Kids of all ages know how great it feels to help others. Teaching them to volunteer and uplift those in need is a wonderful way to plant the seeds of a global perspective that fosters a charitable attitude, an awareness of the world beyond them and empathy for others. We’ve rounded up gestures both big and small that you can do as a family to benefit rescue animals, sick children, the homeless, the hungry, the environment and more. Read on to see how to get involved and make a difference today.

photo: San Diego Farm Animal Rescue

San Diego Farm Animal Rescue
This wonderful rescue farm offers volunteer opportunities for kids, teens and adults on a weekly basis, including feeding the farm animals, grooming horses, Piggy TLC, gardening, “campus” beautification a.k.a. farm cleanup and more. On the first Saturday of every month at 10 a.m., you can tour the Farm for free. Learn about compassion for animals and connect with the resident horses, pigs and chickens.


photo: San Diego Humane Society

San Diego Humane Society
Want to help out furry friends? Any day is a great day to give to the San Diego Humane Society. Their wish list provides an easy opportunity to give from the comfort of home. Or get out into the community with a creative project to benefit animals in need of a ‘fur’ever home. Print and post Furry Fliers around your neighborhood in places like libraries and coffee shops. Each flyer creates awareness by featuring an animal available for adoption and helps them find their forever family. You can also instill awareness and compassion in your kids via the Pet Pals program. Once a month, kids ages 6-11 can head to the San Diego Humane Society to interact with and learn more about animals.


Rady Children’s Hospital In-Kind Program
Create joy for a child in the hospital anytime throughout the year. Donate a new toy, book or video that will cheer up a child who isn’t able to go out and play. Top choices include matchbox cars and new release movies. Stuffed animals and used toys are not accepted. See the full wish list here. Having your kiddo choose the donation allows them to take ownership of the project and feel good about helping too.

Their donation bin is available 24/7 in the Rose Pavilion main lobby right outside the gift shop at:

3020 Children’s Way, San Diego, Ca 92123


photo: Beth Shea

Feeding San Diego
According to Feeding San Diego, 1 in 8 San Diegans face hunger and food insecurity. A meaningful, memorable way to show you care is to volunteer with Feeding San Diego. Each Saturday, volunteers ages 6 and older get hands-on with food that is distributed to needy families throughout the county. You’ll spend 2 hours sorting produce or dry goods. The hard work creates a great talking point about not taking the simple things for granted and being aware that people all around us are in need. Check their online schedule to find a date to volunteer as a family or small group.

9455 Waples St., Ste. 135
San Diego, Ca 92121
Phone: 858-452-3663

photo: Annie Spratt via Unsplash

Meals on Wheels We Care Packages
This service project is great for families and groups like Girl Scouts. Meals on Wheels serves meals to thousands of local home-bound seniors. But, did you know you can create a care package for these older neighbors and teach kids to honor their elders at the same time? Meals on Wheels loves donations that can be delivered alongside meals as a holiday or birthday present. Click here for suggestions of desirable items. Drop off care packages in gift bags or clear plastic tupperware containers so they can be properly distributed by staff. Add joy by creating a special loving message for a senior. Donations can be dropped off at any of the 4 regional Meals on Wheels offices.

photo: The San Diego River Park Foundation

The San Diego River Park Foundation
There are plenty of ways to lend a hand with San Diego River clean-up and habitat restoration. On the second and fourth Sundays of each month from 9-11 a.m., families can help with weeding, watering, pruning, trail maintenance and light gardening. RSVPs are required so call 619-297-7380 or email Also, plan on attending the next River Discovery Days, a two-day celebration of the San Diego River on March 8th and 9th, 2019, where kids and families can have fun while contributing to the conservation of nature.


Mint Studio Art Projects
Mint Studio offers wonderful crafting sessions that allow kiddos to get their creative juices flowing, learn a new skill and donate their lovingly-made creations to those in need. Making a difference by creating something with your own hands can be a powerful experience for kids and adults. Projects range from painting kindness rocks to sewing dresses for girls in need.

5965 Village Way, #105
San Diego, Ca 92130

photo: I Love a Clean SD Facebook

Weed Warriors at Tecolote Nature Center
If you love to spend time together in nature, help keep our parks clean by volunteering your time at The Tecolote Nature Center. Their ongoing conservation efforts give families a great opportunity to help pull weeds, dispose of trash and gather recyclables. Volunteer opportunities are available every third Sat. of the month.


photo: Surfrider Foundation

Beach Cleanups with Surfrider Foundation
From the Oceanside Pier to Sunset Cliffs, our beaches are sacred places to many of us––places to play, watch a beautiful sunset and ride the waves. Help preserve the beauty of our local beaches and teach kids to do their part to keep the ocean healthy by participating in a weekend beach cleanup. The Surfrider Foundation of San Diego County hosts beach cleanups most Saturdays along many local shores. Bring gloves, hats and sunscreen. Trash grabbers and bags will be provided. Click here to get more details.

On July 5th, lend a hand at the Morning After Mess Clean-up to help clear the beaches of trash that accumulates on the 4th of July holiday.

Father Joe’s Villages
San Diego has the fourth largest homeless population in the nation. Father Joe’s Villages is the largest rehabilitation program for our city’s homeless. Kids age 10 and older can volunteer to serve meals and help at events. Read their list of volunteer FAQs for more information and to sign up to volunteer.


photo: I Love a Clean San Diego

I Love a Clean San Diego
Sign up for a countywide or community clean-up to help beautify America’s Finest City. I Love a Clean San Diego’s mission is to make the city zero waste and litter free and to develop and inspire an environmentally engaged region. Volunteers clear half a million pounds of debris from San Diego’s neighborhoods, creeks, canyons and coastlines every year!


San Diego Food Bank
Kids age 11 and older can volunteer at the San Diego Food Bank doing a variety of projects throughout a three hour shift: cleaning and packaging produce, sorting, boxing and labeling food donations and assembling food packages for various programs. The San Diego Food Bank serves an astounding 370,000 people per month in San Diego County.



HandsOn San Diego
HandsOn San Diego’s Kids Korps is an online resource that matches kids ages 5-18 with community service and volunteering opportunities throughout the city. You pay a $25-$50 activation fee to gain access to the site’s Project Calendar that details where kids and families are needed as volunteers.


––Cherie Gough & Beth Shea


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