Serving girls and young women who are experiencing homelessness and at-risk of involvement in unsafe activity, like drug use, early pregnancy, and domestic violence, Alternatives for Girls is a Detroit-based nonprofit that thrives with volunteer involvement and contributions. The organization was founded in 1985 as volunteer-run program and has since evolved into an agency with over 75 employees.
Despite the growth that the organization has seen, Volunteer Services Manager Christina Ramsey notes that volunteers still help sustain some of Alternatives for Girls’ most important programs. Below, she shares some of the ways you can support its mission.
Sew Great Detroit
Volunteers with Alternatives for Girls’ Sew Great Detroit program assist participants as they create goods through sewing. “The volunteers do not get paid but the young women enrolled in the program do,” Ramsey says. “It builds their industrial sewing skills and helps them to enter the world and the workforce with some experience under their belt. That program specifically is largely facilitated by volunteers.” The program participants earn money through retail sales, wholesale, special orders, and marketplace events. Donations are also accepted.
“Our Street Outreach program is able to reach as many people as it does because of the help of volunteers,” Ramsey says. The program allows volunteers and staff members to connect with women and girls on the streets and provide them with resources, such as information and direct services like counseling, as well as tools like “harm-reduction kits.”
Mentorship is an opportunity for mutual growth between the mentor and the young women they work with. Through its Asset Building Program, Alternatives for Girls pairs mentors with girls to help them build their self-esteem, improve their grades, avoid drugs and alcohol, prevent teen pregnancy, and tap into their talents. “Volunteer mentors are building positive relationships with our participants, helping them explore what’s out there and what is next for them in life,” Ramsey says. Mentors must be 18 years or older, commit to one year of service, and complete various background checks.
Crisis Resource Center
Another impactful sector of Alternatives for Girls is its Crisis Resource Center. The center provides walk-in services Monday-Friday and is a safe, private setting for young women to discuss their needs and the problems they’re encountering. Volunteers and trained staffers assess situations and provide next-step instruction and care to the center’s visitors.
In-Kind Donation Maintenance
Volunteers also help to maintain in-kind donations for Alternatives for Girls. In-kind donations include goods like clothing, shelter equipment, food, etc. Some volunteers help facilitate these donations and ensure that the correct donations are being contributed to the right programs. (Alternatives For Girls also has an Amazon Wishlist of items people can donate.) “Having volunteers help with administrative tasks really opens up our staff’s capacity to further assist our participants more fully because we are not as worried about things like cleaning, organizing, and maintenance,” Ramsey says.
Alternatives for Girls also offers internships each season and was recently seeking a Digital Marketing Intern. “Our internships are unpaid but very rich in experience,” Ramsey says. “It’s an opportunity to take the skills [interns] learn and use them to have a positive impact on the community.”
Those interested in volunteering with the nonprofit can fill out an application on the Alternatives for Girls website. Ramsey recommends applicants be very specific about what type of volunteer work they would like to do. She meets with each applicant to get a feel for their abilities and what area would be a good fit. Alternatives for Girls offers both group and individual volunteer opportunities.
For more information, visit alternativesforgirls.org.