I discovered a passion for volunteering when it helped me find my way out of a dark place 10+ years ago. It showed me a new purpose in life; it exposed me to myriad nonprofits doing amazing work; it gave me hope to work alongside countless volunteers who were also giving of their time.

Some volunteers find a deep passion for one cause or one organization and give as much as they can to that one cause or organization. And then there are some volunteers like me…who enjoy volunteering a little bit at many different places. I send books to prisoners. I weed and prune roses. I write biographies for shelter animals. I volunteer for multiple annual festivals.

So I’ve really missed volunteering during the pandemic. Luckily, I have a few virtual gigs. I’ve been adding book reviews and thank yous from prisoners to the Prison Book Program website. Check them out; they are inspiring! I’ve also been writing cards to frontline workers and residents at a number of nonprofits through Boston Cares.

And here’s where the birthday list comes in: I randomly read an article about virtual volunteering a month or so ago and learned about the Smithsonian’s Transcription Center. Volunteers transcribe historical documents and biodiversity data to make them accessible to researchers. This is a dream volunteer project for me! I love history. I love reading. I love handwritten letters and journals.

The way it works is that someone transcribes a page of a document and then another person reviews it for accuracy. I am still learning the ropes, so I’ve just been reviewing what’s already been transcribed. I’ve read documents from a famous balloonist in the 1800s. I’ve read letters from an American female artist living in Paris in the 1800s. I’ve read logs from Finnish folk music audio sessions in the 1900s. It’s been SO FUN.

Have you been doing any virtual volunteering or in-person volunteering?