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How to find family volunteer opportunities

Taking time to help others this holiday season can teach children how to contribute to their communities and give families valuable time together.

By GreatSchools Staff

You and your family can give your time and talents to those who need it this holiday season. It's a way to teach your kids that you value community service and that a group of people can accomplish more than one person alone.

Do a little family brainstorming to settle on the type of project everyone would enjoy. If you enjoy being outdoors, you might want to help restore a creek or clean up the beach. If it's snowing outside, cooking and serving dinner at a soup kitchen might be a better option. Once you settle on an area of interest, check these resources to get started:

American's Second Harvest/The Nation's Food Bank Network
Type your ZIP code in the "search" box and find the food bank nearest you.

The Network for Good
This organization's goal is to connect people to charities through the Internet. The site has a search tool to pinpoint volunteer organizations that welcome children or teens. It also includes a useful list of 10 Tips on Volunteering Wisely.
Action Without Borders is a New York-based nonprofit organization with offices in Philadelphia, PA; Charlottesville, VA; and Buenos Aires, Argentina. It has a searchable database with volunteer opportunities, as well as information about how to start a project.

Volunteer match
A great resource to help you find an organization that aligns with how you'd like to help, whether it's for the homeless, elderly, animals, the environment, and more.

Doing good together
Expressly family-focused, Doing Good Together' “inspires and helps family volunteer.” The site is filled with ideas on how parents and kids can volunteer and help others, from cleaning up a local park to reading stories together to kids in the hospital.

Comments from readers

"HI! Im trying to find a shealter in Los Angeles where i can help with kids and teen moms, if you can please email me information. Thank you! "
"i would like to work in a soup kitchen this xmas in charleston sc "
"hi i want to help at an animal shelter in san jose or any other volunteering oppurtunity, but im only 12 can you give me a job? like a volunteering one. thanks "
"I would like to volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen or tutor a younger child. I am 12 years old. Or work with animals. Thank you. "
"I think that it just as important for the children to learn how to play forward random acts of kindness to each other. If parents are having a tough time and stress is happening at home it just may be that children need to be kind to one another and play it forward. Its not always about giving of our finances or goods but it is just as important to just let someone know that it's okay we will get through this."
"Your information is very informative. I'm a director of a religious education program in Brooklyn, NY. The students always find it difficult to find something that they can volunteer locally. The family volunteer was also a great idea. If you have a listing of where students can volunteer in Brooklyn (11223 area) that would be great. The ages are 12-14 year old."
"Great, very helpful! I was able to find volunteer opportunities I could do with my five year old son. Thanks."
"I liked it. My six year old went to our local nursing home today with her First Grade class. They decorated two doors for Christmas, introduced themselves to the elderly and asked them questions. My daughter said tonight as I tucked her in in her bed that she felt really great about herself for doing something special for the folks in the home who live there. She felt they had so little. I told her she is one special little girl for taking the time to think of others and to do something for them. Sincerely, Veronica Myers-Fuqua Abbeville, Alabama "
"My ten year-old's classroom has decided to pool their money and buy Christmas gifts for a needy family in town. So that it is not just another 'get money from Mom' project, I had my son empty out our spare change money jar and count it out to see how much 'found' money we can donate to the cause. He's discovered that there can be a lot of money for needy people, just laying around the house. "
"Hi, Siobhan here from Greater DC Cares. Here are a few more tips for family volunteers. They should look for volunteer projects that offer a number of activities, so that little ones with short attention spans are kept engaged over the whole project period. Also, a range of activities that call for a wide range of skill levels so that all at the site (adults and children) have something engaging to do. Ideally there should be one adult working with each child. At minimum, one adult for every four children at the project site. In DC, if folks want to go through Greater DC Cares orientation, they can get a monthly calendar of volunteer activities, including ones marked as family friendly. In other cities, they can connect with our sister organizations via I hope that helps! Happy Volunteering!"