How to Find a Place to Volunteer.....
The subject of ways to locate a place to spend time as a volunteer, while receiving an RV site with utilities as well as perhaps other amenities is one that comes up very frequently. At first, I thought that I should try to make this listing random, but then I realized that it probably is not possible so rather than that, I will list the places that I suggest in the order which we have found our preference to be. I will start with those which we have actually used, then list a few that we have heard good reports about. Each section of this article will contain a link which will take you to the website for the subject organization. In addition, feel free to contact me for more information about any of the locations or sources that I write about.
Workamper News magazine
There is a great source for leads to find volunteer locations which not only will sometimes lead you to one of the agencies listed, but that will often lead to positions that you would never find any other way and that is the magazine Workapmer News. It was this magazine that lead me to find places like the airfield, tree farm or county parks. There are many other unique opportunities published in the magazine, as well as many pages of paid positions. I have a page with more details and a free issue.
National Wildlife Refuges
Our favorite agency is the US Fish & Wildlife Service, managers of our national wildlife system. The national wildlife refuges are not a group of individual refuges, but a system of refuges who's primary focus is on migratory birds. The majority of them also provide habitat for may other animals and some have a specific animal as the main objective, but because birds are the only wildlife form which still migrate over long distances in the USA, they are also the most dependent upon a system of refuges. There are more than 550 refuges and presently more than 300 of them have places for RV volunteers, with at least one location in each state, most with several. Volunteering for this agency can mean working with the public totally, or not at all, just depending upon what refuge you choose and what you wish to do. They are a very dedicated group who place a very high value on the service of their volunteers. The required minimum number of hours for a site varies from as little as 24 hours total, to as much as 32 hours each, with 24 hours each person seeming to be the most common. I know of no refuge location where the volunteer serves as a campground host, as few refuges have campgrounds. While these locations usually request more hours than do campground host positions, when you are off duty, you are never bothered by a visitor or the staff. Host positions tend to be on call to the visitors any time they are at the RV. While visiting the USFWS, do not overlook the national fish hatcheries. because most of them also have spots for volunteers.
National Parks and Monuments
The National Park Service has been expanding their use of volunteers since the recent budget stress. For we who volunteer this has been a very good thing. There are very few campground host positions left in our parks and monuments, but there are a few. While we have not yet done a great deal of volunteering for the Park Service, we have had a very good experience with those we have been to. At Joshua Tree, we were primarily campground hosts, but we did have other duties. While at SA Missions, we were doing most of the same duties as the interpretive park rangers did, rotating positions in the same schedule as a ranger, but with fewer hours. We have also visited with volunteers at several other parks and in most cases, the volunteer is in that type of position and is treated as an equal. In several national parks where there are no campgrounds, volunteers are provided an RV site in a local commercial RV park. Some of the more popular national parks can be difficult to get a position in, but check with them just the same.
Texas State Parks
Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept. is one of the premier state agencies to volunteer with. Nearly all Texas parks and historic sites have at least one RV site and many have several. Texas parks use volunteers for campground hosts, tour guides, maintenance and just about anything that may need to be done. The only job that I know of which I have not heard of a volunteer having been asked to do is cleaning. With more than 120 state parks and historic sites, there should easily be a spot that you will enjoy.
Oregon State Parks
Oregon Parks & Recreation Dept. must be the very best organized state agency when it comes to use of volunteers.They depend more upon volunteers than any other state that I am aware of and they treat the volunteers as though they depend on you. We have only volunteered once in an Oregon park, but we know many others who have done so and all have had good experiences. Oregon even publishes an electronic catalog of volunteer positions.
US Army Corps of Engineers Parks
The USACEis charged with managing our nation's waterways and flood control lake system. On most of the lakes and some other water features they operate and maintain parks and campgrounds for public use. We have had two experiences with this agency and both have been very good. Realize that the Corps also uses paid gate attendants who bid for the positions, but that is an entirely separate program from the volunteer program and one which we yave very little knowledge of.The Corps is fairly new to volunteer use in most areas but they are rapidly expanding their programs and adding many more in the future. Some of these positions are campground host jobs, but many are maintenance and office assistance. There are even a few positions which the volunteers lead tours of hydroelectric projects or museums.
Idaho Parks & Recreation
Idaho does not have a large number of parks, but what they have do use resident volunteers and Idaho is one of the states that also provide volunteers with an annual pass to all of their parks in return for one month of service, and they also will provide two nights of free camping in route to and from your work site. It is a beautiful state with a park staff that treats their volunteers very well.
Arizona State Parks
We have only done one stay with the Arizona State Parks but we did visit several others and they seem to have a pretty well managed volunteer program. I would suggest that if you wish to winter in Arizona parks, apply early because many of their parks can be difficult to get a position in due to popularity.
Bureau of Land Managenent
Another federal agency that has volunteer positions is the Bureau of Land Management. We have met a number of satisfied volunteers and have seen several locations that use volunteers. They could be worth consideration. Many federal agencies also use the common site of VOL.GOV to post their openings. If you have no particular agency in mind, this can be a very good resource. We do not generally use it because we have been on the road long enough now that we usually have a particular location in mind and for that reason we prefer to contact the volunteercoordinator at the location we seek, directly. For that purpose, it is usually more effective to go through the agency's one site, directly.
In addition, nearly all state parks use volunteers in some capacity.If you have a state in mind, but you do not know what they have to offer, just type the name of the state into Google or your favorite search engine, followed by the words "state parks" and you can easily find a link to the parks desired. Also, a pretty fair number of state game & fish departments also use volunteers at game refuges and fish hatcheries.Another place for members of Good Sam is through the program which they operate to match members with campground host positions. They only help with host positions so are pretty limited in assistance. While I have signed up with their program several times, I have never found a location through them. I no longer bother to be a part of that program.