One of the most important things we can do as parents is to teach our children how to be charitable. It is never too early to involve your children in a project that allows them to give back to the family and community. Here is a roundup of organizations that offer volunteer opportunities and activities you can do as a family.
Organizations with Volunteer Opportunities:
Alex’s Lemonade (Volunteer from Home)
At Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, the primary focus is to find a cure for all childhood cancers. Children can get involved and raise money by following simple instructions at this website.
Allowance Tree (Volunteer from Home)
AllowanceTree is a virtual banking system that represents the real money children receive from their parents. This site allows children to donate a portion of their allowance to charity while earning bonus points.
Color A Smile (Volunteer from Home)
Color A Smile collects crayon drawings from school children. Every month they distribute these drawings to Nursing Homes, Meals on Wheels Programs, and Individuals all across the country. Their goal is to make people smile! All you have to do is make a drawing and send it in.
DoSomething.org (Volunteer from Home)
DoSomething.org is the country’s largest not-for-profit for young people and social change. Bullying. Animal cruelty. Homelessness. Cancer. The list goes on. DoSomething.org spearheads national campaigns so 13- to 25-year-olds can make an impact – without ever needing money, an adult, or a car.
Elijah’s Promise (New Brunswick, NJ)
Elijah’s Promise harnesses the power of food to break the cycle of poverty, alleviate hunger, and change lives.
Flags Across the Nation (Volunteer from Home)
Our programs foster love of the United States of America, respect for the American flag and support for our troops, wounded warriors and veterans. We welcome your participation with us to make a patriotic difference by writing Letters to the Troops, telling children about our art contest Flags of Freedom and joining with us to promote patriotism through the arts.
For the Troops (Volunteer from Home)
For The Troops’ mission is to send care packages to our front line troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. These packages contain such things as snack items, DVDs, CDs, batteries, personal care items and magazines, etc.
Free the Children (Volunteer from Home)
Free the Children provides a host of ways for kids to get involved including creative fundraising ideas. One easy idea, commemorate special occasions in a meaningful way. For your next birthday celebration, ask friends and family to donate to Free The Children’s programs instead of giving presents. Celebrate a special day of yours or that of a loved one in a way that matters.
Fulfill (Various Locations)
The FoodBank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties is now Fulfill. We’ve changed our name, because we’re doing more than ever to change lives in our communities for the better. Our new name reflects the fact that today we focus on more than food distribution. It reflects our commitment to fulfill more of the needs of our neighbors and win the battle against hunger. It reflects our comprehensive approach that goes beyond providing food and helps those in need get to a place where they can get back on their feet for good. Ending hunger in our communities is a complex challenge, so Fulfill provides a full suite of programs to provide the resources people need to become self-sufficient.
Hugs & Hope (Volunteer from Home)
Children fighting for their lives have very little to smile about. You can change that by sending them some “Happy Mail.” Cheery cards give these kids a few more smiles, a little more hope, and a reason to get out of bed each day.
Little Volunteers (Various Locations)
Little Volunteers organize events for children to volunteer their time and talent so that they are INSPIRED and EMPOWERED to serve communities and LEAD others along the path of kindness.
Love Letters: Random Cards of Kindness, Inc. (Volunteer from Home)
Our goal is to create positive and inspirational homemade cards for children with life-threatening illnesses. We also want our “Love Letters Pen Pals” to inspires others in their community to commit to making a difference through our organization.
Marine Parents: Care Package Project (Volunteer from Home)
We need cards and letters from you, the American people who support our troops. Please consider working with your office, school, church or organization to make cards or write letters to include in care packages sent overseas. Marines are especially touched by homemade cards from children, or letters that let them know what’s going on back home: what books, movies, and music are coming out, or what your day-to-day life is like. Or write a letter to let them know what you’re doing here at home to support the troops!
Meals on Wheels (Various Locations)
Meals on Wheels is a nationwide network of community-based, non-profit programs dedicated to providing seniors in their communities with the support that enables them to remain living in their own homes, where they want to be. This support is typically a nutritious meal, a friendly visit and a quick safety check.
Points of Light Foundation and Volunteer Center National Network (Various Locations)
Visitors can click a state on a U.S. map) to find “volunteer centers” within each state that offer volunteering opportunities. A special section, “Family Matters,” highlights volunteering as a family, with suggestions on how to participate in “National Family Volunteer Day.”
Ronald McDonald House Charities (New Brunswick, NJ)
Since 1974, RMHC has created programs that strengthen families during difficult times. RMHC provides vital resources and compassionate care to children and their families being served by leading hospitals worldwide.
The Ladybug Foundation (Volunteer from Home)
Started by an 8-year old Canadian girl, this Foundation has raised well over $2 million, providing shelter, food and safety for homeless people. On this website you can find instructions on how kids can raise funds for makeChange™ via The Ladybug Foundation.
ThreeJars (Volunteer from Home)
ThreeJars makes money management fun and easy for 5 to 13 year old kids and parents. Kids learn to manage “money” through saving, spending, and charitable giving jars – with guidance from Mom and Dad.
Volunteer Match (Various Locations)
Volunteer Match allows users to search by zip code for volunteer opportunities throughout the United States. You can tailor your search by interest, such as crisis support, education, homelessness, hunger or international, or to find specific organizations such as Big Brother/Big Sister. The opportunities are marked with special icons if kids, teens, seniors or groups are especially welcome to volunteer. Users can subscribe to a monthly e-newsletter or read news stories about volunteering. There is a special section for “virtual volunteering” opportunities.
Youth Services America (Various Locations)
Youth Services America allows you to pinpoint exactly the volunteer opportunity you want. The database allows you to search by zip code, city, state, or country. You can also include your preferences for how long or often you want to help, your skills or special interests, and the population you want to serve, such as children, families, seniors, or physically challenged individuals. Opportunities are available for all ages.
Volunteer Activities to do as a Family:
- Collect packaged food
Many local churches and community centers either donate directly or have a line in to groups that coordinate relief efforts for local shelters and other agencies that are providing aid to the families and individuals in need. Your kids can pitch in by going shopping with you to pick out items for donation, such as canned food, crackers, diapers, and more, and then helping you deliver those goods for distribution.
- Donate used toys and books
Kids can also take a look around the house for items that are in good shape but that they no longer use, like toys and clothes that they’ve outgrown.
- Walk or bike ride for charity
Many national organizations hold family and kids walk-a-thons or bike-a-thons.
- Clean up parks
As children get older, they can participate in clean-up events at the park. Even younger kids can help out by picking up litter. Contact your local park to see what events families can participate in.
- Work at a community garden
Helping plant flowers, vegetables, and other growing things is a wonderful activity for children. They’ll gain a tremendous sense of accomplishment as they watch the results of their work grow, and they’ll be able to spend time outdoors among nature while doing something valuable for the community.
- Help neighbors
Kids can volunteer to help elderly neighbors by shoveling their sidewalk or by helping mom and dad bake some treats with mom or dad to take to them. Older kids can help babysit young neighborhood kids or help them learn to read. (Your child’s help may be especially appreciated by a working single mother or a family that’s busy taking care of a new baby or an elderly parent.)
- Donate to animal shelters
Animal shelters are always in need of food, toys, blankets, and other pet care items. Children love animals and become very motivated to care for them if they see how they are in need. Plan a trip to a local shelter so they can see first-hand how their donations will help.
- Collect donations for charities, particularly those that help children
The empathy and compassion that children feel for others who are ill, particularly other children, is heartwarming. As most people do, children feel powerless over the health of others; however, they can certainly feel some control through contributing to research and treatment.
- Visit the elderly
There are many elderly people within nursing homes who love to spend time with children. Playing a game or having a quick conversation can do wonders for lifting the spirits of someone who doesn’t have many visitors or who isn’t able to leave the nursing home often.