NOLA Allies: Volunteering in New Orleans

So if you have been following Red Beans and Life since our launch, then you probably know that we like giving the insider information when it comes to things to do around New Orleans. We want you to find out things you may not have known before. While it is always great to know where the best happy hours and date night spots, we realized that we needed to give back to the community that has given us so much.

Red Beans and Life is proud to introduce the NOLA Allies Series. Here we will provide our audience with information about various ways to volunteer and give back to New Orleans and the beautiful people that inhabit it. Share, Like and Take Action in your city! Tell us about the volunteer activities you like to perform! Tell us about your experiences!


STAIR 1. Kids

Louisiana has some of the lowest education statistics in the nation. Living in New Orleans, it is no secret that the best way to quality education in this city is through private education. But does that mean that those who cannot afford that luxury should be left behind? Bobby Jindal and the Federal Government can argue all they want about Common Core but what can you do? Offer your time and intelligence to helping a child improve their education. It is the secret to confidence, college and the feeling of accomplishment.

STAIR (Start the Adventure in Reading) is a one-on-one tutoring program for public school second graders that are behind in reading. After attending a two-hour STAIR training session you will be partnered with a student that has been recommended for the program by their teacher.  Tutoring takes place after school and on Saturday mornings.

This is a once-a-week commitment. Learn how to become a tutor at 


2. Senior Citizens

With advances in medicine and healthcare, people are living longer lives. Unfortunately, they are often forgotten because they have become “mean” or “cranky.” For many people, there is a sick fear of the elderly, maybe it is seeing the decline of life or being afraid of sickness and disability, either way, it’s reprehensible the way our elderly are treated in this country. Senior citizens are often the target of swindlers and con-artists, robbed frequently, and targeted for other acts of aggression because for so many, the lack of human contact makes them vulnerable. In addition, the elderly regularly face income difficulties, housekeeping problems and lack of nutrition. These people fought in Korea, Vietnam, the Greatest Generation, don’t let them fall behind!

Become a volunteer with the New Orleans Council on Aging. They provide a myriad of services for Senior Citizens in the New Orleans area. Get in contact with this organization and find out how you can become a Senior Companion and help someone fix that lightbulb they can’t reach, or do a load of laundry for a disabled citizen. You can even find out ways to become a part of Meals on Wheels, providing hot, nutritious food to elderly that would have difficulty obtaining it otherwise. You’ll be providing care but most importantly the kind smile and conversation that keep them independent and living in their homes.

Find out about volunteer opportunities with the New Orleans Council on Aging. 


food bank3. Fighting Hunger

Despite living in the land of milk and honey, there is a definitive problem with hunger in the United States. According to Feeding America, 1 in 6 Americans struggle with hunger and access to daily food. Read National Geographic’s in-depth article “The New Face of Hunger” where they asks “Why are people malnourished in the richest country in the world?” It’s a valid question. It is a national problem and one that can be solved.

By volunteering with institutions like Second Harvest Food Bank, you can help provide some of the 22.9 million meals provided each year. There are a number of ways to help end hunger in America with Second Harvest, by packaging food, cooking meals, collecting produce, providing meals to disaster stricken areas, even administrative.

Get involved with Second Harvest today and give the gift of full bellies.


4. Environmental

The growth of community gardens in the last 10 years has been astronomical. Not only are these crops great for providing valuable nutrition, they are teaching children, the elderly, the poor, everyone the importance and cost-effectiveness of growing your own food. If you like being outside, having fun, and providing a necessary service, get involved with the Grow Dat Youth Farm. 

The next step in the work undertaken by K-8th grade agricultural education program Edible Schoolyard, Grow Dat provides opportunities for high school students to learn about growing organic food in their own communities. By application, Grow Dat recruits a mix of students: 20% of whom have already demonstrated leadership skills inside or outside of school, 20% of whom are at-risk of poor performance at school, and 60% of whom are students that are neither excelling nor failing at school. The results are phenomenal. Not only do participants in the program learn the ins and outs of growing and selling organic produce, but they take part in a curriculum spanning cooking, food ethics, and a history of agricultural production in our region.

Want to get your hands dirty? Checkout this page  and email Farm Manager Leo Gorman at [email protected].


5. New Orleans Arts

So I could go and on about the importance of preserving the rich history of music, art and culture in New Orleans but you should already nomaknow that! There is no where like NOLA and it’s critical to current and future residents that the cultural aspect of NOLA never disappear. Volunteer at the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park. You can be a part of the sign-in desk, help with events, the Library, Sculpture Garden! There are even benefits besides helping out of the goodness of your heart. Besides can you think of a more beautiful place to get to hang out?

Check out how to volunteer at NOMA. 


6. Medical

hospitalThere are numerous ways to get involved with the medical community if you are interested in becoming a nurse or doctor, or you that is just where you feel drawn. If you are anything like me then you understand how scary hospitals can be for children and adults alike. Volunteers at hospitals help doctors, nurses and patients feel comfortable and supported. There are several hospitals to choose from around New Orleans but I recommend Ochsner Hospital because I have met several of their staff, they’re amazing.

There are openings for several positions at different locations. Be aware that volunteering at hospitals is always a bit more stringent. You will have to pass a background check, possibly references, and will have to commit to a kind of schedule. Hospitals are fast moving places, you can’t just come and go as you please. So get involved and for god’s sake don’t unplug anything.

Find out how and where you can volunteer with Ochsner Medical Center. 


7. Social Services

There are number of social causes that need volunteers to help spread the word or just to lend their services. We consider social issues an WWAV Interns learn about WWAV's new programs for fall 2014umbrella term for a number of different needs: immigration, poverty, LGBTQ tolerance, equality, promoting peace, women’s rights and many others.

Women With a Vision was established in 1991 in response to the spread of HIV/AIDS in urban communities, WWAV has since expanded its social justice oriented services to include advocating for sex workers rights, drug policy reform, and reproductive justice outreach. Operating a number of programs, including the Louisiana Women’s Advocacy Alliance (LWAA) and Micro-Enterprise, an initiative seeking to create economic opportunity for marginalized women through the development of individual and group craft projects, WWAV is an empowering institution and well worth your support.

Interested volunteers may fill out this form to contact the staff.


8. Animals

It is not just the two legged creatures that need help in New Orleans, it’s also our furry friends! I love animals but I have a special place in my heart for the furrier kinds: especially dogs and cats. Unfortunately for me, my landlord does not allow for me to have dogs. This used to really bum me out until I learned about what the Jefferson SPCA is doing.

Every Wednesday at 6:15 AM, you can run the kennel dogs in City Park at the Great Lawn right in front of Storyland. Take ’em as far as you like. Are you more a walker? Request a walking dog. Not only is it amazing to get your blood pumping and calories burning nice and early in the morning, but I dare you to be in a bad mood after hanging out with these incredibly sweet dogs. These dogs spend most of their time in kennels, waiting for someone to make them a part of their forever home, giving them a chance to run around and work off some of that energy before they go back to the kennel is amazing for both dog and human. Plus look at that face!

Check out this WGNO article on this project. 

This is Rocky. Great running buddy. Big baby and available for adoption from the Jefferson SPCA.


Drop-In Center staff work a table at Louis Armstrong Park9. The Homeless

You don’t need to look hard to find homeless and displaced people in the Greater New Orleans area. And I know, it’s easy to say, “They’re drug addicts,” “Get a job,” “They must have made that choice.” While placation might be easy,  the better way to respond to these people is to give them a helping hand. Not because it is the right thing to do, because it’s the human thing to do.

The Tulane Drop-In Center seeks to improve the health and quality of life of homeless youths in New Orleans by providing for and broadening the comprehensive network of primary healthcare and substance abuse, mental health, case management and outreach services. Located at 1461 N. Claiborne Avenue, the center provides a space for homeless and at-risk youth to access clothes, food, email and phone, as well as group sporting activities and aid in the transition between homelessness and permanent housing. The center’s Facebook page updates weekly with job postings and information regarding operating hours and daily services available.

Interested in volunteering? Email [email protected].

10. Disease Awareness

Disease is a factor of life that connects all people. No matter how sheltered your life may be, you have some experience with a disease that either caused you, your family member or friend, problems and complications. And if there is anything that ASL Ice Bucket Challenge proved is that people want to help promote research, awareness and finding cures for disease.


Project Lazarus’ mission is “to help heal and empower people living with HIV/AIDS by focusing on wellness, providing housing and offering important support services.” While HIV is no longer the death sentence that it was 20 years ago, those diagnosed still experience the stigma and isolation  that comes from this diagnosis. Donating your time and friendship is immeasurable to someone struggling through diagnosis, looking for compassion and community. Nationally, Louisiana ranked 4th highest in AIDS case rates and 11th in the number of AIDS cases diagnosed in 2008, and New Orleans ranks 5th in the number of cases in the US according to the CDC 2008 HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report. This shows that more people than you think are connected or are experiencing the difficulty of HIV/AIDS. There is a community at large that deserves interaction and kindness that you can provide. 

Find out how you can volunteer with Project Lazarus here. 

Tell us about the places you like to volunteer with or the causes you support! Remember to follow @redbeansandlife and tag your volunteer experiences with #allies4nola and Like our Facebook Page for more info about NOLA Allies and volunteering opportunities in New Orleans .

About Morgan

Morgan was born in Georgia, raised in Louisiana, a Southern gal through and through. A graduate of the University of New Orleans, she loves her Saints, her city and inserting thinly veiled sarcasm throughout all her writing.

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