Cornell University

Ithaca/Tompkins County

Cornell Public Service Center Volunteer Program

200 Barnes Hall

office hours: 8:30 am—4:30 pm, M—F (open all summer)

Staff at the Cornell Public Service Center:

  • are familiar with local opportunities and organizations
  • can provide information about a variety of volunteer opportunities that are available
  • are in contact with many local nonprofit organizations, government departments and programs in the Ithaca community, including Cayuga Medical Center (CMC)

Students may view a range of volunteer opportunities via the Public Service Center (PSC) website and make agency contact on their own, or they may have a consultation with a Center Programs Specialist at the PSC. Students may also visit Human Services Coalition for information on local volunteer opportunities.

Students are welcome to come into the 200 Barnes office and complete a "Community Volunteer Interest Form" and be placed on a list-serve that would notify them of current or immediate volunteer opportunities as well as jobs, internships, awards, and other services related activities. This e-newsletter is sent once weekly when classes are in session.

The Volunteer Program posts opportunities with:

Physically and mentally handicapped children

  • big brother/big sister
  • after-school programs
  • day treatment centers

Physically and mentally handicapped adults

  • day treatment centers

The elderly

  • administrative agencies
  • one-to-one friendly visiting relationships
  • nursing and residential homes
  • the Cornell Elderly Project

The emotionally handicapped

  • counseling services (suicide, crisis, mental health, and battered women)
  • mental health clinics
  • day treatment programs
  • Mental Health Association of Tompkins County (MHATC) supports the involvement of ordinary people in all aspects of mental health through services provided to those who live or work in Tompkins County.
    • KIDS First Summer Therapeutic Recreation Program - Provide leadership, guidance and programs for KIDS FIRST participants ranging from 3-18 years of age.
    • As Friends Service - Be a "friend" to adult individuals with a mental health diagnosis.
    • Disordered Eating Services Intern - Planning and coordinating the marketing of services available for individuals with disordered eating. (15 hours per week, flexible schedule)

The drug and alcohol dependent

  • administrative agencies
  • outpatient services 

The physically ill

  • Cayuga Medical Center
    • Volunteer - Work in the gift shop, serve as a visitor guides, answer phones at reception desk, assist nurses with non-medical tasks, comfort patients in waiting rooms, transport patients, provide clerical support, etc. Interested students should go to Volunteers, review duties and requirements, and complete the volunteer application as directed. The Volunteer Coordinator will contact you directly for an interview as openings become available.
    • Emergency Dept. Patient Advocate - Provide comfort and information to patients who may be physically and emotionally vulnerable. Establishes respectful and trusting relationships with patients, their families, and the care team. Represent Cayuga Medical Center in a way that reflects its mission. Contribute to quality of patient care in the hospital by rounding in patient care areas and addressing the non-medical needs of the patient, significant others, and health care providers. Refer any issues to staff for resolution of complaints, concerns, and/or inquiries.
  • hospice program
  • nursing homes and residential care homes
  • AIDS-HIV education and support programs
  • Ithaca Free Clinic
  • cancer patient support program

The administrators of health services

  • health agencies and health-related agencies
  • nutrition and food distribution programs
  • sex, birth control, and pregnancy education programs
  • Public Health Department

Opportunities are also available working with:


  • animal shelters
  • community education/youth programs
  • Cornell Companions (therapeutic)
  • therapeutic riding center
  • veterinary clinics
  • factory farm animal sanctuary

Wildlife/environmental issues

  • outdoor education programs
  • outdoor recreation programs
  • conservation projects
  • youth programs
  • animal care facilities
  • land trust
  • environmental agencies/programs

Individualized Opportunities

Students who have an idea of some other kind of opportunity or project with a nonprofit organization that they would like to pursue may be able to arrange it through a consultation with a Public Service Center Program Specialist.

Organizations Health Careers Students Have Volunteered with in Ithaca

Some examples follow. See Human Services Coalition and United Way of Tompkins County for other organizations.

  • Advocacy Center
    • Serves battered women, rape, and child sexual abuse victims
  • Alcohol and Drug Council of Tompkins County
  • American Cancer Society
  • American Red Cross of Tompkins County
  • Cayuga Addiction and Recovery Services
  • Cayuga Medical Center
  • Franziska Racker Centers (formerly Special Children's Center)
  • Hospicare and Palliative Care Services of Tompkins County
    • Hospice and related services
  • Human Services Coalition of Tompkins County
    • Including Health Planning Council
  • The Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes
    • Support, information, and advocacy for cancer patients
  • Ithaca Free Clinic
    • Serves uninsured and underinsured
  • Ithaca Pregnancy Center
  • Ithaca and Cayuga Heights Fire Departments
    • Those in Bunker Program reside at the fire houses and respond with the fire fighters
  • Lansing Residential Center
    • Serves court-placed delinquent girls
  • Louis Gossett, Jr., Residential Center
    • Serves court-placed delinquent boys
  • Mental Health Association
    • Includes Skylight Day Treatment for adults
  • Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes
  • Public Health Department of Tompkins County
    • Includes Women, Infants, and Children's (WIC) program
  • Southern Tier AIDS Program, Inc.
  • Tompkins County Office for the Aging
    • Includes Project CARE: friendly visitors and respite for care givers
  • Unity House
    • Provides services to adults with psychiatric and/or developmental disabilities

...Also look into nursing homes and retirement communities, some with medical wings.