Casual drop-in volunteer opportunities, where you can socialize with locals while helping out nonprofit organizations, are most common in cities. Browse upcoming projects and activities and sign up online with local organizations such as One Brick (www.onebrick.org) in San Francisco, Silicon Valley and LA; HandsOn Bay Area (www.handsonbayarea.org); LA Works (www.laworks.com) and Orange County's OneOC (www.oneoc.org). For more opportunities, check local alternative weekly tabloids and Craigslist (www.craiglist.org) online.
California Volunteers (www.californiavolunteers.org) State-run volunteer directory and matching service, with links to national service days and long-term programs.
Habitat for Humanity (www.habitat.org) Nonprofit organization that helps build homes for impoverished families across California; has day, weekend and week-long projects.
Idealist (www.idealist.org) Free searchable database that includes both short- and long-term volunteer opportunities.
Sierra Club (www.sierraclub.org) Day or weekend projects and longer volunteer vacations (including for families) that focus on environmental conservation (annual membership $25).
TreePeople (www.treepeople.org) Organizes half-day group tree-planting, invasive weed-pulling and habitat restoration projects around LA, from urban parks to mountain forests.
Wilderness Volunteers (www.wildernessvolunteers.org) Week-long trips that help maintain national parks, preserves, forests, seashores and other wilderness conservation and outdoor recreation areas.
Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (www.wwoofusa.org) Long-term volunteering opportunities on local organic farms (annual membership from $30).
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