Stretch yourself with VolunteerMatch

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Forget about the fuzzy glow of satisfaction, there's a lot of hard benefits to volunteering. You can learn new skills you'd never pick up otherwise – Thanks to trailwork I'm now pretty handy with a chainsaw. You'll meet a lot of highly-motivated people who like helping others, and are just plain nice folk – I met Liz working in the mountains. And it's a great way to stretch yourself with new responsibilities. Working as a crew boss has taught me a lot about motivating people to work together and get things, especially as they're all volunteers so I can't fall back on actually bossing them around!

If you're sold on the idea, the best place to start looking for opportunities in your area is VolunteerMatch. Enter your zip code, and you'll get dozens of nearby ideas for almost any activity you can imagine. I recently added the Trails Council to the directory, so if you're in the LA area you can get the full details of what we're up to every Saturday.

For outdoors events, REI runs a fantastic website and email newsletter. Go to their store locator, find the one nearest you, and then click on the events link to see what's happening locally. Last Saturday we had 9 first-time volunteers who heard about us through the Santa Monica store's bulletin.

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