Slower-paced summer days present the perfect opportunity for your family to volunteer to support a cause that’s close to your hearts. Kids of all ages know how great it feels to help others and volunteering fosters a charitable attitude and awareness of the world beyond them. 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 learn about local volunteering opportunities for kids.

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.  You can tour the Farm for free and learn about compassion for animals and connect with the resident horses, pigs and chickens.


Solana Center for Environmental Innovation

It's worm wrangling time! Every third Saturday of each month volunteers can head to the Solana Center to help care for earthworms. A vital part of the composting process, the worms need feeding and new worm beds. All experience levels are welcome. So dig in and get a little dirty.

Solana Center for Environmental Innovation
137 N. El Camino Real
Encinitas, CA 92024

Helen Woodward Animal Shelter

Kids can create their own fundraiser (at home!) to support the Helen Woodward Animal Shelter. Whether it's a dog wash, lemonade stand or bake sale, little helpers can use their imagination. Everyone wins. Little fundraisers gain experience and it helps the animals too. Young entrepreneurs can also organize a food or blanket drive to donate much needed items to the shelter or they can start a neighborhood dog walking service and donate some of the proceeds.


Wild Willow Farm

Dig in and help a real working farm in San Diego. From animal feedings and composting to digging and pulling, your crew is sure to get dirty and have fun. If little ones aren't yet up to being farm hands, they are welcome to walk around (supervised) and observe farm happenings and meet the animals. When done volunteering, take a nature walk on the nearby trail and have a picnic!

When: Weds. & Sat., 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

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!


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

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. You can connect with nature and give back to the community by gardening, beautifying the environment and clearing it of trash. Check their event calendar for a plethora of volunteer opportunities from garden work parties to clean and green events.


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. Many volunteer opportunities are available––so click here to get in touch and find out how your clan can lend a hand.


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 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.


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.


––Cherie Gough, Beth Shea & Nikki Walsh


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