If your teen is feeling bored or unhappy, volunteering can give them an entirely new perspective. – Sandra
20 Volunteer Opportunities for Families
1. HOMELESS SHELTERS
If you live in a city of any size, then there is at least one homeless shelter that helps homeless people with meals, beds and other services. Most homeless shelters welcome volunteers and have a variety of programs through which you can get involved. You might help prepare or distribute meals, work behind the scenes in the business office, help organize a food drive to stock the pantry, etc. You can learn more about the ways you can help by Googling “homeless shelters” and the name of your city.
2. FOOD BANKS
Food banks often work with homeless shelters, but they also serve poor people living in the community (especially around the holidays). Food banks collect food, manage their inventory and distribute food to those in need. You can learn more about the ways you can help by Googling “food banks” and the name of your city.
3. GUIDEPOST SWEATER PROJECT
If you would like something to do in your spare time at home, one innovative way to volunteer is to get involved in The Guideposts Sweater Project, sponsored by Guideposts magazine. People around the country knit sweaters that are then sent to needy children around the world. This article gives you a description of the project and a pattern for the sweaters. Don’t know how to knit? Not a problem, because the article also links to sites that teach you how!
4. RONALD MCDONALD HOUSE
There are Ronald McDonald Houses around the country – almost every major city has one. The idea behind all Ronald McDonald Houses is very important. When a child is seriously ill, the child is frequently treated for long periods of time at a hospital or university medical center. Many families have to travel long distances to get to the hospital, and “where to stay” becomes a problem. Staying at a hotel becomes extremely expensive, and a hotel can be a lonely and sterile place. Ronald McDonald Houses provide a low-cost “home-away-from-home” for parents and children to stay during treatment. Volunteers help prepare meals, talk to families, take care of the house and so on. You can learn more about the ways you can help by Googling “Ronald McDonald House” and the name of your city.
5. SPECIAL OLYMPICS
As described on the web site for Special Olympics International, “Special Olympics is an international program of year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with mental retardation.” The site also describes a wide variety of volunteer activities, including sports training, fund raising, administrative help, competition planning and staffing, etc. You can learn more about the ways you can help by Googling “Special Olympics” and the name of your city.
6. HABITAT FOR HUMANITY
Habitat for Humanities builds and gives houses to poor people in local communities. Volunteers not only help others, but can learn a great deal about building houses by getting involved. See the Habitat for Humanities web site for more information. You can learn more about the ways you can help by Googling “Habitat for Humanities” and the name of your city.
7. STATE PARKS
Many state parks offer volunteer programs, and in these programs you can try anything from educational programs to trail construction and maintenance. You can learn more about the ways you can help by Googling “State Parks” and the name of your city.
8. CITY PROGRAMS
Most large cities offer a wide range of volunteer opportunities. You can learn more about the ways you can help by Googling “City Programs” and the name of your city. Do not be discouraged if your first few calls seem to hit a brick wall. Many city governments are large and fairly disorganized.
9. HELPING OTHERS LEARN TO READ
When you think about it, reading is one of the most important skills an adult can have. Many adults, however, have never learned how to read. Literacy volunteers act as tutors who help illiterate children and adults learn this important skill. There is probably a literacy program in your area. You can learn more about the ways you can help by Googling “Reading Is Fundamental (RIF)” and the name of your city.
Many hospitals have volunteer programs to help patients both inside and outside the hospital. The volunteers programs allow participants to explore medical careers and gain work experience. You can learn more about the ways you can help by Googling “hospital volunteer” and the name of your city.
Many libraries need help re-shelving books, running children’s programs, making books available to the community, and so on. You can learn more about the ways you can help by Googling “library” and the name of your city.
12. SENIOR CITIZEN CENTERS
Many senior citizen centers offer volunteer programs to provide friendship and community activities to senior citizens. You can learn more about the ways you can help by Googling “Senior Citizens Center” and the name of your city.
13. ANIMAL SHELTERS
Many animal shelters are non-profit or government organizations, and therefore they welcome volunteers to help take care of animals, keep facilities clean and work with the public. You can learn more about the ways you can help by Googling “Animal Shelters” and the name of your city.
14. UNITED WAY
The United Way is a nationwide umbrella organization for thousands of charitable organizations. The United Way raises billions of dollars and distributes it to these charities. There are local United way affiliates across the country and they need volunteers. You can learn more about the ways you can help by Googling “United Way” and the name of your city.
15. RED CROSS
The American Red Cross helps people in emergencies – whether it’s half a million disaster victims or one sick child who needs blood. Volunteer opportunities exist across the country. You can learn more about the ways you can help by Googling “Red Cross” and the name of your city.
16. SALVATION ARMY
The Salvation Army provides social services, rehabilitation centers, disaster services, worship opportunities, character building activities for all ages and character building groups and activities for all ages. Volunteer opportunities exist across the country. You can learn more about the ways you can help by Googling “Salvation Army” and the name of your city.
17. ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS
The Sierra Club (and numerous other environmental groups) encourages volunteer support to help with environmental activities. You can help in many ways: by helping lobby on conservation issues, by leading hikes and other activities, or by lending a hand at the Chapter Office. Contact the local office of an environmental organization near you. See also the Earth Day site.
18. POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS
If it’s an election year, there are thousands of opportunities to volunteer in political campaigns around the country. You can learn more than you imagine by helping a candidate win election. This article talks about some of the options. Pick a candidate whose ideas you believe in (either on the local, state or national level) and volunteer to be a part of his or her campaign.
19. 800 NUMBER VOLUNTEER
Many 800 help-lines rely on volunteers to staff the phones and handle other tasks. If there is an 800 phone bank in your area, you may be able to volunteer to help out.
20. WEB SITE CREATION
Many small charities and organizations do not yet have web sites. You can help by learning how to create a web site and volunteering your services. You could also raise money to pay for the web site, or seek help from a local company in the form of a donation. When creating a web site for a charity, you will want to take care to listen very carefully to the people who work for the charity to understand exactly what they want their web site to look and feel like. This will be extremely important to them, and you should be willing to change and improve the site to match their mental image. See this page for information on creating web sites.
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