Every parent wants to teach their child values like compassion, concern for others, and what it means to give back to the community. But, how do you DO that? One way is to get them involved in local charities, and do it together, as a family. When your kids see you doing anything, they interpret that as meaningful and worthwhile. If you can do it together, you can spend quality time with your kiddo and create some lasting memories. Here are some great ideas on where to do this in the South Sound.
Food Banks: The Go To Location
While the food bank might sound like an obvious answer as to where to volunteer, it is a great one. Northwest Harvest welcomes children as young as 3rd grade to volunteer in their Kent Warehouse. Volunteers sort food and repackage bulk food into family sized portions for distribution at the food bank and food programs. So often I find myself griping at my kids that there are children who don’t have food. This seems like a much more tangible way to introduce my kids to the idea that there are entire families right here in South King County who don’t have the means to put food on the table.
Another organization that welcomes youth involvement is Mother Earth Farm in Puyallup, an 8-acre organic farm that produces and distributes close to 100,000 pounds of fresh fruit, vegetables and honey to local food banks. Throughout 2016, Mother Earth Farm hosts Youth Days, where youth ages 8-15 are invited to participate in an outdoor classroom experience where they learn about farm activities and gain an opportunity to volunteer on the farm.
FISH Food Banks of Pierce County is happy to receive food and non-food items for donation. Some things they list as needs include mac n cheese, canned fruits and veggies, powered milk, toothbrushes, toilet paper, and more. Create a list of items with your child and go to the store together to purchase the items, and then take them to the food bank. Check out their list of most wanted items on their Volunteer Brochure. FISH has more than 15 locations around Pierce County, there may be one closer than you think!
Volunteering in the Great Outdoors
Does your family spend a lot of time in local parks and trails? Volunteering in the great outdoors could be the perfect opportunity for your family. This is especially useful with the youngest kiddos, because most ages are welcome, and jobs are easily handled by little ones.
Metro Parks of Tacoma has ongoing volunteer opportunities throughout the year, where families are welcome to help plant trees, remove invasive species and do a general cleanup of trails and parks.
Earth Corps is a Puget Sound based organization that seeks to improve the local environment and encourage service. They host a variety of volunteer opportunities, which you can find on their calendar. Plan ahead by choosing a time when your family is less busy, or really needing to combat that cabin fever. Earth Corps provides volunteers ample information about what to expect when you show up to serve.
If animals are more your child’s area of expertise, consider volunteering at the zoo! Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium has a full youth volunteer program, including the Junior Guides at the zoo, for children ages 11-13. Not only will kids be able to share their love for animals and nature, they will also find out what its like to work at zoo or aquarium.
Host a Drive
If your child isn’t quite old enough to volunteer on location or if you can’t find the time to show up, you can also host a drive in your community! Tacoma Rescue Mission encourages drives to collect food, hygiene items, toys, and school supplies. WestSide Baby is always in need of diapers. The Emergency Food Network out of Lakewood makes hosting a food drive easy with collection bins that you can use on site.
DIY or At Home Opportunities
If you prefer to volunteer from home, how about some of these ideas:
Garage Sale/Bake Sale/Lemonade Stand
For some reason, my children love the idea of having a garage sale. Invite your children to help set up the garage sale, and encourage them to donate items of their own to the sale. Make posters informing your customers that all proceeds will go to local charity. Kids can even hold a bake sale or lemonade stand at the garage sale.
Arts and Crafts
Help your child create a piece of art or a craft that they can sell. Donate the proceeds to a local charity. Take it a step further by taking your child to the organization to drop off the funds in person. Their hearts will be warmed to see that their work is really going to help others. Some organizations may even offer a tour of the facility.
Operation Christmas Child
The Operation Christmas Child organization collects shoe boxes of items to donate to children in need around the world. National collection week is November 16-23, but you can work throughout the year to collect items for the shoe boxes. Choose to create a box for a child the same age as yours and fill it with toys, hygiene items, and school supplies.
Be a Phone Buddy
Do you have a chatterbox in your home? An elderly person would love a chat with your child to brighten their week and ward off loneliness. Catholic Community Services welcomes volunteers to sign up to be a Phone Buddy to someone in King County.
Make Soup Kits
United Way of Pierce County’s Crock Pot Project helps to feed folks who would otherwise not be able to have a hot meal at home. Simply follow the recipe on their website to create soup kits for the Crock Pot Project and then deliver them to the United Way for distribution. Be sure to register as a participant before making the soup kits.
Write Letters to Your Compassion Child or World Vision Child
Does your family support a child overseas through an organization like World Vision or Compassion International? I have heard many stories about how these children treasure letters they receive from their sponsor families. Have your children write a letter to your sponsored child, telling them about life in America and sharing drawings or pictures of your family.
Volunteer at your Church
If you are part of a local church, chances are there are many opportunities for service. At my church, there are ongoing needs and events that occur only once a year, such as wrapping gifts at Christmas or packing backpacks at the beginning of the school year. This is an easy way for your children to put their faith into action in an environment they are already comfortable in.
For even more ideas, be sure to check out local reader Tabitha’s blog post 10 Ways to Volunteer with Kids.
Have you volunteered with your children? What experiences can you share?