Subscribe Now

The North Shore is filled with amazing organizations that make where we live a better place. They provide respite for the homeless, bring art to our communities, rescue and shelter animals, and protect beautiful and historic places.

But to do that work, they all need the same thing: you. “We rely on our volunteers an incredible amount,” says Shyre Lancia, volunteer coordinator for MSPCA at Nevins Farm in Methuen. “We literally cannot do what we do without them.”

Whatever your interests and passions, there’s a volunteer opportunity to match. Here are a few.

Emmaus Inc.

Help Emmaus Inc. support families in need by volunteering at its homeless shelter and other programs. Denise Arnold, volunteer and gifts in-kind manager for Emmaus, says volunteers cook or serve meals, pick up or drop off donations, man the food pantry, and work with children and families on art projects or adult services. Indirect, behind-the-scenes volunteer needs include running food or supply drives, preparing and delivering meals, and assembling hygiene or other kits for residents. Because the shelter has specific needs, Arnold suggests contacting Emmaus to do a targeted drive for specific supplies, such as peanut butter and jelly or baby wipes. And although Thanksgiving or Christmas volunteering is popular, she points out that “we need volunteers year-round, not just at the holidays. We still serve a meal 364 other days of the year,” Arnold says.

Uncommon Threads

Help Uncommon Threads empower women through the nonprofit boutique and women’s empowerment program. Volunteers for the Lawrence program help pick up, sort, and organize clothing and accessory donations; work by clients to providing styling services (bilingual stylists are especially needed); help out with fundraising events; provide technical support; and work with retail customers at its social enterprise, Uncommon Closet, says founder and executive director Susan Kanoff. Contact

Merrimack River Watershed Council

Help the Merrimack River Watershed Counsil protect our waterways by volunteering at one of its regular shoreline cleanups, says John Macone, outreach specialist/interim director. Watch the website for dates. Volunteer advocacy work includes letter-writing campaigns, data collection and dissemination, and attendance at hearings or meetings related to helping local and state governments implement clean water initiatives. The organization also uses volunteers for water testing, “looking for the impact of combined sewage overflows and stormwater discharge,” as well as community educational efforts, Macone says.

Essex Heritage

Help Essex Heritage maintain a historic property during summertime Bakers Island Light Volunteer Days at the Bakers Island Light Station in Salem. Program manager Cheri Grishin says volunteers have helped clear the old pasture, paint the main keeper’s house, plant a perennial garden, and clear hiking trails.

The Trustees of Reservations

Help The Trustees of Reservations be a steward of history and nature. With 118 sites under its stewardship, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities, says acting volunteer program manager Marc Mahan, CVA. Among them are trail stewards, who monitor and maintain trails. “We really rely on the volunteers to be the eyes and ears on the property,” Mahan says. There are also beach cleanup crews, who clean up and document the trash they find; folks who help run events; tree stewards, who help water newly planted trees; and people who work on bird surveys and plover fencing. The Trustees is also growing its team of citizen scientists who do things like monthly beach profiling to measure beach erosion and accretion, Mahan says.


Help the MSPCA at Nevins Farm and Northeast Animal Shelter care for animals. Nevins Farm in Methuen, which shelters about 6,000 animals per year, including farm animals, relies on volunteers for feeding and watering the animals, as well as daily kennel work and barn chores like cleaning litter boxes, mucking stalls, and cleaning chicken coops. Nevins Farm also wants to grow its community outreach team (they especially need Spanish and Khmer speakers) to spread the word about Nevins’s pet food pantry, low-cost vaccine clinics, and spay and neuter services “so people know that we’re here to help them,” says Lancia. Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, one of the largest no-kill animal shelters in New England, saves 3,000-5,000 dogs and cats per year, says volunteer coordinator Becca Toltz. There, volunteers care for the animals directly (walking, feeding, playing), and they also clean and do laundry, unfold newspapers and cut rags, greet visitors, and help with adoptions. “To efficiently run this place, we need a minimum of 300 volunteers and currently we only have 250,” Toltz says. “The volunteers are really the heart and soul of this organization.”

Northeast Arc

Help Northeast Arc support people with developmental disabilities through direct service and social interaction (playing bingo, planting flowers, doing art projects, playing sports), administrative work (paperwork, filing, copying), and helping with special events. Director of volunteer services Suzanne Ryan says the group welcomes individuals as well as corporate volunteers, who often come as part of a team-building exercise. She’s also open to ideas or programs that volunteers want to do. “I could sit down with them and we could plan,” she says.

Salem Arts Association

Help Salem Arts Association support emerging and professional artists by volunteering in its gallery, working in the retail shop, teaching a workshop, or helping to set up or staff special exhibitions (such as October’s “Dark Arts” exhibition), says James Bostick, president of the Association’s board of the Salem Arts Association. It also needs volunteers with special skills like bookkeeping, accounting, or public relations.

Reid R. Sacco AYA Cancer Alliance

Help the Reid R. Sacco AYA Cancer Alliance defeat young adult and adolescent cancer by offering your special skills, like web design, writing, marketing, or public relations, to get the word out about this all-volunteer organization. Volunteers also help with the Alliance’s annual bike riding fundraiser, Reid’s Ride. You might decorate and hold signs on 28-mile North Shore route to provide encouragement and turn-by-turn directions; hand out water along the route to riders; fold t-shirts; or help with food for the post-race party at Stage Fort Park in Gloucester. “It doesn’t matter where they volunteer,” says Alliance co-founder Lorraine Sacco. “Showing up is the biggest part of volunteerism.”