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Children’s volunteering benefits everyone! Through volunteering youth learn to …
- respect others
- be helpful and kind
- understand people who are different from themselves
- develop leadership skills
- become more patient
- gain a better understanding of good citizenship
Volunteering at an early age can create positive life behaviors. Children who volunteer are three times more likely to volunteer as adults. Steady volunteering, even at a minimum of one hour a week, reduces negative behaviors. For example, youth who volunteer are 50% less like likely to abuse drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or engage in destructive behavior. It’s never too early to start to volunteer! Children have many opportunities to help their communities.
The projects below are all age appropriate under the supervision of an adult.
Pre-K to Second Grades
Make cards for nursing home residents
Contact a local hospital or nursing home to see if they would welcome having children make cards for residents. These cards can be holiday specific or just a lovely way to say hello and let that person know that s/he is being thought of.
Adopt an elderly neighbor or nursing home
They can bring cards, or small treats like handmade ornaments or cookies. It would also be a treat to have the children visit and sing or do other performances for nursing home residents.
Have a book drive
Ask children to bring books from home that they are no longer reading, or would like to give to a child in need. These books can be brought to local hospitals or shelters.
Help bake and decorate cookies
Cookies can be sold as a fundraiser or donated to an organization of the children’s choosing. This is a great opportunity to teach children about those in need in their community.
Color lunch bags
Bags can be used to package snacks, treats, or lunches that can be collected for needy children. Inquire at high schools or community service centers to see if they have a program in place that would be able to benefit from the donated bags.
Third – Fifth Grades
Make fleece blankets for children in the hospital
Blankets are easy to make and involve no sewing. The blankets can be donated to a children’s wing of a hospital or a daycare center. (http://hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Make-a-Blanket)
Collect and sort school supplies to benefit a local shelter or library
Keep a box in your classroom for the designated items; then create school kits that can be donated to needy students. Get the word out to parents, faculty, administrators and the community at large about the collection.
Rake leaves or shovel snow for elderly or disabled neighbors
Removing leaves or snow can be done as an after school program or weekend event. In warmer climates, students could plant flowers to beautify neighbors’ yards and the community. See if a local home store or nursery will donate the plants.
Create a game day at a local home for adults with disabilities
Call local group homes to see if they would appreciate a day of games and snacks for their residents. Have children bring in their favorite games to share.
Sixth to Eighth Grades
Walk or Groom animals at a local shelter
Contact your local animal shelter and ask them if they have volunteer opportunities. If they don’t have room for volunteers, children can collect food for the animals or raise money for the shelter.
Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter
Most soup kitchens are adept at having roles for all ages of volunteers. Volunteers can be used to serve food, make placemats for the tables, and read stories to younger children.
Participate in charity walks or runs
Involve your class in participating in a previously scheduled run or walk or create an event in which the school can participate.
Create a community health fair
Help students learn more about healthy eating, exercise and other factors that contribute to good health. Have students serve as teachers and facilitators of community discussions of health living practices.
Sponsor an Art Show
Have students create art projects with Dr. Martin Luther King’s teachings as a theme. Have a student panel to award prizes for various age groups or project types. A bake sale could also be included in this project to benefit a local charity. Close the event with students reading one of Dr. King’s speeches.
Do Something (www.dosomething.org) Provides the tools and resources for you to convert your ideas and energy into positive action.
Children for Children (www.childrenforchildren.org) Mobilizes the energy, ingenuity and compassion of young people, beginning at an early age, to discover their power and potential to solve real world problems through volunteer opportunities and service learning programs that instill a lifelong commitment to service.
Youth Service America (www.ysa.org) Manages, among other programs, Global Youth Service Day and the Semester of Service. Click the links below to view the toolkit and guide respectively for these initiatives.