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A Particular Skill Set 

Loan your knowledge and talents to a good cause

click to enlarge Volunteer dentist Marty Hahn, left, and volunteer dental assistant Jessika Stermer, at the Union Gospel Mission Center for Women and Children in Coeur d'Alene.|Young Kwak photo
  • Volunteer dentist Marty Hahn, left, and volunteer dental assistant Jessika Stermer, at the Union Gospel Mission Center for Women and Children in Coeur d'Alene.|Young Kwak photo

For all those scraping by, living paycheck to paycheck, it's understandable that you can't hand out fat checks to every honorable charity around. But everyone has something they're talented at — football, gardening, offering legal advice, making people laugh. Embrace that skill and pay it forward by donating time and services. For most of the following nonprofits — and these are just a select few of the many opportunities — you can volunteer as much time as you have. The most important thing is to reach out to a place first. There are no longer any excuses.

Public health/legal services

People in the health and legal fields may be more pressed for time than money, but there still are ways for them to offer their services to those in need. The Union Gospel Mission offers a clinic for dental, vision, medical, veterinary and legal aid assistance at its Spokane and/or Coeur d'Alene locations.

Spokane dentist Dr. Stephen Mills has been volunteering with UGM for 15 years, averaging about one day per month. He says he was drawn to UGM because of the people and the respect for the program.

"These people come in, they remind me how broken I am, too," Mills says. "I have respect for them pulling themselves up, wanting to turn their lives around, and I can help with that."

As Mills points out, the dentistry services and all of the others offer a real chance for people to find stability and jobs. To sign up with one of these UGM programs, call 535-8510.

House of Charity, under the Catholic Charities Spokane umbrella, has offered a volunteer community clinic based at Sacred Heart Medical Center since 1976. Physicians and nurses can offer services any time the clinic is open, and there's also a new women's clinic. You don't have to work at Sacred Heart to participate, but registration goes through the hospital. Go to catholiccharitiesspokane.org/house-of-charity for more details.

Sports

It's not actually about the sport. It's that a kid is trying, using skills on the field or court, learning how to exist with others. At the Boys & Girls Club (bgcspokanecounty.org), volunteer coaches have the opportunity to pass along their love of a sport.

"I'm always looking for people who have knowledge of the sport, so they can pass that on," says Kyle Davidson, team sports director at the Northtown branch of the Boys & Girls Club. "Someone the kids can look up to as a mentor."

Normally that means a parent of one of the players, or a family friend, but Davidson encourages current or former athletes to come out and coach the elementary school-aged kids as well. Options are flag football in the fall, volleyball and basketball in the winter and soccer in the spring. All are co-ed but volleyball, which is all girls. Potential coaches will go through an application process and orientation.

Music/Arts

There's nothing wrong with collecting payment from students to teach a musical instrument; musicians need to eat, too. At the YMCA (North and Central locations; ymcaspokane.org), piano, guitar and voice teachers are paid, but those who have a different talent — drums, viola, banjo — can teach on a volunteer basis.

"I'd love to see us have a drum circle group of some kind," says Spencer Koonz, teen program director at the North Spokane YMCA.

Other opportunities for volunteers include the program's open mic night; Koonz says help is needed setting up the PA system and coordinating each event. Also, next year's BOBfest (Teen Battle of the Bands) needs volunteers for its teen and adult planning board. For anyone interested, the first meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 9, at the downtown Y. You don't need to be a Y member to participate.

INK Art Space is another local charity offering artistic services to kids, setting up afterschool programs and summer arts and writing workshops at its downtown location. Go to inkspokane.org/volunteer to offer your artistic skills to the nonprofit.

Cooking

She's always happy when they want to make cinnamon rolls. Pies, too. At the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Spokane, next to the Shriners Hospital for Children, Volunteer Coordinator Debbie Fucile is always looking for folks who want to come to the house kitchen and whip up a meal. Better yet, bake. You don't have to have a culinary arts degree, just an ability to cook something delicious and nutritious for a group of 25 to 30 people.

"Our families take off out of here in the morning to go to the hospital, and when they come back, it's a little piece of heaven when there's a hot meal on the table for them," Fucile says.

All meals must be cooked at the house, and volunteer cooks must provide all ingredients (except for staples like flour and spices) for the dishes. Fucile says this is a perfect opportunity for a small church group, or group of friends, to donate their cooking expertise. Call 624-0500 for more information. ♦

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