Giving back: Opportunities for kids to volunteer in New York City

The winter holiday season is the perfect time to involve the whole family in giving back to your local community. Make it known to your children that it’s not only adults that can lend a hand, but rather, kids who can be just as involved in making a difference in someone’s life. This is an empowering message to instill early in life, having children take ownership of their community and make a difference whether it is direct or indirect.

Many local organizations are looking for assistance year-round, such as nursing homes, nonprofit organizations, or animal shelters. Your location, child’s age, and interests will be a factor in the decision-making for a family volunteer project during the winter holidays. If you are seeking ideas for what your family or group of friends can do, here are a few examples:

Feed a family

Many members of our local communities struggle to put food on their tables regularly. Collect non-perishable foods to donate to a local organization. Your donations can help to keep shelves stocked at area soup kitchens, food pantries, and other community food programs.

By running a food drive with your family or group of friends, you’ll help provide many New Yorkers with good food that they normally would not have.

Give gifts

The winter months can be difficult for families and individuals living in New York City. Maybe the cold weather caused high heating bills or an illness such as a cold or flu resulted in missed work. Any number of things can affect income and cause holiday gifts to be cut from the budget.

By shopping for and delivering gifts to those in need, you and your family can bring more cheer to children and families who may not otherwise receive holiday gifts.

Start a coat drive

We all know what it’s like to be cold for short periods of time, but imagine no chance of getting warm due to a lack of appropriate winter gear. Help ensure that every New Yorker stays warm, healthy, and safe over this winter by hosting a coat drive. Your family, group of friends, colleagues, or even your child’s school, can run a coat drive.

There are always so many opportunities to volunteer around the city. A number of community resources help make it easy to find a program or organization to support. Given your family make up, your volunteer project can range by location or interest, but big or small, you are making a difference.

More ideas

Don’t know where to begin? Here are a few organizations that can give you a start:

City Harvest: City Harvest is the world’s first food rescue organization, dedicated to feeding hungry New Yorkers. The organization has served New Yorkers for more than 30 years. Visit www.cityharvest.org to find out more on how to donate or volunteer.

Doing Good Together: This Minnesota-based organization aims to help parents raise compassionate and socially conscious children through family volunteerism. It was founded on the belief that when parents engage with their children in community service, they pass along the spirit of giving. For New Yorkers, www.doinggoodtogether.org/family-volunteering-nyc offers listings and information on family-friendly volunteer and service opportunities in the metro area.

New York Cares: New York Cares runs vital programs for nonprofits, public schools, and city agencies to help people in need throughout the five boroughs. Since 1987, New York Cares has made it easy for all New Yorkers to work together to strengthen the city. Getting started is easy: just attend orientation, then you can search and sign up for any project. Visit www.newyorkcares.org.

No Kid Hungry: This organization works hard to make sure no kid in America grows up hungry by collaborating with community groups, activists, and food programs. The goal is to identify children facing hunger and surround them with nutritious food where they live, learn, and play. Visit www.nokidhungry.org.

Toys For Tots: This organization collects and distributes toys to families in need. You and your family can help in your community by collecting new, unwrapped toys to be distributed. Your donations will serve as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community. The primary goal of Toys for Tots is to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens. Visit http://toysfortots.org.

Shnieka Johnson is an education consultant and freelance writer. She is based in Manhattan where she resides with her husband and son. Contact her via her website: www.shniekajohnson.com.