Tuesday, August 7, 2012

My 5 Favorite Places to Volunteer with Kids



Here in the Portland, Oregon region, our kids have one month left of summer vacation. 4 weeks leaves plenty of time to volunteer with the following organizations serving those in need.

For those living outside of the Portland Metro vicinity, read my suggestions for finding a place to help in your own town.

By sharing these resources, I’m hoping that together we can help each other raise kids with serving hearts.

1. Northwest Children’s Outreach

On select weeknights, families can help at one of NCO’s 7 locations preparing care packages full of clothing, toys, and other necessities for children living in poverty. My kids love “shopping” from the bins of donations, picking the exact items they know their selected child will love.

Outside Portland:  Many communities have “clothes closets” for low income families. Find out how you can help with sorting incoming donations.

2. Children’s Book Bank

What kid doesn’t love being surrounded by books? At the CBB, kids with their parents gently page through each donation ensuring each title looks as new as possible. My daughters take care in erasing marks, repairing tears, and giving covers a clean wipe down before another child takes ownership of a book to call his own. 

Outside Portland: Contact the Title 1 schools in your district to see if there is a similar organization in your community. If there’s not, consider holding a book drive for a school with students living in poverty. Every child should have the opportunity to own books.

3. Food Banks

Believe it or not, I have yet to volunteer at the Oregon Food Bank, one of the most popular places to volunteer with kids. However, my family has helped many a time at local church food banks, such as SCAT/St. Matthew Lutheran or the Hope Food Pantry. Food banks can use help with anything from stocking food, to food drives, to helping “customers” select food. Ask your local pantry how you and your children can best serve.

Outside Portland: In the USA, this should be easy. Find a local pantry and do what you can to fill their needs.

4. Store to Door

This amazing non-profit uses volunteers to grocery shop for homebound seniors. Do you have kids that love to shop? This activity is for them. You will be handed a grocery list and sent on your way through local supermarket, Fred Meyer, to hunt for items on the list. It’s amazing how fun grocery shopping can be for a child if the task is turned into a scavenger hunt. 

Outside Portland: Contact a local senior center to see how you can help the homebound elderly. “Adopt” one or two as grandparents and take care of their shopping needs.

5. Catalyst-Partnerships 

Do you have a budding “Bob the Builder” in your household? Catalyst-Partnerships takes on different renovation projects around town. We’ve participated in converting a beat-up rental home into a domestic violence shelter and landscaping a yard for an elderly couple. Our friends and their kids helped build a fence for a Habitat for Humanity house. Catalyst can find a job for kids of all ages. Check out their website for current projects.

Outside Portland: Contact national organization, Love INC, to find out if there is a building project you can assist with near you. They should be able to put you on the right track.

Hands On Portland is a great resource for finding even more places to volunteer. Take a look at the Project Calendar to see what works best for your schedule.

Outside Portland: Does your town have a volunteer resource website? This site has been instrumental in helping me find places to help in my quest to serve once a week. Spend some time surfing the net to scope out the resources in your community. 

Volunteering is hard work!
Hopefully, your kids will have so much fun volunteering this summer that they’ll want to continue into the school year. My plan is to make one night a week “Serve Night” and to treat the evening like any other extra-curricular activity. If I make volunteering a priority, I pray my girls will grow into adults believing that serving those in need is second nature. 

Do you have a favorite place to volunteer with your kids? Comment below so others can share in the fun!

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