7 ways kids can volunteer, even from home

Baystateparent Magazine
There are plenty of ways for children to give back while staying safe at home.

It's the season of giving, but this isn’t your ordinary year. When life gives you coronavirus, you have to make do with a different approach to helping others. There are still plenty of ways to involve your children in giving back, while keeping everyone safe. Here are some ideas for how families can volunteer, even from home. 

Cradles to Crayons: Sort Essentials at Home 

Serving over 200,000 children a year, this nonprofit provides resources such as school supplies and clothing to homeless and low-income children. While volunteers ages 10 and up are still needed at their Giving Factory, the organization also has opportunities to help from home. With the COVID-19 crisis exacerbating the need for essential items for many families, you can replicate volunteer stations normally facilitated in the warehouse that are sorely needed. Giving Factory At Home activities require picking up donations from the Giving Factory in Newtonville, then sorting and sizing clothing, or creating outfit or underwear, pajama and sock packs for kids. Once you’re done, you’ll return the items to the Giving Factory. 

Family Table: Make Cards for Isolated Seniors 

Serving more than 100 towns across greater Boston area, this organization is currently helping more than 500 local families each month with groceries and connections to other services. But it’s not just food people need at this time. Children can help bring cheer to isolated older adults with a “thinking of you” card. Before getting started, find the card making directions at jfcsboston.org/volunteer/card-making-project, which has specific guidelines and tips on what kind of messages to include. You can mail the cards, or drop them off at the JF&CS headquarters in Waltham. 

Boston Cares: Find a Virtual Project

BostonCares.org is a site that aggregates volunteer opportunities in the greater Boston area. To become a Boston Cares member and begin signing up for projects online, you must attend a brief, one-time New Volunteer Orientation. From there, you can search for family-friendly opportunities on their calendar or by “impact area,” such as culture and environment, health and wellness, youth success, etc. The overall minimum age for all Boston Cares programs is 5 years old, but each agency partner determines the age restrictions for their projects. Responding to COVID-19, there are opportunities to volunteer alone or virtually. 

Project Giving Kids: At-Home Service Projects

ProjectGivingKids.org is like Boston Cares -- a database of local volunteer opportunities -- but even better for families because all projects are youth-friendly. You pick a cause (aid the animals, aid the elderly, help fight hunger, comfort the sick, or support the troops are some of the options) and the site will give you a list of opportunities to give back that align with your interests. In response to coronavirus, Project Giving Kids is offering six weeks of family-friendly service project ideas to help fill the extra hours of the “school days” during these long weeks at home, with a daily book suggestion, activity, and discussion question. 

NEADS: Play with Puppies 

Giving back by playing with puppies? Yes, for real! NEADS, a Princeton-based nonprofit that trains service dogs, is always seeking Puppy Raisers, families who open their homes to a puppy-in-training. Puppy raisers make a 12- to 18-month long commitment to raising a puppy in their homes, either full-time or just on the weekends. If you can’t commit that much time, your family can be a weekend puppy sitter, taking puppies out of the NEADS Early Learning Center during the weekends to expose them to life in a home. 

Birthday Wishes: Build a Birthday Box 

This Natick-based nonprofit brings a little hope to children experience homelessness through the magic of a birthday party. While the monthly in-person birthday parties held at 204 shelters across four states are on pause due to the pandemic, the organization has a growing demand for their Birthday-in-a-Box program, in which brightly wrapped boxes are packed with everything needed to celebrate a birthday like party and baking supplies, decorations, and wrapped gifts for the birthday child. You can find box theme ideas and a printable supply at birthdaywishes.org/service-projects and create a box at home with your kids. But note: Birthday Wishes asks that you contact them before creating a box to confirm their real-time needs and to remain in compliance with current health and safety regulations.

Wigs for Kids: Donate Hair 

Providing Hair Replacement Systems and support for children who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, Alopecia, Trichotillomania, burns and other medical issues at no cost to children or their families, Wigs for Kids is continuing to accept hair donations throughout the pandemic. The organization does not require certified specialists to cut ponytails for donating hair to Wigs for Kids; you can go to any salon or cut the hair yourself at home. If your child is interested in donating his or her hair, go to wigsforkids.org for information or instructions. Or, kids can set a goal and start growing their hair out now.