Four years ago, when Delesia’s niece needed to meet a volunteer requirement for high school graduation, Delesia began carefully researching local volunteer opportunities, looking for just the right one. Delesia wanted to do more than just check a box. First, as a Durham native, she wanted an opportunity where her family could make a real difference and give back to the community where she was born and raised. Second, because her niece has special needs, it was important to Delesia to find the right environment—a place where her niece could leverage her own special gifts. But Delesia wanted to be personally involved, too. She was looking for an opportunity to work alongside her niece, so they could both make a difference while doing something meaningful together.  

While Delesia had several requirements, it wasn’t hard to find an organization that fit the bill. In fact, Delesia and her niece soon began supporting several local charities, including the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina, Meals on Wheels, Durham Rescue Mission, Durham Homeless Shelter, and Keep Durham Beautiful. Together, the two sorted and packed meals for delivery to elderly and homebound neighbors, prepared plates for holiday dinners, packaged vegetables and fruit for donation, sorted donated clothing for a local free store, planted trees, and passed out backpacks to community children. One of Delesia’s most memorable experiences was helping to build an entire playground in just one day. “It was one of the most tiresome, sweaty, yet fun experiences ever, especially when it began to rain. It took me back to the days when it was okay to play in the mud,” she says.  

Over the years, Delesia has continued to enjoy volunteering. She likes the people she meets and the different opportunities to get involved. She says volunteering has taught her to be aware of her blessings and not to take anything for granted. And it’s shown her that there is always a need for help, and anyone can pitch in—all you need is a smile. “Whether you feel you have a special skill or not, there is always something you can offer. A smile, a chat, your experience or wisdom, or just a good laugh.” To get started, all you need to do is start looking around.