Have you ever thought about taking on a service project as a family? With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, it’s a great time to engage the kids in learning about the needs of others. There are plenty of Austin families in need of help on a day-to-day basis — families struggling to find food or shelter, elderly Austinites in need of meal deliveries, animals in need of comfort in local shelters, parks and trails in need of maintenance and beautification.
Getting the children involved in service projects at a young age helps them understand the needs of our community, builds empathy for others and gives them the realization that they have the power to make a difference. Volunteering with your kids also provides you with an amazingly satisfying way to spend some quality time together.
Anytime Opportunities to Volunteer with Kids in Austin:
— Little Helping Hands
Little Helping Hands was create to make volunteering easier for families in Austin and to inspire lifelong volunteerism in children. When you visit the Little Helping Hands website, you’ll find an online activity calendar that offers different ways families can give back to the community. You may find opportunities listed such as preparing meals for Ronald McDonald house, packing toiletry kits for SafePlace, crafting decorations to hang in the emergency room at Dell Children’s Hospital, helping load trucks for Mobile Loaves & Fishes to deliver meals to homeless families.
One thing to note about Little Helping Hands, is that is its extremely popular (with great reason!), so activities fill up very quickly with eager volunteers. It’s best to sign up for their email list so you can be notified first about open volunteer spots. Although, if you see something you’d love to do that is already full, you can sign up to be on a wait list if someone should have to cancel. Overall, Little Helping Hands is a great way to start and get a wide variety of experiences geared towards kids.
— Capital Area Food Bank
Nearly 46,000 Central Texans, one-third of them children, are counting on The Capital Area Food Bank each week to get nutritious food they need that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. The Food Bank knows that youth volunteers are great helpers but also learn valuable skills. They offer volunteer opportunities for kids as young as 8. Youth volunteers (ages 8-17) must be accompanied by an adult age 21 or older. Youth groups must bring one adult chaperone for every five youth under 18. Morning and afternoon shifts are available to youth volunteers Monday through Saturday in the warehouse, and you can sign up on their online registration system. They also offer a youth and family night on the first Tuesday of the month.
— Mobile Loaves & Fishes
Mobile Loaves & Fishes has two different tracts for volunteering. There are many opportunities available at the Community First! Village — a 27-acre master-planned community that will provide affordable, sustainable housing, and a supportive community for the disabled, chronically homeless in Central Texas. At Community First! Village, you can sign up for tasks such as garden maintenance, rabbit and chicken coop care, meal distribution, grounds beautification and more. You can also choose to help prepare & deliver meals to homeless, and tasks vary from washing delivery trucks to prepping meals, delivering food and more. All volunteers under age 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
–> Keep Austin Thankful is an easy way to get the kids involved in helping Mobile Loaves and Fishes! During the month of November, snap a photo of something you’re thankful for in Austin, and for every photo, Hat Creek Burger Co. will donate $5 towards Community First Village, a housing community for the homeless. Click here to learn all about the Keep Austin Thankful program.
— Meals on Wheels and More
If your kids don’t mind riding in the car with you on errands, they can surely be helpers with you to deliver meals to seniors and homebound adults who can no longer prepare healthy meals for themselves. Volunteers drive one lunch hour per weekday (M-F between 11am-1pm). To volunteer, you must complete an application and attend an orientation. They are also need substitute volunteers to fill in when regular delivery volunteers cannot make it. For more information on becoming a substitute volunteer, please contact Denise Jimenez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-476-6325, Ext. 143.
— Helping Animals
Kids can get involved with Austin Pets Alive! by participating in a special project such as making toys for the kittens from the neonatal nursery, making rice heating pads for sick puppies and kittens, and drawing creative pictures to help thank people who keep the animals fed and healthy. Austin Pets Alive! also has a wide variety of volunteer projects for ages 12 and up. Click here to view the full list of options and volunteer requirements. You can also take a look at the programs at Austin Animal Center (for ages 13 and up) as well as Austin Humane Society (ages 14 and up). As a family, you can also consider becoming a foster family for a pet and can inquire with any of these organizations about getting started with foster care.
— Austin Parks Foundation
Austin Parks Foundation is a non-profit organization devoted to building partnerships to develop and maintain parks, trails, and open space in Austin and Travis County. This organization has two very big signature events each year: It’s My Park Day in March, and National Trails Day in June. Their website lists many, many opportunities to sign up for, and note that if you wish to bring children along, you are encouraged to carefully choose projects that will be suitable to your child’s abilities.
— Keep Austin Beautiful
This nonprofit organization’s goal is to educate and engage citizens in building more beautiful communities. Their largest volunteer effort, Clean Sweep, is a city-wide service day each April followed by a party and environmental fair. They also organized big, bi-monthly cleanups on the 2nd Saturday of every other month, except October. Families could Adopt-a-Creek or Adopt-a-Street in Austin.
— Big Hearted Families: A Project of Doing Good Together
Big-Hearted Families offers simple, fun and engaging activities. There are ideas to suit every family’s style, and their goal is to help your family weave kindness and gratitude into your everyday routine. Sounds awesome. When you visit the Big Hearted Families website, you’ll note that their online tools are in the process of integrating with a national organization called Doing Good Together. But don’t get confused. You can still find lots of great volunteer opportunities here. You can select from dozens of activities from categories such as Provide Comfort, Heal the Earth, Care for Animals and Fight Poverty. Besides volunteer ideas, this website also includes so much great advice on teaching kindness as well as mindful parenting. They also include a huge section of suggested resources for you to check out, such as books, websites, games, videos, etc.
There are many, many organizations seeking help from volunteers. Above we are just highlighting a few that gladly accept help from children. If you know of an organization seeking assistance that you’d like to share, please list it in the comments below.
–> Interested in Thanksgiving volunteering projects, specifically? Here’s a list of Thanksgiving Volunteer Opportunities.