Scott Zagarino addresses this year's FGB participants

Scott Zagarino of Athletes for a Cure addresses this year's FGB participants

What does a “volunteer” look like? I think there’s a general misunderstanding about community volunteering and philanthropy among members of my generation.

A person, say, isn’t religious (and may associate volunteering with church service). Another doesn’t like being around the elderly, working on skid row, dealing with animals, children in general, or being around sickness, so these people don’t volunteer for anything, ever. At all.

That’s ridiculous.

I’m a fairly introverted person—I like to be in new and interesting situations, but can sometimes find directly dealing with strangers, or suddenly having someone I don’t know be dependent on me, or dealing with people in despondent positions very stressful. And while I love animals, and people of all shapes and sizes, and helping the environment, hard-line grassroots initiatives that put volunteers on the frontlines of death, disease and environmental destruction are a bit much for my taste. I’m not a protester or a marcher or a picketer or a candy-striper or a soup-kitchen-working bleeding hearter.

But I’ve always wanted to help.

Living in LA, especially, there’s so many opportunities to help out and give back even if you’re not steel-nerved and flamingly extroverted. I started by checking out Heal the Bay and the Surfrider Foundation and became a contributing member of both. Both organizations have monthly beach and stream clean-ups in the LA metro area, offer community education, and throw large-scale fundraising events for the improvement of water quality, not only up and down the Pacific seaboard, but in the case of Surfrider, internationally.

I now participate yearly in “Fight Gone Bad” which is a national Crossfit event to raise money for prostate cancer research, as well as returning veterans that have been wounded in the line of duty. I’ve also participated in AIDS Walk Los Angeles, raising over 500 dollars by myself towards AIDS research one year.

So, like animals, but can’t bear to volunteer at a shelter? Try something like the Pasadena Wiggle Waggle Walk.

Have extra fruit and produce growing in your yard, but don’t know how to contribute it to those in need? Try finding a food co-op in your area such as this one, Food Forward, featured in the LA Times.

The list goes on and on…

Do good, live well, give back. It matters!