Teaching kids a sense of community can start at a very early age, and the holiday season is a great time to help kids learn the value of giving back. City pride, conservation and care for the people and animals surrounding are great attributes to have at any age. Family-friendly volunteer opportunities not only help the community, but can be a great source of fun. Volunteer Match is a great resource for finding a plethora of kid-friendly service opportunities, but we’ve chosen some great causes to help you and yours get involved.

toys for totsPhoto: Marines Toys for Tots Foundation

Donate Toys to Kids in Need
Donating used toys (and new ones) is a great way to teach kids the importance of giving to others. Take the kids to the store to purchase a new, unwrapped toy and give it to Toys for Tots. They can imagine their gift recipient getting to enjoy their present on Christmas morning. Click here to find a toy drop-off near you at your local Toys R Us or Babies R Us.

You can also help others by gathering up toys and books that your kids are no longer using and give to a local charity who will gladly take them off your hands.Get those boxes packed up and delivered to one of these San Diego toy donation spots.


Photo: Kelly Powell

San Diego Humane Society
With so many animals being relinquished or rescued off of San Diego’s streets, the San Diego Humane Society is always in need of volunteers. Whether it’s to help clean kennels, walk a dog, or participate in an animal companion program, volunteers age 14 and up are always welcome. For the little ones in your family, try popping in for a Pet Pals session to learn more about the animals there.

If your family is thinking of growing with the addition of a furry friend, check out these local spots to adopt a pet.

carrying-fruit-kidPhoto: Neon Tommy via Creative Commons Flickr

The Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank
Next time you go grocery shopping, have your kids put some nonperishable food items in the San Diego Food Bank’s red barrels stationed at these stores. Explain that this food will help feed people in need at churches, schools, shelters, food pantries and the like throughout the holiday season. Donate now through December 31.

Additionally, kids age 6 and older can sign-up to volunteer with a parent to help package food for distribution or work on an assembly line to prepare boxes and bags of food that will be sent to the organization’s various food programs.

Online: sandiegofoodbank.org

l (7)Photo: Heather V. via Yelp

Weed Warriors at Tecelote Nature Center
The Tecelote Nature Center, much like other nature preserves in San Diego county, have an ongoing conservation and clean-up initiative happening. Families can grab their gardening gloves and some sun protection and help pull weeds, dispose of trash, and gather recyclables. Keeping our parks and preserves clean can be fun if you make a game out of it: whoever yanks the most weeds gets to chose where to grab a sweet treat when done!

Online: sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation

Boys and Girls Club of Greater San Diego
Your family can take part in the Boys and Girls Club’s “Be a Holiday Life Changer” program by adopting an individual or an entire family at one of their 17 San Diego locations. Once you choose your adoptees, the organization will provide you with a wish list of their needs/wishes of clothing, gifts and toys. Contact the Boys and Girls Club to take part in this charitable offering before the deadline of December 9th.

Online: sdyouth.org/holiday.aspx

1907964_10152812309837065_4239515183192429879_nPhoto: Feeding America San Diego

Feeding America San Diego
It is evident that causes that need the most help in San Diego are those who help the local homeless. Feeding America is amongst a group of wonderful food banks that provide thousands of adults and children meals. Get involved with your pint-sized volunteers and help them work at the Farm2Kids or Backpack programs to help fill bags with produce for San Diego kids in need.

Online: feedingamericasd.org

i love a clean san diegoPhoto: Mary-Allegra F. via Yelp 

Who doesn’t love spending a day on the beach? Why not combine your little fish’s love of the sandy surf with service? With the Adopt-a-Beach program, the whole family can gather to help clean up one of the hundred beaches available for adoption through the I Love A Clean San Diego website. Expect to make it a semi-annual tradition, since this program asks that you dedicate at least three clean-ups in a single year.

Online: ilacsd.org/v_beach.php

What are the ways your family gives back to great causes in San Diego? 

— Leah Singer