By Alicia Dziak
April is National Volunteer Month, and with spring and summer calendars booking up, now is a perfect time to reevaluate your free time and plan for some ways to give back. Volunteering isn’t just for grownups. It’s a great lesson to pass on to your children so they can see that they can make a difference.
You’d be surprised how many options there are for the younger set.
Help the elderly.
An easy, feel-good activity is visiting a nursing home. Gather a group of kids and make seasonal decorations, then arrange a day to hand deliver them to nursing home residents and spread some cheer. Or practice singing some songs and put on a show for the residents. Call the activities department of your local facility, to schedule a time.
Help the less fortunate.
BeadforLife is a not-for-profit organization that benefits impoverished women in Uganda. By hosting a “bead party,” all proceeds from the items you sell go to the women making the items, such as hand rolled paper beads, shea butter soap and lip balm. The party is easy to do and free to host. Everything is shipped to the host (no shipping charges apply), and unsold items are sent back in boxes with prepaid shipping. While older kids can help with handling the money, younger kids can make signs and posters to advertise the sale. For more information, visit www.beadforlife.org.
Kids can also organize a food or clothing drive and donate items to a favorite local charity. Even sending out handwritten notes asking for specific donations can bring in a number of items people may have been planning to part with but didn’t know or have time to think about where to send them.
Friends of Allegany State Park meets the first Saturday each month, May through October. Like their Facebook page to get details of upcoming events (www.facebook.com/FriendsOfAlleganyStatePark), which often include things like painting, trimming brush, and litter pickup.
Pfeiffer Nature Center in Portville has a variety of kid-friendly volunteer opportunities available, ranging from planting seedlings to invasive plant removal. For more information, visit www.pfeiffernaturecenter.org or call (716) 933-0187.
Help your school.
Take advantage of free money from companies encouraging customers to buy their products and recycle. Many companies out there offer easy ways to earn money to put toward schools and other charities. For example, have kids start a collection bin of Capris Suns at www.terracycle.com. For each empty drink box pouch you send them, you will receive money toward your school or choose to put it toward another charity. You can also recycle and earn money for items like glue sticks, personal care products and plastic lunch kits.
Kellogg’s (www.kelloggsfamilyrewards.com) offers a similar program, where you enter codes off certain products to earn points, and points can then be redeemed for schools or charities.
While many animal shelters and rescue groups require their regular volunteers to be adults, there are things kids can do to help. Start a collection of items needed, such as toys, food and treats. Or make your own! Many recipes can be found online, and are usually made of common food items, like peanut butter and oats. Pet toys can also be fun and easy to make and also use items you have lying around, like old socks and water bottles.
With so many opportunities to volunteer this spring and throughout the year, kids will be on their way to making a difference, and don’t be surprised if they have a blast in the process!