No matter their ages, most kids (and adults) can’t help but get caught up in the gift-getting, list-making, shop-till-you-drop frenzy of the holidays. This year, why not show your children how rewarding it can be to donate to needy families or to help make a sick child’s holiday a little brighter simply by volunteering time?
From fundraising to food drives to helping make wishes come true, we’ve put together a list of organizations that are looking for volunteers this holiday season, as well as throughout the year. You can also check out the Long Island Volunteer Center, which is a great resource of nonprofits in your area. And don’t forget to check with your local houses of worship, which often need help with food pantries and soup kitchens; your child’s school or scouting group, and your local library.
The importance of giving back to those who need it most is a wonderful lesson to teach your children, especially during this time of year.
The Book Fairies — Freeport
This nonprofit collects and distributes books for children and adults throughout the metro New York area. On the second Sunday of every month, volunteers (older children, preferably middle-school age and older, and their parents) are needed to help in their warehouse, refilling boxes with books for teachers. The organization often needs help sorting books, and has other volunteer positions that need to be filled.
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Middle-school-age kids and older (and their parents) can help sort books at The Book Fairies organization. Photo courtesy of The Book Fairies
Long Island Cares—The Harry Chapin Food Bank — Hauppauge
Have your kids end the year fighting hunger on Long Island. Long Island Cares, Inc.—The Harry Chapin Food Bank's Student Week of Service takes place December 27-28 for students ages 11-13 and 14-19; and December 29 for students 11-19. Register by sending the child’s name, phone number, age, desired date, and name of a parent/guardian to Billy Gonyou at email@example.com. There are plenty of other ways families and kids can volunteer, so check out the organization’s website for more information.
2017 Bob Sweeney Camp HOPE Holiday Party — Melville
Held on Saturday, December 2, the Bob Sweeney Camp HOPE Holiday Party, jointly hosted by Good Shepherd Hospice and The Bob Sweeney Foundation, is a daylong event for children ages 4-17 who have recently experienced the loss of a loved one. Volunteers, who must be 14 or older, act as personal pals for younger attendees at the holiday party. There is also a need for teen volunteers at its annual summer camp.
Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk — Middle Island
During the holiday season, families can help out Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk in a number of ways. For its Thanksgiving Baskets program, you can donate individual items and/or gift cards, or all the fixings for a delicious holiday meal. For the Adopt-A-Family program, your family can fulfill all or part of the wish lists of children and families, helping to make their holidays a little brighter.
Make-A-Wish Foundation — Nassau and Suffolk
Kids of all ages can help make wishes come true by organizing a fundraiser for children who are facing serious illnesses. Make-A-Wish Foundation's educational program, Kids for Wish Kids, helps children organize and manage fundraising campaigns at their schools, youth groups, etc., under the guidance of parents and teachers. Check out the organization’s websites for Nassau and Suffolk counties for tips, advice, and additional information.
Ronald McDonald House of Long Island — New Hyde Park
The mission of the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island is to provide a home away from home for families, so they can be near their seriously ill children who are receiving treatment. Volunteers are always welcome and needed. Little Hands Helping Little Hands is a volunteer program specifically for children between ages 6 and 16, who come to the facility as a school group or organization and bake goodies for families staying at the house.
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Families can volunteer to care for a Guide Dog Foundation puppy. Photo courtesy of the Guide Dog Foundation/Rebecca Eden
Guide Dog Foundation — Smithtown
Many opportunities exist for families to volunteer at this nonprofit that provides guide and service dogs and training (at no charge) to people who are blind or visually impaired. These include puppy raising. Kids 16 and younger can help out by hanging puppy raising recruitment flyers and organizing fundraisers and toy/towel drives. Kids also can take a tour of the Smithtown campus and learn more about what the Guide Dog Foundation does and what they can do to help.
This post is updated annually.
Top photo: Kids of all ages can volunteer through the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Kids For Wish Kids program. Photo courtesy of Make-A- Wish