Your Guide to Giving Back in Southwest Missouri

A recent reader survey told us something we already knew: You have a generous heart. You’re looking for ways to plug in and make a difference in our community. Here's our guide to how.

Jennifer Swenson

Dec 2023

Consider this giving back guide your pathway to finding the perfect match. We’ve made it easy, highlighting organizations that are doing good and organizing them by interest and time commitment. If you have a green thumb and want to beautify a public space, we’ve got you covered. If you want to help tackle food insecurity, we’ve included suggestions for that, too. And if it’s not your season to volunteer but you still want to get involved, each organization welcomes donations of money and goods.

No matter how you choose to serve, your passion for the cause and your unique contribution are sure to make a positive impact. After all, it’s the generosity of people like you that makes the Ozarks such a special place to live.

Local Children

Volunteer for An Occasional Afternoon

Developmental Center of the Ozarks
1545 E. Pythian St., Springfield, 417-829-0800
Developmental Center of the Ozarks empowers individuals with developmental disabilities and delays to learn to live full and productive lives. They have therapeutic services and programs for all ages, while their Early Child Care & Education Program offers a daily classroom setting for infants and children 6 weeks through 6 years.

In the Early Child Care & Education Program, volunteers are an extra set of hands and a pair of watchful eyes that help enrich the classroom. Do you love rocking a baby to sleep or reading a story to a toddler? Do you have an occupation that makes a child’s eyes light up? Spend an afternoon in an Early Child Care & Education classroom and share your skills with the children.

Developmental Center of the Ozarks has weekly and monthly openings for approved volunteers.

To get started: Call 417-829-0801 or visit the website.

Isabel’s House
2750 W. Bennett St., Springfield, 417-865-2273
Step into the heart of Isabel’s House, where children facing trouble at home receive immediate, round-the-clock residential care. Isabel’s House offers families in crisis much-needed respite, resources and support.

There are many ways to volunteer as a valued member of #teamIsabel. Some volunteers assist the staff in caring for the children, helping with homework, crafts, cooking and laundry. Other volunteers lend a hand with gardening or house maintenance, or they tackle a special project or community outreach. Your responsibilities will align with your interests and the current needs of the organization.

After a screening process, approved volunteers choose their schedule and serve for at least 6 months. Group projects may also be available.

To get started: Visit the website or email

Ozarks Literacy Council
397 E. Central St., Springfield, 417-616-0505
Literacy is the foundation of opportunity, and here in 417-land, Ozarks Literacy Council (OLC) is ensuring that foundation. They provide free one-to-one tutoring, classroom readings and book distributions to children and adults.

To transform a young person’s academic and professional future, only two things are required: your passion for literacy and a little bit of your time. No background in education is required! As a reading tutor, you meet with your student for 1 hour weekly over the course of about 12 months.

Alternatively, consider serving as a classroom reader in participating SPS schools. Preschool readers visit classrooms every quarter, while elementary school readers visit monthly. OLC volunteers also lend expertise in the office, helping to prepare and deliver books for special programs. At OLC, your contribution will inspire the next generation of readers and thinkers.

To get started: Visit the website.

Woman and child in Big Brothers Big Sisters program, southwest Missouri
Photo courtesy Big Brothers Big SistersBig GG and Little Jocelyn were matched through Big BrothersBig Sisters of the Ozarks

Commit to a long-term volunteer project

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks
3372 W. Battlefield Rd., Springfield, 417-889-9136
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks doesn’t just shape young lives; they ignite potential. They create one-to-one mentoring connections that support a young person’s social and emotional growth, fostering resilience and nurturing mental health and well-being.

Imagine being a guiding force, a “Big,” who helps change a child’s future for the better. Together, you and your “Little” spend time together in the community, sharing budget-friendly activities like strolling the Nature Center, visiting the library or playing board games. “Bigs” and their “Littles” get together 2 to 4 times a month for a minimum of 12 months.

Not ready to become a “Big”? With 30 minutes a week, you can volunteer as a Lunch Buddy at a participating SPS elementary school.

To get started: Call 417-889-9136 or visit the website.

CASA of Southwest Missouri
627 N. Glenstone Ave., Springfield, 417-864-6202
In Greene, Christian and Taney Counties, over 1,000 children are entangled in the Juvenile Court system because they have been abused or neglected. In this critical juncture, CASA of Southwest Missouri steps in, recruiting and training community volunteers who protect the best interests of these children. 

As a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), you serve as a trusted source of stability in a child’s life. CASAs gather crucial information, identify the child’s physical and emotional needs and locate therapeutic and rehabilitative services. They become a vital communications link within the child welfare system. CASA volunteers average 5 to 10 hours per month, with a 2-year commitment.

If becoming a CASA isn’t the right fit for you, you can contribute to their important work via office support, volunteering for an event committee and more.

To get started: Call 417-864-6202 or visit the website.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield
Multiple locations
You probably think of Boys and Girls Clubs of Springfield as before- and after-school care. And it’s true, that’s what they do. But they do so much more too. Through numerous programs, the organization works to help kids build character and leadership skills, supports their health and wellness, provides sports and arts opportunities and offers valuable mentorship—so that all kids have opportunities for bright futures.

There are a lot of ways you can connect with Boys & Girls Clubs. In addition to donating to the organization, you can also volunteer. One way is through the youth mentoring program, which connects volunteers with Boys & Girls Clubs youth to build a stable and supportive one-on-one or group mentoring relationship.

To get started: Visit the website.

Make a Donation

Camp Barnabas
Camp Barnabas is more than just your typical camp. It is a disability ministry that creates an unforgettable summer experience for individuals with special needs, their siblings and young people from across the United States.

Whether it’s a one-time or recurring donation, your generosity makes Camp Barnabas possible. A financial gift to the Camp Barnabas Scholarship Fund paves the way for families to make their special needs child’s dreams of camp a reality. Donations of essential supplies, such as food, medical provisions and camping equipment, reduce operating expenses. Camp Barnabas also welcomes third-party fundraisers, memorial contributions and stock gifts.

To get started: Visit the website or email

Care to Learn
A meal, or a pair of shoes, or laundry vouchers. For Missouri’s students, Care to Learn fills in the gaps. The organization collaborates with school districts and community members to provide health, hunger and hygiene resources so that every student can be successful in school.

Your everyday acts of giving will help students thrive. Raise funds in minutes through a Facebook fundraiser, or rally your office or church community to host a hygiene drive. Make a lasting impact with a legacy or memorial gift, or seek out a sponsorship opportunity, where you or your business can support Care to Learn initiatives. Be it a monetary or in-kind donation, your contribution ensures local students have access to vital resources.

To get started: Visit the website.

Health-Focused Organizations

Community Blood Center of the Ozarks bus
Photo courtesy Community Blood Center of the OzarksCommunity Blood Center of the Ozarks’ Blood Mobile.

Make a Donation

AIDS Project of the Ozarks
AIDS Project of the Ozarks (APO) gives compassionate, personalized care to vulnerable populations across the region. Their services are all-encompassing and include medical care, HIV/AIDS prevention and testing, outreach education and much more.

“The Red Ribbon Loop” makes it uncomplicated to sustain APO’s life-affirming work. As an active contributor to The Red Ribbon Loop, you provide a monthly donation of $20 or more. You’ll receive special recognition from APO throughout the year, but most importantly, you’ll become an ally for the most vulnerable in our community.

To get started: Visit the website.

Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks
620 W. Republic Rd., Springfield, 417-862-3838
Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks (BCFO) is a steadfast advocate in the fight against breast cancer. BCFO partners with local hospitals and health organizations to offer free screening mammograms to those in need. For families grappling with breast cancer, they provide critical financial and emotional support.

Your financial contribution—whether it’s a one-time donation or a legacy gift—allows BCFO to continue its mission. Are you a business leader? Your company can partner with BCFO, opening an avenue for employees and friends to participate.

To get started: Call 417-862-3838 or visit the website.

GYN Cancers Alliance
3039 S. Fort Ave., Suite A, Springfield, 417-869-2220
Any cancer diagnosis is devastating, and gynecologic cancers can be uniquely challenging. Serving 30+ counties in Southwest Missouri, GYN Cancers Alliance (GYNCA) provides education, resources and support to women and families affected by gynecologic cancers.

At GYNCA, even your smallest donation has a big impact. A $5 donation provides a care bag to a new GYNCA member. Twenty-five dollars funds personal care supplies, while $100 helps a patient in a rural area travel to and from treatments. Consider commemorating a special occasion, or honoring a loved one, with a marked donation. Every contribution supports a GYN cancer patient through their journey.

To get started: Call 417-869-2220 or visit the website.

Volunteer for an Occasional Afternoon

Community Blood Center of the Ozarks
220 W. Farm Rd 182, Springfield, 417-227-5000
Here in the Ozarks, someone needs a blood transfusion every seven minutes. Community Blood Center of the Ozarks (CBCO) is the sole provider of that blood. Each year, CBCO requires over 60,000 donations to fulfill the requirements of over 40 healthcare facilities in 3 states.

It’s simple: Donate blood, help save a life! To donate, save time by scheduling an appointment online, or drop by a Donor Center. To multiply your efforts, host a blood drive at your work, school or church.

To get started: Call 800-280-5337 or visit the website.

Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Ozarks team
Photo courtesy Ronald McDonald House Charities of the OzarksA group of volunteers put together a taco bar to serve families at Ronald McDonald House of the Ozarks.

Commit to a Long-Term Volunteer Project

Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Ozarks
949 E. Primrose St., Springfield, 417-875-3500
When a family’s world is turned upside down by a child’s serious illness or injury, Ronald McDonald House helps them cope. The organization provides a home away from home for families whose children are receiving life-saving medical treatment in Springfield, giving emotional and financial support during a time of extreme difficulty.

As a Ronald McDonald House volunteer, your compassionate care creates a sense of normalcy for those in turmoil. Volunteers do a little bit of everything: they clean rooms, organize the common areas, maintain the grounds or assist with special projects. Your weekly three-hour shift can be customized to your interests and skills.

Ronald McDonald House also relies on community groups to provide a healthy evening meal to the House’s families. To contribute, sign up on the website.

To get started: Visit the website.

The Ozarks' Green Spaces

The Rose Gardens at Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park
Photo courtesy Gage RudickThe Rose Gardens at Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park

Commit to a Long-Term Volunteer Project

Friends of the Garden
2400 S. Scenic Ave., Springfield, 417-874-2952
Friends of the Garden (FOG) is devoted to maintaining and enhancing the Springfield Botanical Gardens and supporting the Springfield-Greene County Park Board. The organization brings people and gardens together to inspire an appreciation of nature.

Through FOG’s Adopt-A-Spot program, you can be the caretaker of a themed section within the Botanical Gardens or work on various projects. You’ll give input on plant selection, garden design and enhancements.

Additional volunteer opportunities extend to the Roston Native Butterfly House, FOG Board, annual festivals and special events. Flexibility is key, so you’ll have a range of options, from daytime to weekends and evenings, according to your personal schedule.

To get started: Visit the website.

Stream cleanup at James River
Photo courtesy James River Basin PartnershipJoin the stream cleanup team during one of James River Basin Partnership’s events.

Volunteer for an Afternoon Here and There

James River Basin Partnership
117 Park Central Square, Springfield, 417-836-8878
The Ozarks are a playground for nature lovers, and James River Basin Partnership (JRBP) is working to protect one of 417-land’s most abundant natural resources: the water supply. JRBP safeguards the water quality of the springs, streams, rivers and lakes in the James River watershed, an area that spans almost a million acres across eight counties.

Over the years, JRBP volunteers have extracted tens of thousands of pounds of trash from regional waterways. You, too, can help by pitching in at one of JRBP’s cleanup events. Cleanups take place on Earth Day, at JRBP’s River Rescue (typically in June) and throughout the year. Don’t miss JRBP’s semi-annual Adopt-A-Highway cleanup near the confluence of the James and Finley Rivers.

Individuals and groups are welcome at all events, but pre-registration is required.

To get started: Call 417-836-4847 or visit the website.

Ozark Greenways
Ozark Greenways connects people to nature, to recreation and to each other through an expansive regional trail system. By creating and preserving a dynamic network of trails, Ozark Greenways facilitates a higher quality of life for our entire community.

Join with Ozark Greenways to spruce up one of 417-land’s treasured trails. During a quarterly Trail Care Day or cleanup event, you might wield pruning shears, a trash bag or a paintbrush. RSVP online if you plan to attend.

Unable to attend an event, but still interested in lending a hand? Or do you lead a youth group and want to get the kids involved? Check out Ozark Greenways’ Trash Collection Program! Choose your date, time and trail, and Ozark Greenways will handle the details. Ozark Greenways also collaborates with aspiring Eagle Scouts on trail projects.

To get started: Call 417-501-4674 or visit the website.

417-landers in Need

Ozarks Food Harvest Full Circle Garden
Photo courtesy Ozarks Food HarvestVolunteers can pick fresh produce from the Ozarks Food Harvest Full Circle Garden.

Volunteer for an Occasional Afternoon

Convoy of Hope
1 Convoy Drive, Springfield, 417-823-8998
Headquartered in Republic, Convoy of Hope provides humanitarian relief and community development services, both in the United States and internationally. Since 1994, the organization has aided more than 200 million people.

Every one of those people has a story, and you can become part of theirs in a simple yet impactful way. In a single afternoon, you can schedule your group to build hygiene or baby care kits for distribution to individuals in need.

You might also spend a Tuesday or Thursday evening at Convoy of Hope’s distribution center, where volunteers help pack and sort goods for regional and worldwide distribution.

Pre-registered groups are welcome, but be sure to review the participation requirements on the website.

To get started: Visit the website.

Harmony House
3404 E. Ridgeview St., Springfield, 417-837-7700
Every human being has the right to a life free of abuse. Harmony House is an emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence. They provide a 24-hour SAFEline, shelter, support services and basic necessities to help survivors rebuild their lives.

Your generous heart can help a survivor take the next brave step. Are you a whiz in the kitchen? Work with staff to prepare a meal, or rally a friend and make it a quarterly tradition to donate and serve a meal. If you have a knack for home organization, the Boutique welcomes your touch. Whether it’s cleaning the shelter or answering phones, your gift of time will support a community member in need.

Volunteer orientations are held the third Monday of every month at 6 p.m.

To get started: Call 417-837-7700 or visit the website.

Least of These
1720 W. James River Rd., Ozark, 417-724-2500
No one should have to choose between paying for food and paying their rent. As the only full-service food pantry serving Christian County, Least of These, Inc. is devoted to lifting that burden for their neighbors in need.

Nearly every weekday, Least of These volunteers help with food distribution, receive donations and shipments or serve in one of the organization’s mobile pantries. Background checks are required, and volunteers commit to three-hour shifts.

If you want to volunteer with your children, Least of These offers special family opportunities throughout the year. Check the website for these events.

To get started: Visit the website or email

Ozarks Food Harvest
2810 N. Cedarbrook Ave., Springfield, 417-865-3411
Ozarks Food Harvest transforms hunger into hope. The food bank serves 270 hunger-relief organizations in Southwest Missouri, reaching nearly 50,000 people each month.

Volunteers make it all possible. Become a “Hunger Hero” by volunteering at a three-hour Sort & Pack session, where you will provide 300 meals. Or spend a morning at a Full Circle Garden and support a local source of fresh produce. Potential volunteers must submit an application, and once approved, they sign up for weekly or monthly shifts.

By hosting a food drive or volunteering with a large group, you can encourage your friends, family and coworkers to help curb food insecurity in 417-land. Contact Ozarks Food Harvest for specific guidelines.

To get started: Call 417-865-3411 or visit the website.

Child donating to Red Cross
Photo courtesy Salvation Army

Make a Donation

The Salvation Army Springfield
Multiple locations
You’ve seen the Salvation Army’s bell ringers at the holidays, but the organization’s work is year-round. The Salvation Army Springfield administers a kaleidoscope of programs for individuals in Greene and Christian counties. Services include an emergency food pantry, housing and shelter programs, a community center for children and seniors, holiday and back-to-school assistance and much more.

Every donation to the Salvation Army Springfield’s Red Kettle Campaign goes right back to the local community. So next time you’re at the store, drop a bit of cash into that iconic red kettle. Online donations are also welcome! And by signing up for a two-hour shift as a bell ringer, you can raise enough money to feed a family of 4 for an entire week.

To get started: Visit

You Want to Commit to a Long-Term Volunteer Project

The Kitchen, Inc.
730 N. Glenstone Ave., Springfield, 417-837-1500
The Kitchen, Inc. has a singular goal: to help people find their way home. To this end, they work to overcome barriers that lead to homelessness. The Kitchen provides emergency shelter, housing assistance, case management and support services. Operated by The Kitchen, Rare Breed Youth Services is a central hub for homeless and at-risk youth in the area.

Volunteers have a unique opportunity to support these young people by preparing and delivering 40 individually packaged, ready-to-eat meals on a scheduled day every month. Groups of up to four people can serve the meal onsite. Consult the website for meal instructions and a signup calendar.

The Kitchen relies on additional volunteers throughout the week, at their front desk and at their donation centers. Group opportunities may also be available.

To get started: Call 417-837-1500 or visit the website.

Lost & Found Grief Center
1555 S. Glenstone Ave., Springfield, 417-865-9998
Lost & Found Grief Center believes that no one should grieve alone. Through professional support services, they offer hope and healing to those who are facing life without a loved one.

The Center’s therapeutic Grief Support Groups help to mend the hearts of the bereaved. Led by a professional counselor, volunteer facilitators assist with group activities and interact with children and parents. They help out twice per month, with a minimum 1-year commitment. No counseling experience is required, and all training is provided.

Other volunteers serve on event committees, work on office projects and more. Regardless of your role, your gift of time will offer comfort to individuals who are grieving.
To get started: Visit the website or call 417-865-9998.

Animal Shelters

Volunteering at the Dickerson Park Zoo
Photo courtesy Springfield CVBVolunteering at the Dickerson Park Zoo provides the opportunity to engage with animals and zoo visitors.

Commit to a Long-Term Volunteer Project

C.A.R.E. Animal Rescue
1328A W. Sunshine St., Springfield, 417-875-6565
C.A.R.E. Animal Rescue is dedicated to the prevention of cruelty to animals. As Southwest Missouri’s largest no-kill shelter, C.A.R.E. provides a safe haven for hundreds of homeless animals, both at their Springfield Adoption Center and at their sanctuary near Aurora. C.A.R.E.’s animals receive medical treatment, spaying or neutering, and lots of love and attention.

Volunteers at C.A.R.E. enliven the shelter. They feed and exercise the animals, maintain the facility and counsel adopters. They assist with educational presentations, mobile adoptions and special events. You will directly improve the life of every animal at the shelter with your ongoing weekly commitment. Volunteers are asked to dedicate at least 25 hours over the course of their time with C.A.R.E.

To get started: Visit the website.

Dickerson Park Zoo
1401 W. Norton Rd., Springfield, 417-833-1570
A 417-land favorite, Dickerson Park Zoo is known for its diverse collection of exotic animals and its dedication to wildlife conservation and education.

If you’re passionate about animals and you enjoy engaging with people, the role of a Zoo Ambassador is a perfect fit! Zoo Ambassadors enhance guest experiences during special events and throughout the summer season. Responsibilities may range from ticket and concession sales to crowd management and activity supervision. After one year, a Zoo Ambassador may apply to become a Zoo Docent; these specially trained “volunteer teachers” support the zoo’s conservation education mission in numerous ways.

Annually, Zoo Ambassadors contribute at least 15 hours of service, while Zoo Docents dedicate 24 hours or more.

To get started: Call 417-833-1570 or visit the website.

A C.A.R.E. Volunteer with dog
Photo courtesy C.A.R.E. RescueA C.A.R.E. Volunteer spending time with one of the shelter animals.

Volunteer for an Occasional Afternoon

Rescue One
Rescue One is a foster-based rescue organization and licensed veterinary clinic that provides animals with a second chance at life. Each animal in Rescue One’s care receives necessary medical attention, including vaccinations and spaying or neutering. The animals obtain refuge in loving foster homes or emergency boarding until their new forever home can be found.

While longer-term foster homes are the backbone of Rescue One — and the organization’s greatest need — there are numerous ways to get involved. Whether showing dogs at an adoption event, transporting the animals to their vet’s office, or helping to organize fundraisers, you can make a real difference to 417-land’s four-legged friends.

To get started: Visit the website.

Southwest Missouri’s Civic Matchmakers

Community Foundation of the Ozarks Generosity Collective Launch
Photo courtesy Community Foundation of the Ozarks

We talk a lot about community ownership,” says Amber Alcorn, Director of Communication and Volunteerism at United Way of the Ozarks. “When we ‘own’ our community, we feel a sense of connection. We want to help our neighbors, whether we know them or not.”

It’s a sentiment shared by four organizations—Council of Churches of the Ozarks, United Way of the Ozarks, Community Foundation of the Ozarks and Hatch Foundation— who are well-known for connecting nonprofits, resources and people. While their particulars vary, each is devoted to the collective good.

Both Council of Churches of the Ozarks (CCO) and United Way of the Ozarks provide on-ramps for engagement in the fight against poverty. “Our threefold mission—poverty response, prevention and elimination—informs the 12 programs CCO offers,” says Dianna Flannigan, Assistant Director of RSVP & Volunteer Engagement. CCO’s programs include a diaper bank, a food bank and a women’s shelter, with myriad ways for individuals and groups to lend a hand.

“At United Way, we ask, ‘What are the biggest issues in our community?’” says Alcorn, “and we support programs that are addressing those issues.” Currently, United Way of the Ozarks promotes 21 programs at 14 nonprofits, via financial backing, raising awareness and fostering participation. “We help people get involved in a way that is valuable to them,” says Alcorn. Employers can participate in United Way’s Community Field Trip, a professional development program that offers an in-depth look at nonprofits who are tackling local issues. And through Give 5, retirees are connected with meaningful volunteer opportunities.

It’s all about being a civic matchmaker, about pairing people with organizations that are doing good. For many, this means charitable giving. Community Foundation of the Ozarks (CFO) provides a vital link between donors and recipients. “Essentially, we accept a lot of different types of gifts — cash, check, real estate, stocks — as well as provide a variety of funds to help meet a donor’s charitable goals,” says Aaron Scott, CFO’s Director of Communications. CFO’s recently launched initiative, the Generosity Collective, allows individuals to pool their resources and decide together how those donations are granted to Springfield nonprofits. “It’s a way to democratize philanthropy,” says Scott. “You don’t have to be a millionaire to give money.”

As they determine how and where to grant funds, CFO and Hatch Foundation utilize the Community Focus Report, a biennial report card that highlights local strengths and challenges. “[We] help Springfield reach its full potential,” says Erin Danastasio, Executive Director of Hatch Foundation. “Our main focus areas are the arts, outdoors and entrepreneurship.” Hatch Foundation has sponsored community-building initiatives like Clean Green Springfield, Good Neighbor Week and Celebrate Springfield. They collaborate with Boys & Girls Clubs to fund the Wellness Degree Program, which teaches youngsters life skills while they learn about the outdoors. Since its inception, over 5,000 “degrees” have been awarded.

The Wellness Degree Program is just one of the ways organizations in 417-land come together to make a difference. “As one person or one agency, we can do something,” says Alcorn, “but when we are united together, we can do so much more.”

Charity Events and Volunteer Opportunities