Celebrate the beauty of summer with your kids by getting involved in a volunteer service project. Not only will they do good for their community, they’ll feel confident and ready to take on the world right as the weather warms up. Finding the right fit for the family can be tough, but these area organizations hit it out of the park most every time.
New York Cares
214 W. 29th St.
New York, NY 10001
Hours: Mon to Fri – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Minimum Age to Volunteer: none (family projects available)
Since its inception in the late 1980s, NYCares has been committed to providing New Yorkers with opportunities to affect social change through volunteering. With a focus on providing just right opportunities for everyone, commitments vary from consistent visits to one-time projects. Your kids can join its Teen Service Team, which offers ongoing opportunities for the city’s youth to get involved. The whole family may participate in the city’s day of service April 21. Volunteers from all over the city will clean up local parks, plant in community gardens and refurbish public spaces.
New York City Department of Parks & Recreation
Manhattan: (212) 408-0243
Queens: (718) 520-5916
Brooklyn: (212) 360-3304
Staten Island: (718) 816-5558
Hours: by project
Ages to Volunteer: 13 to 17
If your teen enjoys getting his or her hands dirty, then this project may be a just right fit. Part of the 2009 initiative by Mayor Bloomburg to strengthen communities and protect the environment, this youth-centered project focuses on cleaning up local parks. No green thumb required. It will energize, educate and empower teens as they work together to revitalize local parks.
Citymeals on Wheels
355 Lexington Ave.
New York, NY 10017
Hours: daily – 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Minimum Age to Volunteer: none
Children younger than 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
With a focus on providing meals and services to the city’s elderly, this organization offers several opportunities targeted at engaging youth. Kids and teens may help deliver and serve meals at one of the three city senior centers. Teens are encouraged to help seniors write their memoirs or biographies, teach computer skills or lead a class in an area of special interest such as art, crafts, dance or exercise. Some projects have specific age requirements, so schedule your family’s visit beforehand.
The American Red Cross
520 W. 49th St.
New York, NY
Minimum Age to Volunteer: 13
Known for providing help to those in need, the New York Red Cross offers a long list of volunteer opportunities for kids ages 13 and older. Red Cross always needs help with mailings and fundraising events from project development to helping out at planned events. High school-age teens should check their local high school to see if it has a Red Cross Club. The Red Cross offers training and support for teens interested in starting a club at their school.
Food Bank for New York City
New York, NY 10006
Age to Volunteer: no minimum in general; some projects have age restrictions
Click here to coordinate a volunteer visit
The Food Bank for New York City is one of the country’s largest food banks, and it couldn’t run as efficiently as it does without a troop of trusty of volunteers. Volunteer choices include working in the Warehouse Repack Program, the community kitchen and helping out in the food pantry. Make this activity a family affair to get the whole family together without bickering over which movie to watch, and just enjoy serving your community.
Dr. Jennifer Powell-Lunder is a freelance writer in New York. She is a clinical psychologist specializing in work with children, adolescents, young adults, and their families. Her work can be found here