National Volunteer Week: 826 Writing Centers

In honor of National Volunteer Week, GOOD will be bringing you a daily recommendation about organizations with which you can volunteer in your neighborhood and around the country.Reading Dave Eggers's writing, you quickly realize you're dealing with someone who really enjoys language. In the wake of the success of his novel A Hearbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Eggers decided to share the love. In 2002, he opened a free writing center for students in San Francisco's public school system, naming the facility after its Mission district address: 826 Valencia. Because the space he found was zoned for retail, Eggers added a working "pirate supply store" as a front. It sells lard and eye patches and adds to the fun considerably.The formula was a success and since then, Eggers has added 826 writing centers in New York, Los Angeles, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Seattle, and Boston. Each location has its own theme (the New York location, for example, has a superhero supply store) and a range of programs for local students including after-school drop-in tutoring sessions; writing workshops that focus on a particular skill, like screenwriting or journalism; and field trips. Volunteering at an 826 center is easy. You just drop in, pick up some materials and meet the coordinators, and tell them when you're free. Helping local students gives you a sense of accomplishment like few other activities and the tutors tend to be great company as well.Photo by flickr user Ben Sisto under a (cc) license.