Symptoms: a constant run of the gimmes that’s leaving you feeling congested and worn out; a spreading rash of entitlement; affluenza. Prescription: Give to people in need in your community; get the kids involved, rest up, drink plenty of fluids, and focus on things that matter – not “things.”
Here are 25 great ways to get your kids engaged this holiday season.
Note: Most organizations have a minimum age requirement for volunteers (usually 18) although many will accept kids with adult supervision. In cases where onsite volunteering isn’t possible or practical, see if your family can help a charity in other ways, by hosting a supply drive in your neighborhood, helping organize an event, or assisting with offsite administrative tasks.
Adopt a Family
There are dozens of opportunities to help families in need all over Puget Sound, from food baskets for homeless youth to toy drives for low ranking military families.
Art With Heart
Helping kids through the healing power of creativity, Seattle-based Art With Heart creates and distributes therapeutic books for youth in the midst of a crisis. Volunteer opportunities include fundraising, event planning or becoming an Art With Heart ambassador.
Get involved: Visit www.artwithheart.org/help/volunteer/
BikeWorks provides programs and resources to needy youth in Seattle. Volunteer by hosting a repair party, bike collection drive, or get involved in their annual kids bike swap.
Get involved: Contact Davey Oil, Volunteer Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 206-725-9408, ext. 1
Boyer Children’s Clinic
Boyer Children’s Clinic serves children who have neuromuscular disorders such as cerebral palsy or developmental delays. Volunteer opportunities include classroom development and fundraising.
Get involved: Call Boyer Children’s Clinic at 206-325-8477 or email email@example.com.
Catholic Community Services of Western Washington
At Catholic Community Services, volunteers help elderly and disabled persons remain living independently in their own homes. They also serve food to the hungry, help youth who are struggling in school, and assist with early learning centers.
Get involved: Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The only nonprofit organization in King County dedicated to the mission of healing young and vulnerable victims of abuse, ages 0 – 5, Childhaven’s volunteer opportunities include Brighter Birthday and Adopt-a-Family programs, as well as a Holiday Giving Tree.
Get involved: See Childhaven’s How You Can Help: Volunteer page.
Compass Housing Alliance
Compass provides a range of services and housing options to people struggling with homelessness and poverty in the Seattle area. Volunteer opportunities include donating a holiday meal side dish or main dishes for Thanksgiving or Christmas meals, making holiday meal baskets, forming a cleaning crew or yard work party, or purchasing grocery gift cards for families.
Get involved: Contact Kevin Friedrich, volunteer coordinator, at email@example.com.
El Centro de la Raza
El Centro de la Raza empowers members of the Latino community and serves as an advocate for social justice, through youth, education and skill building programs. Families can volunteer by donating items to their wish list.
Get involved: Visit www.elcentrodelaraza.com/getinvolved.htm
A resource center and food bank serving north and central Seattle families, Family Works volunteer opportunities include food drives, childcare and fundraising.
Get involved: Email Megan at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 206-576-6534.
Hopelink needs volunteers to help with their food drives, coin drives for their End Summer Hunger program; and sorting, bagging and distributing food to those visiting their food bank in Bellevue. Adult guardian/chaperone(s) are required for volunteers ages 15 and under, and the minimum age for volunteers is 7.
Get involved: Contact the Volunteer Program at 425-869-6066 or email email@example.com
Get involved: Visit: www.seattlehumane.org
Jubilee Women’s Center
Community dinners (cook a meal at home and serve it to the residents of this women’s shelter) is one of the easiest ways to get involved at Jubilee Women’s Center, or your family can be a Secret Angel Chef and drop off meals for women to heat-and-eat on their own. Donated clothing and other wish list items are also appreciated.
Get involved: Email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the Volunteer Coordinator at 206-324-1244.
Imagine Housing is the only nonprofit organization in East King County dedicated solely to developing affordable rental homes for low-income families. Volunteer by taking on a property beautification or resident life enhancement project.
Get involved: Visit www.imaginehousing.org/get-involved/volunteer/.
The best opportunities for kids are at the Northwest Harvest Kent warehouse. Families can work together to repack bulk food into family-sized portions that are distributed to their network of food banks throughout Washington state. You can also organize a food drive through your church, school or scouting organization. Northwest Harvest will provide flyers and food recepticals, as well as pick up.
Get involved: Visit www.northwestharvest.org/Volunteer.htm
One-Day Volunteer Opportunities
Got a day to give back? Check out United Way of King County’s monthly calendar, searchable via region or zip code, for kid-friendly opportunities that are the best fit for your family.
Get involved: Visit volunteer.truist.com/uwkc/volunteer/calendar/
Operation: Sack Lunch
The largest meal and basic necessities provider in Washington State, Operation: Sack Lunch provides nutritional meals and basic life necessities to the homeless children, teens, women and men in Seattle. Volunteer opportunities include meal prep, serving and clean up. Kids under age 13 can’t work inside the kitchen, but younger volunteers are accommodated in other ways with various tasks that are essential to the program.
Page Ahead provides new books and develops reading activities that empower at-risk children. Find a participating bookstore with a current book drive, or volunteer by helping count and sort books.
Get involved: Visit www.pageahead.org/volunteer.php
PEPS – Program for Early Parent Support – has been a vital resource for new parents in the Puget Sound region since 1983. 98% of PEPS groups are run by volunteers. Get your family involved by becoming a PEPS Ambassador or by assisting with fundraising or event planning.
Get involved: Visit www.peps.org/volunteer
Working with a select group of Seattle schools through academic intervention programs, Powerful Schools helps to close the achievement gap. Volunteers are needed to assist with literacy nights and open mic nights, fundraising and mailings.
Get involved: Contact Sandy Gunder at email@example.com.
Ronald McDonald House
Ronald McDonald House is a “home-away-from-home” for families of seriously ill children being treated at Seattle Children’s. Residents need food, toiletries, cleaning supplies and games – and families can help by holding a drive or collecting items for their wish list.
Get involved: Visit www.rmhcseattle.org
Seattle Animal Shelter
Seattle Animal Shelter doesn’t accept volunteers under age 18 but can accommodate groups of youth (with chaperones) for several hours of volunteering or a behind-the-scenes shelter tours. Opportunities are extremely limited and require one month’s notice.
Get involved: Contact the volunteer manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It can be tough to be a foster kid, especially during the holidays. You can make the holidays bright for a child living in foster care by collecting warm clothes, toys and donations for Treehouse for Kids.
Get involved: Email email@example.com or call Christine at 206-267-5109.
Washington Trails Association
Kids ages 10 and up can participate on their own during Washington Trails Association work parties and those under 14 must be accompanied by a supervising adult. After five work parties, volunteers earn their very own green hard hat with their name on it.
Get involved: Visit www.wta.org/volunteer/trail-work-parties
Still want more ideas? Volunteer Match is an online service that matches your interests with over 90,000 nonprofit organizations.
Get involved: Visit www.volunteermatch.com
How do you get your kids involved in charitable organizations? Let us know in the comment section below.
first photo courtesy of Kathy Takahashi; other photos courtesy of Allison