During the holiday season, many of us are in a giving spirit and giving doesn't just mean gifts! This season, there are lots of ways you and your scholars could give to those in need, even if it's just a kind word. We've pulled together volunteering opportunities that are a great fit for teenagers and younger children that can take as little or as much time as they have to offer.
For All Ages
Visit the Elderly
Encourage your scholars to visit a local nursing home to spend some time with the clientele there. They can go solo or even organize a group from school. If striking up a conversation is hard for them, have them work with the home staff to prepare an activity such as caroling or holiday crafts. Everyone loves a visit around the holidays!
If you and your scholar live in a community with lots of snow, grab that shovel and help out your neighbors! This is one of those activities they can do in just a few minutes. Shoveling can be backbreaking work, so if you know an elderly neighbor or even a busy mom who could use a hand, suggest that your scholar help out. It'll definitely be appreciated!
Help at an Animal Shelter
The winter holidays can be a hard time for our furry friends as well. The nights are longer and the temperatures drop, and shelters are often busy. There are many ways to volunteer with a shelter, whether a local shelter or your local division of the ASPCA. Scholars can walk dogs, spend time with cats, advocate through social media or sign up donors. If you and your kids love animals, this opportunity may be purr-fect for you (we couldn't help ourselves)!
Wrap Gifts for a Cause
Many organizations create gift-wrapping events where shoppers can have their gifts wrapped for donations made to a specific cause. The events are often local, so if your scholar wants to share their gift-wrapping skills for a good cause, check out local opportunities through a site like Volunteer Match.
Participate in a Drive
Participating in a local drive is an easy way to volunteer this season. Often, you can just drop off an old coat or blanket, a new or gently used toy, or a food item to get the feel-goods of volunteering. If you and your scholar are more ambitious, you could volunteer to collect donations or even help organize the drive itself! Some great drives to check out include Toys for Tots, Operation Shoebox, and Feeding America.
Help at a Soup Kitchen
Whether your child helps with meals at home or not, volunteering at a soup kitchen will give them an understanding of what resources are needed to feed a large number of people. They could serve others, cook, take inventory, and much more. With hunger such a big issue in the US currently, this is a great way for them to spend their time giving to those in need.
A great low or no cost way to spread cheer, caroling will brighten the neighborhood, home, or park wherever you show up. While caroling can be associated with Christmas, your song list does not need to. Choose inclusive songs that expose the music of other cultures or religions. Choosing an eclectic mix of songs that represent your community will allow the experience to spread tolerance and cheer!
For Teen Volunteers
Spread the Word about a Worthy Cause
Just getting the word out can be a big help. Many charities depend on the generosity around the holidays to fund much of their fiscal year. Teens can help by sharing posts for the causes they want to support on their social media, and many charities already have posts on their platforms that can be shared directly with friends and family! For example, check out the social media hub at the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (if your teen wants to do more than spread the word about suicide, check with your local group to see how they can help.). They can also give time to those who have a physical presence in your community like the Salvation Army.
Of course, teens can also do this for pay. But, if they're set with cash, suggest they lend a hand to a parent or guardian by entertaining their kids for a few hours, perhaps letting them get holiday shopping or wrapping done! We could all use a little time to ourselves, especially during the busy days leading up to the end of the year!
The end of the year also signals the end of the semester. That means tests, exams, and closing out classes. Whether your teen volunteers through an organization or simply tutor those they know from their school or community, they can make a big difference to a student who is struggling with end of year academics.
If your teen has their driver's license and access to a car, have them consider joining a meal delivery program such as Meals on Wheels. Most deliveries can be completed in an hour and a half and they can choose how often they want to deliver. This type of program typically delivers to elderly clientele, so as they deliver, they can also stay and visit while their client eats to learn about the incredible lives they have led so far!
These options and more give you and your scholars the chance to spread cheer this holiday season! Whether you choose an option from our list, or come up with your own community service project for your family or class, let us know in the comments! We'd love to share in your goodwill.