So much news! I’ve recently returned from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where I prepared no fewer than 1500 mini-cupcakes, coconut milk tarts and strawberry shortcakes for the ACHIEVEabilty Food for Thought gala fundraiser. Not only did I get to support a great cause, and eat a lot of fantastic food from other great chefs, I got to meet recipe challenge winner Nicholas Garbacz, who won tickets to the gala with his pizza recipe.

ACHIEVEability is a wonderful organization. In this tough economy, they’re working hard to break the cycle of poverty, and help families become self-sufficient. You can find out more about them here.

But this trip is just one of many times I’ve combined travel with volunteer work. Anyone who knows me knows I love to travel. Wherever I go, I certainly make sure to check out the local attractions and try the local cuisine. But when I include some volunteer work on my vacations, I get to connect with the local community on a much more personal and rewarding level.

So, my challenge to all of you is include some volunteer work on your next trip. Or, if you’re more of a stay-cation sort, try getting involved in your local community on weekends. I know Spring Break is coming up, so if you’re making plans, consider including a few hours, or days, of volunteer work.

If you’re looking longer term, there are great options out there for full-fledged volunteer vacations. The Sierra Club, for example, runs a few service trips each year, which offer greatly reduced prices and access to otherwise restricted areas in exchange for a few days restoring a trail, cataloging wildlife, or cleaning up beaches.

You can find out about a lot of other Volunteer tourism options in this excellent piece in the New York Times.

So, I’d like to hear from you. If you’ve ever volunteered while on vacation, or are more of a weekend warrior, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

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Tags: ACHIEVEability, Club, Sierra, travel, vacation, volunteer

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