities

Caregiver at Petco: Volunteers give the cats fresh food and water, scoop litter, clean cages and shower them with attention. Volunteers must commit to a 45-minute shift once a week during the mornings between 8 and 10 a.m. or in the evenings between 5 and 9 p.m.

Transport Volunteer: Transport cats from store cages to vet offices and animal shelters. Hours are flexible and distributed on an as-needed basis.

Foster Home: A foster home requires a spare room for the cat in order for it to properly assimilate. Foster-care providers receive preauthorized vet care paid for by 4Paws. Volunteers must commit at least six months to foster care.


Friends of Homeless Animals: Friends of Homeless Animals is a no-kill animal shelter that takes in cats and dogs in need of a temporary home. // For the safety of the animals, FOHA only releases its address if an application for either dog or cat adoption is submitted or to those who have spoken to a Friends representative on the phone: dogapplications@foha.org or adopt-a-cat@foha.org; 703-385-0224; become a volunteer by emailing volunteer.foha@hotmail.com.

Volunteer Opportunities

Dog Walker: Volunteers walk the dogs on FOHA’s 40 acres of trails and play yards. Volunteer for one to two hours each month on Saturdays and Sundays during adoption hours from noon-5 p.m. A brief orientation is required.

Cat Snuggler and Socializer: Volunteers play and snuggle with the cats. Volunteer on Saturday and Sunday from noon-5 p.m. or afternoons on weekdays. An hourlong orientation is required.

Pet Photographer: Volunteers take pictures of the animals for the website. Hours are flexible, and volunteers must commit on an as-needed basis.

Animal Bio Writers: Volunteers write brief bios and histories on the animals so prospective owners can get to know them.  Hours are flexible, and volunteers must commit on an as-needed basis.


Nature Enthusiasts

Great Falls Park: Great Falls Park is a 100-year-old historic National Park. // 9200 Old Dominion Drive, McLean; 703-285-2965 ext. 225.

Volunteer Opportunities

Visitor Center’s Information Desk: Volunteers answer guest questions at the park’s visitor center desk. They must commit to eight hours per month on a weekly basis for at least a couple of months. A training program is required.

Docent: Docent volunteers answer park guest questions at the overlooks. Volunteers must commit to eight hours per month on a weekly basis for at least a couple of months. A training program is required.

Trash Pickup: Pick up garbage while hiking along the scenic trails.Volunteers under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or a group like the Eagle Scouts. Hours are flexible.

Trail Crew: Crew volunteers work on special park projects chosen by the Trail Coordinator.The Trail Crew meets the second Saturday of every month in the morning for four hours.

Potomac Paddler: If you’re a kayaker with intermediate experience or better, you can monitor the water and park safety while paddling the Potomac. The hours depend on the individual’s schedule, but Great Falls seeks volunteers who can contribute often.


Riverbend ParkRiverbend Park is a park connected to Great Falls that offers an assortment of trails, a boat launch as well as jon boat, canoe and kayak rentals. // 8700 Potomac Hills St., Great Falls; 703-759-9018. To become a volunteer, apply on fairfaxcounty.gov.

Volunteer Opportunities

Animal Caretaker: Care for turtles, snakes, toads and other animals in the visitor center by cleaning their enclosures, feeding them and giving them fresh water. Training is provided, and volunteers must commit to a one- to two-hour shift twice a month (though weekly shifts are preferred) for a minimum of six months.

Assistant Program Leader: Volunteers over the age of 18 can teach children about the nature and history of the park and its surrounding environment for the Riverbend Park series programs and for field trips. Volunteers work on an as-needed basis for an hour and a half to three hours.

Watershed Cleanup: Get a group of friends together and volunteer to pick up trash from the streams and trails as well as compile and report results. School groups and scouts are welcome to volunteer. Volunteers commit on an as-needed basis for three to four hours.

Dragonfly Surveyor and Collector: Volunteers can participate in a citizen’s long-term science project that consists of monitoring local dragonfly species. Volunteers will learn about dragonflies as well as the protocols for collecting their exuviae, or shed skin. Volunteers must commit to a minimum of two collections per month, which last up to three hours during the late spring through early fall.

Nature Center Attendant: Volunteers manage the visitor center by answering guest questions about the environment and the park as well as presenting the nature center animals. Volunteers must be 18 and older or accompanied by an adult. Volunteers must commit to three-hour shifts per day, twice a month. 

Nest Box Monitor: Volunteers who love bird-watching are perfect for this opportunity. Each volunteer will collect trend information as well as create safe and sanitary nesting structures for birds that need a cavity space to nest in. Volunteers must commit to checking the nest boxes weekly through August at a minimum of twice a month for an hour and a half to two hours.  

Resource Naturalist: Volunteers assist with surveying wildlife and will participate in resource-management projects. Volunteers must commit to a minimum of once a month for two to four hours.

Roving Naturalist: Volunteers walk Riverbend’s trails while answering guests’ questions about the park along the way. Volunteers must commit to at least one shift a month for two to four hours.


Senior Living

Meals on Wheels: Help the elderly and those with disabilities who are unable to prepare their own food by taking the meals to them. // Locations vary throughout Northern Virginia; 703-324-5406; Volunteer Solutions: fairfaxcounty.gov. To apply, go to mealsonwheelsamerica.org, find your city and fill out the application on your city branch’s website.

Volunteer Opportunity

Driver: Volunteer to drive assigned routes and deliver food to the elderly and the disabled while checking in on them to make sure they are OK. Volunteers must commit on Monday, Wednesday or Friday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., and shifts can be weekly, biweekly or monthly. An hourlong orientation on the first Wednesday of every month is required.


History Buffs

Claude Moore Colonial Farm: Step into the year 1771 and become a part of this demonstration colonial farm. // 6310 Georgetown Pike, McLean; 703- 442-7557. General volunteers can email hbodin@1771.org for more information about getting started. For additional information, email volunteers@1771.org.

Volunteer Opportunities

General Volunteer: Before you can join the ranks of colonial costume-wearing volunteers, you must complete behind-the-scenes work. General volunteers who are 12 or younger must have an adult with them. Five hours are required in order to become a costumed volunteer, but there are many opportunities to gain those hours such as by volunteering to set up the July Market Fair on Saturday, July 9, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., or helping with fair takedown on Sunday, July 17, from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m.

Costumed Volunteer: Costumed volunteers talk to visitors while working in the fields, barns, market fair and the house. The hours are flexible but vary based on the event or farm job assignment.Costumed volunteers can participate in the July Colonial Market Fair July 16-17 from 11 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., the Tobacco Harvest on Saturday, Aug. 20, from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. and during Farm hours from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.


Caring for Children

Jill’s House: Jill’s House provides a safe overnight stay for children with disabilities in order to give their families a helping hand. // 9011 Leesburg Pike, Vienna; 703-639-5660. To access the volunteer application, go to jillshouse.volunteerhub.com.

Volunteer Opportunities

Group Buddy: Volunteers work directly with the kids and engage them in activities at the house.Volunteers can be16 or older and must commit to a three-hour shift twice a month for a year. If you’re only available in the summer, you can commit to working one shift per week.General orientation is required and takes place on a Saturday each month from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Administrative Helper: Volunteers work with an assigned faculty member organizing and filing special projects.Volunteers can be16 or older and shifts are three hours long twice a week for a year. However, if you’re only available in the summer, you can commit to working one shift per week.General orientation is required and takes place on a Saturday each month from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Kitchen Helper: Volunteers 16 or older prepare pre-planned meals for the children. Volunteers must commit to two three-hour shifts per month for a year. If summertime is your only availability, you can commit to working one shift per week. General orientation is required and takes place on a Saturday each month from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.


Ronald McDonald House: Help improve the lives of families who are struggling with a child’s illness by becoming a volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House. // 3312 Gallows Rd., Falls Church; 703-698-7080. Email an application to cinteria@rmhcdc.org.

Volunteer Opportunities

Weekly Volunteer: Volunteers help keep the Ronald McDonald House running by answering phones and greeting families. They work a two- to three-hour shift on the same day each week for a minimum of six months.

Guest Chef: Volunteer with a group of up to eight people who are 14 and older and prepare a dinner for the residents.


Supporting Families

Northern Virginia Family Service: NVFS helps struggling families get back on their feet. // Locations vary depending on location of the chosen volunteer opportunity; 571-748-2536. If you are interested, email volunteer@nvfs.org.

Volunteer Opportunities

Thrift Shop Volunteer: Volunteers 16 or older sort, tag and stock sale shelves with donated items at one of the three thrift shops in Centreville, Falls Church or Manassas. Young volunteers between ages 12 and 15 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.The thrift shops areopen daily with flexible hours requiring a two-hour shift.

SERVE Family Care Shelter Weekend Food Caterers: Volunteers serve meals to the 92 residents at the SERVE Program’s Manassas Family Care Shelter. Volunteers between ages 12 and 17 must have a supervising adult.The hours are flexible; the shelter provides lunch for the residents at noon and dinner at 5 p.m.

Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter Weekend Food Caterers: Volunteers serve meals to the 50 residents at Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter. Those between ages 12 and 17 must have a supervising adult.Volunteer hours are flexible; lunch for the residents is served at 12:30 p.m., and dinner is served at 6 p.m.

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