STEM to STEAM, get your science and art on as well as your adventure with the local nonprofits events and volunteer opportunities


It’s a busy time of the year. The autumnal equinox arrives Thursday, also called the September equinox or fall equinox. College and Pro Football are in full swing. Hockey preseason starts this week, and basketball season is just around the corner. There are plenty of pumpkin spice items on the shelves everywhere (I have seen pumpkin spice candy corn, cereal, and potato chips, to name a few). You still have a few days to make it to the Washington State Fair, and if all that is enough to keep you occupied, our local nonprofits also have plenty to offer.

Celebrate STEM!

If you are passionate about education, the environment, green jobs, or all three, join Pacific Education Institute as they recognize the outstanding efforts of individuals and organizations across Washington State in bringing outdoor-based STEM to life this Thursday, September 22. Whether you’re a teacher looking for great ideas to implement with your students, part of a community-based organization that wants to expand your work with schools, or from a natural resources company seeking to connect career pathways, this event will show you what’s possible when PEI’s FieldSTEM model is fully implemented. PEI’s mission is to empower educators to advance equitable civic and scientific literacy by promoting outdoor integrated, career connected, locally relevant real-world science. For more details, click here.

Cleaning Projects

  • Surfrider Foundation Olympia invites you to meet at the Heritage Park Fountain at 5:30pm on Wednesday the 28th. They will provide buckets, pickers, and counters then volunteers will focus on just picking up cigarette butts for just an hour. Then meet back at the fountain at 6:30 for count and weight. How many cigarette butts can you pick up in an hour? Raffle items will be available, and this event is for all ages (get your kids accustomed to volunteering!) The Surfrider Foundation is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves, and beaches through a powerful activist network. Surfrider Foundation is a grassroots activist network, and chapters such as the one in Olympia are comprised of passionate volunteers working towards a vision of 100% coastal protection. For more details on this event, click here.
  • The annual Tumwater Clean-Up, Drop-Off Event is Saturday, September 24. This is a chance for you to safely discard expired prescription medications, donate non-perishable food and shred personal documents. For more details, click here.

Nisqually Watershed Festival

The Nisqually Watershed Festival (NWF) returns on Saturday, September 24. Celebrating its 33rd event, NWF is a celebration of nature featuring art, discovery, music, science, and family fun. Among the festivities, there will be live performances, displays from local organizations, walking tours, an Insect Extravaganza, storytelling, and more! Watch a salmon dissection (isn’t that what I do before dinner?), listen to traditional stories, and learn about reptiles and bats. Tour the Refuge trails, make a salmon lifecycle keychain, bring a t-shirt to make a fish print, and get ready for a day of fun! Entrance is free all day! For more details, click here.

An apple a day…

For 30 years, Lions Club in the greater Olympia has sold apples each fall to fund service projects in the community. Thanks to many hundreds of happy repeat customers, the sale has grown from a few boxes sold out of a Lion's carport to a hugely successful fundraiser delivering thousands of boxes of apples each year. The sale is still managed by Olympia Host Lions Club, but today about two dozen Lions Clubs in towns from Poulsbo to Kalama join in to offer their customers fresh eastern Washington apples delivered to their door. Youth groups - like the Olympia area Sea Cadets - often join in to help and raise money for their own projects. However, for every Lions fundraiser, 100% of the funds raised from the public is returned to the community in service projects supported by the Lions.  Want to buy a box or two for you - or better yet, a Box for the Food Bank? Just click here to find out more.

Horseshoes, dancing shoes, or walking shoes pick your event

·         HeartStrides Therapeutic Horsemanship invites you to Horses Healing Hearts “A Night of Denim and Diamonds” on September 23. HeartStrides is an effective-based Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) program that is designed to inspire social, emotional, and psychological wellness for youth at risk, veterans, active military, and first responders. Its mission is to integrate the principles of horsemanship with research-based learning during interactive experiences with horses. For details, click here.

·         Wondering what the canopy behind the State Theater is all about? You are invited to Harlequin’s Annual Gala and 2023 Season Announcement on Saturday, September 24! Your host for the big show is Aleksa Manila, who will guide you through our evening with Artistic Director Aaron Lamb’s 2023 Season Announcement Presentation and a live auction. For tickets and details, click here.  

  • Get your walking shoes on for the Relay in Remembrance on Sunday, September 25. The Relay in Remembrance is an annual event to raise awareness and funds for parents who have experienced perinatal loss from miscarriage, stillbirth, and life-limiting birth defects. During the Relay, families from across the globe are recognized every hour as the names of their babies are read.  The Relay is a family-friendly event with music, speakers, games, and fun projects for kids. For more information, contact Nikki Berry at 360-880-1097.

Soliciting your ideas

If you know of a nonprofit that is doing something great, celebrating a success, needs some outstanding volunteers, or hosting an event, let me know! This column (aside from a little education) celebrates nonprofits!

Mary Beth Harrington, CVA (Certified Volunteer Administrator) lives in Tumwater. She travels the country speaking at conferences and to individual organizations articulating issues facing nonprofits. Send your ideas to her at


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