Local Volunteering: Get Involved


Global Gifts on Walnut St. in downtown Bloomington via Limestone Post

Iris Kreilkamp, Staff Writer

Walking into Global Gifts on the Square, you are sure to get a whiff of hand-made incense from India as you browse fairtrade scarves, jewelry, chocolates, Christmas ornaments, and more, all made by local artisans in developing countries.

Bloomington is home to a diverse community of businesses and organizations, from Global Gifts to the Lotus Festival, a weekend-long world music festival that attracts over 12,000 people each year. There’s also the Exotic Feline Rescue Center, a rehab center for big cats that is just a few minutes outside of Bloomington. Many Hoosier natives give credit to places like these for our town’s culture and artistic community. A single walk around the Square downtown will give you a sense of Bloomington’s unique ambiance.  

But all of these wouldn’t be possible without the help of volunteers. “[Global Gifts] is almost entirely staffed by volunteers, so they play the crucial role of sales associates and educators/advocates of fair trade,” said Melissa Adkins, the Volunteer Coordinator for Global Gifts. The worldwide organization helps artists in impoverished countries earn a fair, equal income. “Fair trade ensures that people are given healthy and safe working conditions, access to education, and health care… fair trade is actively fighting against worldwide issues such as slavery, child labor, sweatshops, and gender inequity,” says Adkins.

There are a fantastic amount of volunteer opportunities in Bloomington, and it is time that the community learns about these helpful organizations. Global Gifts is a non-profit that hires volunteers at any age, and no previous experience is needed — just an availability for two shifts a month, and a “willingness to talk to people and share the mission of fair trade,” as Adkins puts it. They willingly work around school hours, and have volunteers as young as twelve years old, so bringing along younger siblings should never be a concern.

Global Gifts on Walnut St. in downtown Bloomington via Limestone Post

Additionally, the Bloomington Key Club is the local chapter of a student-led international service group that does volunteering and public service work all over the country. They regularly volunteer with the Kiwanis Hot Air Balloon Fest, and help out with local volunteer activities like making stockings for the Middle Way House. The Middle Way House is an organization that provides emergency services, support, and a 24-hour crisis line for victims of domestic abuse, says Sophia Ramlo, a Bloomington South student who is involved with the group.

 To get involved in other organizations like the Lotus Festival, the Exotic Feline Rescue Center, or one of the many other groups in Bloomington, visit the Bloomington Volunteer Network online at bloomingtonvolunteernetwork.org.