So, you’re interested in volunteering as a family this season. That’s wonderful—and we commend you for your service! It’s always rewarding to donate your time to a charity that’s important to you.
But volunteering as a group can bring up a different set of challenges that you might not have faced volunteering by yourself. Before you sign up, take a look at these ideas to decide the right opportunity for your family.
Food pantries and soup kitchens
Food insecurity is still an unfortunate reality for many Americans, and food pantries and soup kitchens try to alleviate that burden by providing people with a hot meal or by giving out unperishable food items.
This is a great opportunity to teach children, especially, the value of the food on their own plates and the importance of giving back. More than 51% of hunger relief programs rely on volunteers. To find a food bank closest to you, you can visit the Feeding America website, which also offers important information about the plight of hunger in the US.
Assisted living centers and nursing homes
More than 5% of the population that is 65 years and older currently lives in an assisted living or nursing home facility, according to the US Census Bureau, and many of these places are grateful for volunteers who are eager to spend time with residents—playing games with them, reading to them, and otherwise, keeping their spirits high.
These are particularly valuable experiences for children who will probably have many questions for the seniors who are enthusiastic for an ear to listen. If volunteering with small children, try drawing up a list of questions or talking points beforehand, and try to prepare them for some of what they might encounter, like residents who are hearing impaired, for example.
National parks, nature preserves, and farms
If your family is keen on getting outdoors, parks, preserves, and farms are always looking for people to lend a hand. This also makes for a great educational opportunity, and the chance to learn more about the environment.
Volunteer.gov is a great place to start in your search, but many of the national parks also offer programs geared toward kids with an interest in environmental preservation, history, animal studies, and more. In some cases, if you collect enough volunteer hours you can even earn a volunteer pass to enter the parks for free.
Children’s hospitals and rehabilitation centers
Among the many reasons life can be challenging for a child spending time at a hospital or rehab center, being away from friends and people their age to play with is certainly on the list. In addition to donations of toys, these places often welcome volunteers to pay a visit to children who are in desperate need of some positivity.
Check out your local hospital’s website or give them a call to ask if they have volunteer hours available, and encourage kids to bring a toy, their favorite book, or even a drawing to hang up in the child’s room (if the facility allows).
No matter where you choose to volunteer, donating your time to a worthy cause can be a great bonding experience for your family, and teach invaluable lessons in giving back that children will carry with them in the years to come.