Your quick guide to volunteering this summer

May 31, 2017 By Emily Hamer


Troy Gardens Badger Volunteers

Sign up for the Badger Volunteers summer program starts May 31 and is open until midnight June 8. Courtesy of the Morgridge Center for Public Service

If you’re a student in Madison who has extra time or still hasn’t solidified your summer plans, volunteering is a great way to fill out your schedule and give back to the local community.

Badger Volunteers Coordinator Kari Temkin said volunteering has a variety of benefits, including gaining a greater understanding of the challenges facing different Madison residents and building relationships with Madisonians working to address those challenges.

“It gives you an opportunity to get outside of the campus bubble, … learn more about the issues that are facing Madison and beyond and contribute to making a healthier community,” Temkin said.

Barb Kautz-Wittwer, assistant director of leadership development at the University of Wisconsin–Madison Center for Leadership and Involvement, said volunteering also has practical benefits. Students gain valuable experience that helps them when they apply for jobs, internships and graduate school, and opens the door for scholarship and award opportunities.

Beyond career advantages, Kautz-Wittwer, who volunteered when she went to UW-Whitewater, said serving her community gave her a sense of purpose. She said it was empowering.

“Folks really walk away feeling good about themselves, feeling like they’re able to contribute to society … and that they’re able to make a difference,” Kautz-Wittwer said.

Some students, however, may see the task of finding an opportunity to volunteer for as daunting. Temkin said volunteering is easier than a lot of students think.

Badger Volunteers makes volunteering in Madison as accessible as possible, Temkin said. Students can choose from 25 different opportunities available for summer 2017 and sign up. Each opportunity requires about a 1- to 4-hour per week time commitment. Registration, which is first come first serve, opens May 31 and closes at midnight June 8.

“It gives you an opportunity to get outside of the campus bubble … and contribute to making a healthier community.”

Kari Temkin

Temkin said the advantages of volunteering through Badger Volunteers is that transportation is provided and students work with a team of UW students. This allows them to build relationships with their peers as well as the community. Around 750 different UW students volunteer each semester, Temkin said.

Given the wide range of volunteer options, Temkin said the Badger Volunteers program should have opportunities to meet the interests and schedules of most students.

But even if students can’t find a Badger Volunteers opportunity that is a good fit for them, they can still reach out to organizations on their own and serve the Madison community independently.

The following organizations have opportunities located close to campus that UW–Madison students can get involved in for this summer. For a few of the opportunities, students can also sign up through Badger Volunteers.

The Neighborhood House

The Neighborhood House is looking for people to volunteer at its Summer Day camp. The center is about a 10-minute walk from Union South on S. Mills Street.

Ben Tolle, spokesperson for the Neighborhood House, said the camp is a great way to bond with kids and show them around Madison. Volunteers will work directly with kids ages 7-12, helping them do crafts, play games, go on field trips, listen to guest speakers and more.

The summer camp runs from June 19 to August 11 and volunteers are expected to commit four hours a week. The Neighborhood House’s website says that applications for the program are due May 26, but Tolle said the center would accept applications until June 9.

First step: Apply online by filling out the summer camp volunteer application:
For more information:


The mission of DANEnet is to “close the digital divide” by making technology education and technical support affordable and accessible to all members of the community, DANEnet Executive Director Alyssa Kenney said.

This summer volunteers can help help accomplish this goal by helping teach digital literacy classes for adults, assisting with the fixIT clinics that allow low income families to get their computers fixed for free or helping run coding workshops for kids, Kenney said. For these opportunities, DANEnet asks that people volunteer for at least four times.

There are also four-hour clinics once a month that people could volunteer for once and not return again, Kenney said.

Kenney said UW–Madison students do not have to be in the computer science department to volunteer, they just have to be “tech savvy,” especially for the digital literacy classes. Most people need help with things like learning how to set up an email, searching for things online, figuring out how to use social media, removing a virus or uninstalling a program that’s stuck.

“Most college students could easily jump right into helping with those classes,” Kenney said.

First step: Sign up to volunteer on DANEnet’s website. Just click “start volunteering.”
For more information:

Henry Vilas Zoo

The Henry Vilas Zoo is almost always looking for more volunteers, Director of Volunteer Services Lynn Currie said. Volunteers can serve either on a regularly scheduled or fill-in basis.

The zoo camp is one area where Currie said the zoo has a large need for help over the summer. Volunteers would help kids learn about Zoo animals in an educational setting that may include the occasional behind-the-scenes experience. Another educational opportunity students could do over the summer is engaging with guests on zoo grounds as an exhibit interpreter.

Most of the other opportunities are in guest services, Currie said. Volunteers can run the carousel, work at the gate as a zoo greeter, dress up as the Henry the Lion mascot or help run the goat yard. If none of those opportunities work, students could also volunteer for special events like company picnics or public movies.

People who are interested can apply at any time. Volunteers are asked to commit to a minimum of 25 total volunteer hours from spring to fall.

First step: Reach out to Henry Vilas Zoo at or (608) 258-9490 ext. 31 or sign up through Badger Volunteers.
For more information:

South Madison Coalition of the Elderly

The goal of the South Madison Coalition of the Elderly is to help frail and low-income older adults stay independent. Volunteers can help SMCE accomplish this goal in a variety of ways, said Peg Brunner, secretary at the coalition.

Brunner said one of the biggest ways a UW–Madison student could help would be to volunteer for the Home Chore Program. Volunteer go into the homes of older adults and assist them with housework such as doing laundry, cleaning floors, mowing the lawn, garden work, taking out the garbage or washing windows. Doing these chores makes it so that older adults can stay in their homes.

Another area SMCE could use help is in their dining centers, Brunner said. This would include setting up tables, cleaning up or helping during meals. These centers are all located close to UW–Madison’s campus.

Brunner said even if a student could help out once or twice or once a week that would still be helpful.

First step: Call the SMCE office at (608) 251-8405 to talk more about the volunteer areas you’re most interested in or sign up through Badger Volunteers.
For more information:

Dane County Farmers’ Market

During the summer months, the Dane County Farmers’ Market has the greatest need for volunteers to help with the FoodShare program, which is organized by the Community Action Coalition.

Erica Anderson, food security specialist at Community Action Coalition, said she is always accepting volunteers to help distribute FoodShare dollars at the farmers’ market on Capitol Square. The FoodShare program allows families and individuals to buy products from the farmers’ market with food stamps.

Volunteers work two- to three hour shifts on Saturdays at the information booth, handing out market money, Anderson said. There are also shifts once a month to collect and count market dollars from all of the vendors.

First step: Contact Erica Anderson at or (608) 246-4730 ext. 208
For more information:,

OutReach, Inc.

OutReach, Inc. is a local organization committed to promoting equality for the Madison LGBTQ+ community.

One of the ways people can volunteer is with the Speaker’s Bureau. OutReach gets around 200 requests each year from community groups to have someone come speak to them about LGBTQ+ issues. After a three-hour training, students can volunteer to go to these organizations and talk about their LGBTQ+ lives or about their experience as a straight ally, OutReach’s Graphics Coordinator Brian Poncé said.

Other opportunities include, leading a support group, helping organize the library or being a front desk volunteer. Poncé said there are also various events throughout the summer that students could assist with, such as the Pride Parade August 20.

Those interested can apply at any time, Poncé said. Time commitments vary based on the volunteer job.

First step: Reach out to the program coordinator Angie Rehling at (608) 255-8582 or to find out what opportunities would be the best fit.
For more information:

Friends of the State Street Family

To help support and comfort Madison’s homeless community, Friends of the State Street Family distributes food, water, sleeping bags, blankets, backpacks, hygiene items, clothes and more to Madisonians who live on the streets.

There are two main ways for people to volunteer: becoming a part of an outreach team and assisting with food runs. Outreach teams go out into the community from around 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday to hand out food and other supplies. Ideally a volunteer would commit to one day a week, FSSF spokesperson Leanne Liautaud said.  

Food runs are events every Saturday from 2:45 p.m. to 4 p.m., where FSSF serves food to up to 200 people behind the Wisconsin State Historical Museum. Volunteers can help lead the event, serve food or provide food.

FSSF also has other opportunities available depending on the skill set of the volunteer. These could include marketing, public relations, fundraising, event planning and more. Liautaud said for these it is best to reach out to FSSF to find out their current needs.

First step: Ask questions about the volunteer opportunities through FSSF’s contact sheet or sign up for a volunteer opportunity.
For more information:

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s most pressing volunteer opportunity for the summer is the Art Fair on the Square. The fair features live music, dance performances, food cart vendors and more than 450 different artists, MMOCA events and volunteers assistant Cassie Naughton said.

To run the fair, MMOCA needs 500 different volunteers to fill 700 shifts. Volunteer shifts range from grilling brats and serving beer, to manning the booths when artists need a break or helping in the kids area, Naughton said.

Each volunteer gets a free drink and a hot dog or brat coupon, Naughton said. If you volunteer for three shifts and are one of the first 100 people to sign up, you get a free T-shirt.

Sign up is open from now until July 4. The art fair runs July 8, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and July 9, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

First step: Call or email Cassie Naughton with questions at or (608) 257-0158 ext. 230 or sign up now.
For more information:

Domestic Abuse Intervention Services

The goal of Domestic Abuse Intervention Services is to empower those who have experienced domestic violence and advocate for social change. DAIS does this through support groups, an emergency shelter, community education, a 24-hour helpline and more.

While many of DAIS’s opportunities require a commitment longer than just the summer, DAIS spokesperson Emily Lassiter said there are a couple of ways UW students could get involved in the short term.

For the summer, Lassiter recommended students apply for the Ambassador position. In this role volunteers help connect DAIS with the community by sharing brochures and other materials, helping with events and speaking about DAIS with community members. Lassiter said students could also volunteer to assist with a lunch in DAIS is hosting June 20.

Lassiter said both of these opportunities are a great way for volunteers to get their feet wet and decide if they want to volunteer further. Training for the DAIS Ambassador positions starts in July.

First step: Email Lassiter at if you have questions or sign up here.
For more information:

Madison Children’s Museum

The Madison Children’s Museum has a number of different volunteer opportunities that UW students can get involved in.

Various exhibits have different opportunities for volunteers to assist with educational programs. For instance, at the Rooftop Ramble, volunteers can help maintain the chicken coop or help garden. Other exhibits include the Art Studio, Possible-opolis and Wildernest.

Madison Children’s Museum Operations Manager Jessie-Rae Starr said the museum can talk with volunteers about their interests and hobbies to place them in a position that best fits with them.

The museum is looking for a time commitment of around one and a half to two hours a week.

First step: Email or call (608) 256-6445, ext. 385 if you are interested.
For more information:

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