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Teach Them to Do Good: Where Kids Can Volunteer

Volunteering is a great experience for kids of all ages. Here are some places that welcome children with a philanthropic spirit.

When is the last time you did something for your community? Volunteer work is something many of us strive to fit into our busy lives, but lots of us don’t. The same goes for our kids: we want them to help others, but it’s often difficult to find ways for them to do it.


So we’ve made it easy. Here are five ways you — and your children — can get involved. Some of these activities are more appropriate for older kids, some are for all ages. All of them will make your whole family feel good by doing good.


Clean up the Environment


Parks are a huge part of most local communities, and Philadelphia’s green spaces are especially massive. Join a cleanup to show some love back to the City of Brotherly Love’s parks at a community cleanup. The best part? There’s no age limit. Kids can help, too, as long as they’re dressed for the work.


Check out the city parks department’s site to find out more. And take the extra step to see if there is a friends group at your local park — with over 70 to choose from, there’s bound to be one near you.


If you’re outside of Philly, look for your town or borough’s cleanup days, or sign up for your school’s cooperative day.


Help Refugees


Watching the ongoing refugee crises in countries like Syria can be wrenching for parents and kids alike. If you’d like to do something to help, there are plenty of ways to do just that and involve your children. A great place to start is the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of Pennsylvania. You can even hold your own drive to collect donations.


Some of the items they accept are linens, beds and mattresses, and pots and pans. set up events to collect donations by holding your own drives.


Another way to help is to host your own drive to collect clothing, feminine hygiene products, packaged food, and other items refugees need. Involve your children in this process through the sorting and tallying of the donations before you send them to the organization of your choosing. This is also a great time to teach your children about the global community!


Show your children the locations refugees come from on a map, and if you have the inclination, learn more about their culture and history. Not only is this a great way to teach geography, but it helps kids understand differences, too.


Give to the Poor


There are many organizations in our area that help the poor and welcome kids’ help. Cradles to Crayons allows children who are at least 5 to help in the Giving Factory. Manna serves the homeless and poor communities, and allows teenagers 14 and older to work in the kitchen.


If your children are too young to volunteer, you can always get them involved in the donation process. Gather packaged food and donate to a local food pantry near you, host a food drive, or sponsor a bag and keep your child informed every step of the way.


Philabundance has some great online resources for starting a food drive, including how to do a virtual collection. Plaid Pajamas accepts pajamas to keep local families warm and toasty – especially during the holiday season.


Encourage your kids to clean out their old toys, books, and clothes, then donate them — and ask their friends and family to do the same. Cradles to Crayons takes donations of gently used items as well as new items such as underwear, then creates KidPacks for needy boys and girls. Collect books, then hand them over to the Philadelphia Reads book bank, or gather school supplies and donate them to Project #StillHuman for Philly school children.   


Help the Sick


Sometimes the only thing you can do is lend a hand. There are amazing organizations that specifically cater to the ill and their families. Cuddle my Kids offers both in-home and out-of-home programs for those suffering from cancer.


Pets can help sick people feel more upbeat and happy. Pals for Life, an organization that pairs therapy animals to those in need, is another program that allows children to volunteer, starting at age 12.


Support LGBTQ+ Youth


In our area, there are several youth centers that need your time and support. While they do not always offer opportunities for younger children to volunteer, your involvement with these centers sets an example of tolerance and love that will affect your children from a young age. Keep them informed by letting them know the work you do and how vital it is. You can offer your time and support to the William Way LGBT Community Center, or the Attic Youth Center.


Still stuck? There are search engines that can help you get involved in your neighborhood now! You can try State Farm’s Neighborhood of Good to set up with something local, or try Serve Philly to get connected with the city’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Services.



Photograph by Casey Kallen.