Volunteering Opportunities for Families
National Volunteering Month is a great time to introduce kids to volunteering. Here are some ways to get them involved.
Donating money is almost always appreciated by any non profit, but time is a precious commodity. Volunteering time makes us feel good about ourselves, true, but it also benefits the people in our communities who need it most. Instilling a charitable spirit in your child can be difficult — but we found some child-friendly volunteering opportunities to get them started. Also note that some of these places may have various COVID-19 related policies in effect so be sure to check in with them for specifics. And while we’re talking about the pandemic, one of the trickle down effects is inflation and supply chain so don’t disregard the importance of also giving any monetary donation that you can afford to any non-profit that means a lot to you!
Food insecurity is a problem that can be addressed locally, and the Ardmore Food Pantry works to address it in Lower Merion. By holding a food drive or volunteering during the Food Pantry’s regular Monday hours, your family can contribute to the wellness of another family.
Cuddle My Kids is an amazing non-profit that specializes in helping families that are currently caring for cancer patients as well as supporting families that recently lost someone to cancer. They offer in-home and out-of-home programs which provide aid varying from simple grocery shopping to massage therapy. Connect Thru Cancers runs with the help of dedicated and passionate volunteers. To find out how you and your kids can help, visit their volunteer page for info on bag filling events and ideas for how to fundraise to benefit this organization.
There are so many children in the greater Philadelphia area who don’t have access to simple pleasures that other children might take for granted. Cradles to Crayons seeks to give disadvantaged youths in the area “KidPacks” with useful day-to-day items they need. Any child over the age of 5 can volunteer at their giving factory!
MANNA provides food and counseling to direly ill patients year-round — but the holidays are a great time to get involved and help patients in the greater Philadelphia area. There are volunteer opportunities to help cook meals (you must be over 14 to help in the kitchen), deliver meals to patients, prep the kitchen, and more.
The Main Line Youth Alliance helps LGBT+ youth with the struggle of transition and other difficult life moments by offering a safe space for youths to speak their minds and have their voices heard. They run entirely on donations and help from adult volunteers like you. They need volunteers who can assist with grant writing, chaperoning, and activity assistance.
Therapy pets (dogs, cats, rabbits, and guinea pigs, oh my!) not only bring happiness to hospital patients, college students, and senior center residents, but to the volunteers that work with them, too! If your kids are 12 or older, they can volunteer with Pals for Life in Wayne. Aside from helping with the organization’s regular programs at local institutions, they can team up with friends and start a community project for collecting pet food and pet supply donations. If you have a young pet, your pet could even pass the test and become a Pals for Life therapy pet.
The Plaid Pajamas Project seeks to get local children bundled up during the cold season in comfortable, warm, and clean pajamas donated from generous families and children in the area. While predominantly donation-based, you can help this project by hosting a pajama-drive, organizing a sorting-and-wrapping party, or simply donating gift cards like GapCash, Kohl’s Cash, and other small-balance gift cards to buy pajamas for the project. Pajama collections can happen year round (consider asking for pajamas in lieu of gifts at a sleepover party, or instead of hostess gifts at any dinner party you host) and you can connect with Plaid Pajamas for drop off, they will find someplace in need to take your donation any time of year even though their primary pajama drives occur in the winter months.
The Wayne community service and philanthropy organization strives to help women and children in the Philadelphia suburban region. Their Kids Club allows the child or grandchild of any member (or even children a member might be a caregiver for!) to participate in kid-focused service projects like food drives, book drives, making care package, creating birthday kits, and more. The children also try to earn “Kindness Coins” and then pool the money to donate to a local charity that helps children in need in our area.
The mission of the Sunday Kids East Coast is to provide volunteer opportunities for children of all ages, and to promote a lifelong love of volunteerism. They provide one volunteer opportunity and one monthly collection for kids to help in any way possible. There are no age or hour requirements.
Aside from spending time volunteering, consider donating money or goods to reputable non-profit groups this season. Encourage your children to earn money to donate via a sales stand, providing services to a neighbor, extra household chores, selling their old toys, etc. Then check out these websites, or explore to find a charity that is meaningful to your family, and explain the organization to your kids when you donate!
For more ideas on teaching kids to do good in and for their communities, check out this collection of ideas that gives them first-hand experience with volunteering.
Jaime Metzger and Jes Lysons contributed reporting to this article.
Photograph courtesy of MANNA.