letters forming the word "volunteer" on a cork board
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Volunteering is a great way to get involved with CCE!

Master Composter education booth at 2017 Grassroots Festival

Volunteers break ground and plant vegetables at the new Esty Street Community Garden in Ithaca (2017).
Image by Sandy Repp

Volunteers break ground and plant vegetables at the new Esty Street Community Garden.


Volunteers are very important to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County. Over 1,200 individuals volunteer their time to a variety of Extension activities, contributing over 73,000 hours each year! 

Through duties as diverse as teaching others to prune trees or make compost, answering callers' questions on consumer or gardening issues, mentoring young people as they acquire new skills, or serving as board members or on committees that guide our work, volunteers represent Extension's far-reaching roots in our community.

Ongoing opportunities appear below, with contact names for additional information.  Some programs may require specialized training to participate; upcoming training dates are listed where known.   

Ongoing Volunteer Opportunities

Prospective volunteers complete an application form.  In addition, those who volunteer to work with vulnerable populations (children, individuals with disabilities, etc.) will be asked to consent to a criminal background screening at Cooperative Extension's expense, as a means of ensuring the safety and security both of our volunteers and of the people we serve through our programs.

Organizational Leadership

Program Committee Member

Program Committees are made up of individuals who have an interest or experience in one of our main program issue areas ( Agriculture, Consumer & Financial Management, Environment, Family & Community Development, Nutrition Health & Safety, or 4-H Youth Development) and who choose to share their time and talents with CCE-Tompkins as volunteer advisers. Program Committees meet monthly; individual members generally serve for a term of 3 years, although 2 and 1 year options also are considered. Program Committee members do not need to be Tompkins County residents unless they wish to serve as a representatives to the Board (in which case county residency is required). Learn more about serving as a Program Committee member.

Beautification Brigade

Annual training in March, but join any time! Volunteer with the Tompkins County Community Beautification Program and have fun while making a difference in the City of Ithaca. The Beautification Brigade plants and maintains spring and summer flowers on city traffic medians and the Ithaca Commons. Join this fun group and help make Ithaca more beautiful while learning useful gardening tips and techniques. Free and open to anyone who wishes to volunteer with the program. Call Martha Gioumousis at 272-2292 or email mg10@cornell.edu for more information or to request a volunteer application.

Childcare Provider(s)

Participants in CCE's nutrition and parenting classes can attend and complete the full sequence of workshops if free childcare is provided, yet we do not have funds to support this service. We are seeking volunteer childcare providers who could be scheduled for a 2-3 hour session occasionally, and a Coordinator to develop a list and to recruit/schedule those volunteer caregivers. Experience in early childhood development or daycare is desirable! Contact Anna Steinkraus at 272-2292 or ams69@cornell.edu.

Citizen Pruners

Annual training in April, but join any time! Citizen Pruner volunteers help maintain street trees and shurbs in the City of Ithaca. Volunteers work once a week from May to October. Training is provided by university and local experts and covers: urban trees, evaluating tree structure and needs, and pruning trees and shrubs. Classes are free for volunteers and $5/class for the public. To volunteer or to register for the classes, call 272-2292 or email Monika Roth at mr55@cornell.edu.

Cooking Matters 

Share your passion for preparing delicious, healthy and affordable meals with families at risk of hunger here in our county, through this national program of Share Our Strength offered through CCE-Tompkins. Work with our nutrition educators and professional chef volunteers; training is provided. Contact Lara Parrilla Kaltman at 272-2292 or ljp9@cornell.edu today to learn more!

Energy Navigators

Energy Navigators help friends, neighbors and other community members to achieve their energy-related goals by providing information and resources on energy efficiency, renewable heating, solar, and other fossil fuel alternatives. The training focuses on concrete steps to reduce energy use at home, and helps volunteers understand and reduce their own energy use. More info at www.getyourgreenbacktompkins.org/navigators or contact Karim Beers at kwb6@cornell.edu, or 272-2292.

4-H Youth Programs

4-H offers youth aged 5-19 from throughout Tompkins County a variety of special interest clubs, afterschool programs, short-term enrichment offerings, a public speaking program, Environmental Appreciation Days, summer programs, and an annual youth-run Fair. There are many short- and long-term opportunities for volunteer involvement, depending upon the skills you care to share and the time you wish to commit to volunteering.

  • 4-H Club & Fair Programs
    Share a craft or a special skill with young people, help lead a 4-H Club, or spend a day as an evaluator for 4-H Fair or public speaking competitions. Individuals with knowledge of agriculture, plant science, animal husbandry, entomology, and textile/clothing construction are always welcome, but if you have a different expertise you'd like to share, please contact Brenda Carpenter at 272-2292 or btc6@cornell.edu to talk about your ideas! Orientation for new leaders and volunteers is provided on an ongoing basis throughout the year. Call for upcoming dates
  • Duck Race & 5K Run Each April, 4-H holds a rubber duck race on Cascadilla Creek and a 5K run to raise funds for youth programs. Volunteers serve on an event planning committee, sell chances in advance of the event, and perform a host of duties on race day. Contact Megan Tifft at 272-2292 or met38@cornell.edu for more information!
  • 4-H Environmental Appreciation Days
    Each May, as many as 500 local 4th-6th graders take school field trips to local state parks, 4-H Acres and other sites in Tompkins County, where volunteer instructors lead them through three 50-minute hands-on nature and ecology lessons. Individuals who wish to volunteer as instructors should contact Megan Tifft, 272-2292 or met38@cornell.edu

Green Building Volunteers

Help plan and execute the annual Green Building Open House, a 1-day event held in alternating years. Other opportunities to promote alternative building and green energy technologies in Tompkins County are planned. Contact Guillermo Metz at 272-2292 or gm52@cornell.edu for information. Contact Guillermo Metz at 272-2292 or gm52@cornell.edu for information.

Master Composters

Applications due in January for annual training February-April. Master Composters are an enthusiastic group committed to promoting responsible composting in Tompkins County. Training covers all aspects of composting and includes some collaborative volunteering. After completing the training program, Master Composters give time back to the community in a variety of outreach activities. Visit our Master Composter page to learn more, or call or email Adam Michaelides at 272-2292 x 124 or acm1@cornell.edu with questions. NOTE: please contact Adam for a shorter initial version of the volunteer application to use instead of the one at upper left!

Master Gardeners

Training is offered in alternate years; call for information. The Master Gardener program, offered throughout the U.S. and Canada, provides avid gardeners with many hours of intensive home horticulture training. In return, they share their knowledge and enthusiasm for gardening with others by volunteering to assist with garden lectures, exhibits, demonstrations, school and community gardening, phone diagnostic service, research, and many other projects. Master Gardener Volunteers at CCE-Tompkins staff a GrowLine and answer gardening questions for callers. For more information, contact Jennie Cramer at 272-2292 or jrc10@cornell.edu.

Nutrition Education Volunteers

CCE-Tompkins provides USDA-funded nutrition classes for families with limited resources. Volunteers shop for groceries; or set-up, assist at, or clean-up after hands-on cooking classes. Contact Lara Parrilla Kaltman at 272-2292 or ljp9@cornell.edu to learn more.

Seed-to-Supper Educators 

Seed-to-Supper is a series of free gardening classes for beginner vegetable gardeners. This five-session training program will prepare volunteer educators to teach free gardening classes throughout Tompkins County. Volunteers will become familiar with the Seed-to-Supper curriculum and learn hands-on activities to use when teaching the classes in their communities. Course materials including slide shows, participant manuals and handouts are provided to volunteers to run the classes. Training is held in February and March. For more information or an application, please contact Jennie Cramer, 272-2292 or jrc10@cornell.edu.


Brenda T. Carpenter
Extension Community Educator, 4-H Youth Development
(607) 272-2292 ext. 142

Last updated October 17, 2019