No matter where you live, you’re likely surrounded by several volunteer opportunities. In almost every city across the United States, there are organizations – in every field from environmental to health care to animal rescue – that rely upon the time and energy of others to promote well-being throughout their communities. Kids can especially benefit from volunteering, learning how to use their strengths to help others and make a difference.
Take advantage of websites that can easily connect you with volunteer opportunities in your area. Volunteer.gov, for example, is a database run by the Federal Interagency Team on Volunteerism that lets you search by keyword, state, city or agency. Recent “featured opportunities” include assisting at Valley Forge National Historical Park in Pennsylvania, and serving as a visitor center volunteer at North Carolina’s Hanging Rock State Park. Another useful tool is VolunteerMatch.com where you can also search by location and keyword. The website provides information about getting students, employees and business customers to lend a helping hand.
Many volunteers find that their work is especially meaningful when they team up with an organization or cause close to their heart. Even young kids have specific interests and skills that they can use to help others. If they love animals, check out ASPCA.org, which has lots of information about helping local shelters in your community. Many shelters need volunteers to help walk dogs or participate in fundraising events. Older teens who enjoy working with little ones may find that tutoring is a personally rewarding experience that can also jumpstart a great career in education.
Kelly Palmatier, founder of the international nonprofit organization Compassionate Kids, stresses the importance of working side-by-side with your child. “Children who see their parents volunteering are much more likely to believe in the value of working to help others.” She also notes that volunteering as a family is a bonding experience, and it will let you help your child take on more complicated responsibilities that you can work on together. When choosing the right opportunity, Palmatier recommends taking the following elements into consideration: Location, frequency and duration of the work, staff attitude and your child’s interests. Find more tips at www.compassionatekids.com.
Volunteering helps kids learn responsibility and kindness, and often allows them to explore future career or hobby interests as well. Working side-by-side also instills a sense of teamwork and sets a great example for children of all ages.
Lend a helping hand at a food pantry during school vacation weeks, or spend every other Saturday at your favorite animal shelter; however you choose to take action, it won’t go unappreciated.