Volunteer to Raise Kind, Generous Kids
Lend a Hand, Kids in Tow
April is International Volunteer Month, and just in time … many nonprofits are struggling to keep up with demand due to inflation. So when you sign up this month, you can do twice the good; feel good by helping when it’s needed two-fold. Many locations have updated their COVID-19 policies, including relaxing mask mandates, or increasing the number of volunteers allowed, so call before you go so you’re in the know.
Many adults volunteer to give back to their community, support a cause they care about and help those in need. The Mayo Clinic cites volunteering as a way to improve physical and mental health. Volunteering with kids has the same benefits for them PLUS provides you an opportunity to bond doing meaningful work together, improves their soft skills — like empathy and kindness — and can contribute to their futures by making connections for an internship or post-school career. Some kids even add this experience to their resume or write a college essay about it. So it’s a win-win-win! Here are some local places you can volunteer with your kiddos, or, in some cases, where they can volunteer themselves.
16 locations around Center City
The Bethesda Project works to address homelessness in Philly by operating 16 locations, including emergency shelters and permanent housing, while providing supportive services. In-person volunteering has slowed since COVID, but they now allow up to 10 masked, vaccinated volunteers inside to participate in activities such as cleaning, landscaping or organizing donations. They also need volunteers outside to serve food to guests and residents. All vaccinated volunteers ages 12-18 must be with a parent or guardian. For unvaccinated folks and kiddos who want to lend a hand, there are virtual opportunities, such as making decorations or treats to drop off at one of their sites. They also have a high-needs wish list of clothes, so you can gather your kids for a family donation drive and look through your closets for like-new and new items for our friends experiencing homelessness. Bethesda Project is also in search of backpacks, which they fill with toiletries and distribute, and if you’re in a giving mood, you can donate a $25 gift card so their residents and guests can buy themselves something to make the holidays warmer and brighter.
Caring For Friends
12271 Townsend Rd, Philadelphia
Caring for Friends (CFF) is more than a food bank – since 1974 it has provided food AND friendship for homebound seniors, veterans, people facing homelessness and families in need. By making and collecting meals and snack bags, and delivering them to people’s homes and local social service agencies, CFF volunteers can build relationships with those they serve and provide a steady stream of food folks can depend on. The most popular activity at their warehouse in the Northeast for families (with kids as young as 8) is packing snack bags with goodies and kindness cards they create to distribute on the streets and in shelters. Kids 16 and older can volunteer by themselves, and those under 16 need a parent or guardian with them. While CFF is ramping up its holiday efforts now – and seeking hundreds of volunteers to help prepare, pack and deliver Thanksgiving meals – they seek volunteers year-round, and especially in summer, says Brittany Reagan, Director of Volunteering: “People often go on vacation and forget that hunger exists.”
Cradles to Crayons
4700 Wissahickon Avenue, Suite 142, Philadelphia
Philadelphia is the poorest big city in the country, with 300,000+ children living in poverty. Cradles to Crayons (C2C) helps our youngest citizens by providing clothes and other needed essentials. Children as young as five can volunteer with their guardian at The Giving Factory in East Falls, participating in kid-friendly activities like inspecting, sorting and packaging donations. C2C offers after-school and weekend shifts, as well as their Kids Care Core program for 8 to 11-year-olds to volunteer and learn basic family budgeting, and the Teen Leadership program for high schoolers to earn community service hours and develop interpersonal skills. (Past participants’ parents have called the program “a game changer” for their teens!) Looking for socially-distanced ways to help? Check out this list of safe and helpful at-home activities, including a scavenger hunt to find new or like-new clothes in your home to donate, including high need items like warm coats and boots which are in high demand for the next few months.
Friends of the Wissahickon
Various locations around NW Philly
Friends of the Wissahickon is a nonprofit relying on volunteers and members to help protect and enhance Philadelphia’s 1,800-acre Wissahickon Valley Park, which offers 50 miles of biking, hiking and equestrian trails. Its three-hour volunteer shifts feature seasonal activities like weeding, cleaning trash or planting trees – activities people of all abilities can accomplish and enjoy. Kids younger than 14 can volunteer with a parent or guardian, and those 14-18 need a parent or guardian’s permission. FOW takes groups of up to 15 on weekdays and 50 on Saturdays, and one Wednesday per month is reserved for school groups. If your family would like to tackle its own activity on your own time, participate in the Wissaheroes program by signing up online, choosing a location, picking up a clean-up kit and completing a field report. Another way to volunteer as a family is to be on the Spotted Lantern Fly Patrol, a scavenger hunt to find eggs and squash them – basically hiking with your family while doing something positive for the park.
Saved Me Philadelphia Rescue Center
2609 Federal Street, Philadelphia
If you want to spend time with dogs – and who doesn’t? – reach out to Saved Me to walk pups in need of fresh air and bathroom breaks. Saved Me, a rescue providing medical care, shelter, food and a safe and healthy environment for dogs and cats, has saved over 10,000 animals with the help of its volunteers. Kids ages eight and up can walk a pooch with a parent or guardian, or help with admin and housekeeping like laundry or office work. And if your dream is to be in a room with puppies, Saved Me’s rescue center has a puppy playpen volunteers can enjoy while they help the littlest canine residents with socialization! The rescue can also organize an enrichment activity to help kids understand what rescues do and why you might opt to adopt versus shop. If the rescue center isn’t convenient, walk a pup at one of Doggie Style Pets’ nine Philadelphia stores or its Bala Cynwyd location. Fosters are needed over the holidays for two-three nights so furry friends get to spend time with a family while staff get to spend time with theirs.
UnitedWay.org lists thousands of opportunities to support your neighbors and communities both in-person and virtually. Filter by skill, category and then under “activity type” you can choose “family.” A recent search turned up shifts with Pennsylvania Hospital, the Red Cross, and the Shipley School.
The holiday season is often the busiest for charities, so make a family new year’s resolution to give back in 2022 during the winter or over spring break when volunteers are desperately needed.
All organizations and locations have different COVID rules and regulations so don’t forget to ask about them to ensure they align with your family’s needs.