Volunteering with kids–whether it’s with my kids only or with their friends–is one of the best things that grows me as a person. I love learning alongside them and showing people that we care. I love seeing them navigate through trying situations and coming out the other side with a different perspective. And it gives me ample opportunity to practice my patience.
If you aren’t ready to take the volunteering plunge, it’s okay. Little kids, difficult family circumstances, unforeseen stress (even the seen stress), whatever it is, you don’t need to feel guilty if you are unable to volunteer right now. Take care of yourself and those in your immediate circle. That’s most important.
And there are many outside of the box ideas to start teaching your kids as well as yourself. Scroll to the bottom of this article for some ideas to start learning together with your kids.
If you are ready to introduce your kids to serving outside your home, we have determined the Top 5 Volunteering with Kids opportunities here in the metro.
Year Round Opportunities for Volunteering with Kids
1. Feeding our Local Community
Program: Every Meal | Roseville
Age Requirement: Ages 8+ with adult (In order to reserve volunteer spots for youth volunteers, you must create a team and reserve blank spots for them.)
Every Meal began by providing one bag of non-perishable food to 27 kindergarteners each weekend in 2010. Over the next two years, the program was gradually opened to all students at Sheridan School, reaching more than 300 students in 2012. The spring of 2013 brought their first expansion into another school, Delano Elementary, increasing their impact to some 350 children.
Volunteer Description: Volunteers are needed to pack meals at Packing Events (Public and Private), distribute Meal Packs into backpacks at school, hold a food drive, and other duties that are more suitable for adults (like administrative and warehouse duties). Another way to participate is by attending some of their community events to raise awareness and funding.
Program: Manna Market | Fridley, Wyoming, Anoka, Spring Lake Park, Blaine, St. Francis
Age requirements: Not exactly sure of the specific age requirement, but you can call them to determine if it’s a good fit for your family.
Manna Market collaborates with Second Harvest Heartland to pick up surplus foods from area grocery stores and distribute them through local churches. It has grown to seven locations, which distribute more than 100,000 pounds of food each month.
At Manna Market we feel it is of the highest importance to be good stewards of the abundance this society produces and wastes. We feel passionate about recovering these resources and distributing them to people who could use extra help during these hard economic times.
Volunteer Description: Volunteers are needed to sort food at the markets. Please call the location you are interested in serving and learn more.
2. Feeding the World
Program: Feed My Starving Children | Chanhassen, Coon Rapids, Eagan
Age requirement: Ages 5+ with adults (very limited jobs for the youngest volunteers due to height issues)
Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) believes hope starts with food. As a Christian nonprofit, FMSC is dedicated to seeing every child whole in body and spirit. FMSC works with food distribution partners that stay with communities for the long haul, empowering them to move from relief to development.
Volunteer Description: Food packers are needed six days a week throughout the year and are vital to this global outreach ministry. Kids are able to help scoop ingredients, measure and weight food packs, and seal. The atmosphere is encouraging and uplifting and FUN!
This is one of the favorite places to serve for Gianna’s Family. Read about their first experience here.
3. Volunteering from Home with Kids
Program: Habitat for Humanity
Age requirement: All ages!
Millard and Linda Fuller developed the concept of “partnership housing.” The concept centered on those in need of adequate shelter working side by side with volunteers to build decent, affordable houses. The houses would be built at no profit. New homeowners’ house payments would be combined with no-interest loans provided by supporters and money earned by fundraising to create “The Fund for Humanity,” which would then be used to build more homes.
Volunteer Description: Cookie bakers provide freshly baked treats for the construction volunteers at each site. Sign up on their email list, and they will let you know when a project is in need of encouragement. Then, at home, kids can help make a batch of cookies and deliver 2-4 dozen to their office.
4. Doing Good Together
We love Doing Good Together for finding volunteer opportunities in the Twin Cities. Sign up for their emails or just peruse their current list of kid-friendly volunteer opportunities. Look for family service projects that fight poverty and homelessness, care for animals, heal the earth, share an act of kindness and more.
5. Rescue Readers at the Animal Humane Society
Homeless pets at the animal shelter benefit from having kids read to them. The program also raises money for the AHS. Read About Our Experience Here.
Seasonal Opportunity for Volunteering with Kids
Christmas: Salvation Army bell ringers
Age requirement: All ages – kids especially!
In 1891, Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee was distraught because so many poor individuals in San Francisco were going hungry. During the holiday season, he resolved to provide a free Christmas dinner for the destitute and poverty-stricken. He only had one major hurdle to overcome — funding the project.
The next day Captain McFee placed a similar pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing at the foot of Market Street. Beside the pot, he placed a sign that read, “Keep the Pot Boiling.” He soon had the money to see that the needy people were properly fed at Christmas.
Volunteer Description: Bring a group of any size and get ready to entertain and encourage others to give to the Salvation Army. It is a true fact that the red kettles collect more when someone is there. Read a story, sing a Christmas carol, cheer for every penny. Have fun and make donating an experience!
Earth Day: Park Clean Ups
Age requirement: All ages – Fun with Kids!
Volunteer Description: Each year, parks need a little TLC after the long winter. Families can put on some gloves, grab a garbage bag and pick up trash around the park and neighborhood. Find an Earth Day Park Clean Up Near You.
Year Round Opportunities for Learning with Kids
While there are educational, cultural, and fun opportunities all around town to volunteer with your kids, here are some ways to give back as a family staying closer to home:
1. Learn about a different culture whether here or far away
- Read lots of books
- Watch documentaries
- Learn the stories of our neighbors
2. Sacrifice for Someone Else
- Give Food
- Food shelves
- Homeless shelters
- Neighbors in crisis
- Donate Clothes
- Salvation Army
- Any thrift store. One of our favorites is Hidden Treasures in St. Anthony Village.
- Contribute Toys
- Show Kindness to Someone who Doesn’t Look Like Me
- Defend others from bullies
- Praise effort
3. Share Your Home and Foster Flourishing
- Animal Shelters
4. Pray for Others
Faith is a huge part of our family. If something is on our hearts, we take time to pray together.
5. Start to Care About More Than Myself
If someone doesn’t care, things don’t change
- Think of others’ needs
- Slow down and notice
- Ask questions like, how can empower my child to be part of the solution to real-world problems? (from Doing Good Together)
7. Intentionally Buy Ethically-Made Products–Start with One
Consider what you are buy and where your money is going. Think Fair Trade and not just in coffee, but in garments and jewelry. Buy local or from a company who sells ethically produced products.
- Some Retailers that are making a difference
The time we spend learning about and serving others will never be wasted or lost.