Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'" National Day of Service this year is Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. Here are some ways your tween can volunteer and make a difference.
Typically, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a day of service and is part of United We Serve, the President's national call to service initiative. Because the Presidential Inauguration is on Monday, which is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the event will be marked on Saturday this year. To find an event near you, check out the Inauguration website here.
Finding places for tweens to volunteer can be difficult, however. Many organizations require that volunteers be older than 13, or even older than that. It is, however, possible to find ways for tweens to contribute to their community.
Here are some ideas of ways and places your tween can volunteer:
- The Humane Society. The age requirement to volunteer at the Humane Society varies by local chapter and is not consistent. My area humane society permits volunteers 10 years old and older when accompanied by an adult.
- Food Bank. Again, age requirements vary from food bank to food bank. Many do have an age requirement of 18, but others do not. Feed My Starving Children, though, permits volunteers age 5 and older. They have seven locations in Illinois, Minnesota and Arizona. The Greater Chicago Food Depository hosts Kids Days once a month on a Saturday afternoon. Kids ages 5 to 13 may volunteer with an adult during Kids Days only.
- Note: Kid volunteer dates fill up quickly. Reserve your spot early. I could not find a time at the Feed My Starving Children near me that was on a weekend or weekday afternoon in the next month.
- Send a Card. Many children's hospitals makes it possible to send a card to a sick child through their websites. Check out sites for Nationwide Children's Hospital and Children's Hospital Colorado. If you want to send an actual card, here are the guidelines for the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. (Note that they need to be laminated.) Operation Gratitude delivers letters of thanks to service members, wounded warriors and veterans. These can be done at any age, and the whole family can sit down around the table and do it together. If you want something closer to home, see if the local nursing home accepts thinking of you cards or Valentines for the residents.
- School volunteering. Ask if your child’s school has volunteer activities. Do they have library volunteers, or can they help on a school event? My tween is a school safety patrol volunteer (we’ll discuss the questionable selection process later). For four months, she has been shepherding kindergarteners at afternoon dismissal, helping with backpacks and winter gear and getting students to their parents. She loves it. She benefits as much as they do, if not more. Way more. This also illustrates the importance of finding an activity related to your tween's interests. While volunteering is not meant to be play time, connecting volunteering to an interest makes it more likely that they'll be involved and will stick with it. It's also a chance to explore careers. My tween now has a much better idea of the patience required of a kindergarten teacher, and Humane Society volunteers may better understand what a vet does.
Your faith community and/or scouting group may also have volunteer opportunities. If you have elderly neighbors, think of how your tween could help them out.
Whatever the activity, talk to your tween after a volunteer session and see how it went, and what learned. Chances are, they will enjoy it and benefit as much as those they are helping. And they will have an answer to what Dr. King said was life’s most persistent and urgent question.
What are your favorite ways to volunteer with your tween? Please tell us in the comments, and please like Tween Us on Facebook.