4 Holiday volunteering opportunities for teens

Dec 17, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. ET

Get your teens involved with holiday giving this season. Volunteering offers teens a rewarding, enriching way to make the most of free time over winter break. Discover four ways your teen can give back.

It may take some convincing to get your teen to commit to volunteering during a break from school, but once she’s involved she’ll understand how good it feels to donate time and energy to those who need help. Help your teen get involved with the community this holiday season.

Support thrift stores and charitable organizations

During the Christmas season, thrift stores and places of worship are particularly busy processing donations and selling items like toys and holiday decor. Talk to your family’s church and local charitable organizations to find out where help is needed. Your teen may be able to help promote a toy drive or help wrap gifts for families in need. If your teen wants to help out from the home front, enlist him to go through old toys, home goods and clothing for donations.

Assist animal shelters

Animal rescue organizations and pet shelters need volunteer assistance year-round. During the holidays, it can be an extra strain on staff members who are busy with holiday preparations and family time. Call your local shelters early to find out if there’s a minimum age requirement and if volunteers need to take orientation classes before working with animals. If your teen loves pets but doesn’t have experience with animals, she can also help with tasks like funding drives and promotional efforts for the shelter.

Learn how to expose your child to the importance of Christmas charity >>

Visit with the elderly

The holiday season can be a lonely time for senior citizens. It’s an especially crucial time to support seniors as much as possible. Contact local retirement homes and nursing facilities to find out about volunteering opportunities. Your teen can volunteer individually, by spending time with residents and reading to them. He can also participate in group volunteering through local youth groups and volunteer organizations with activities like caroling and making holiday cards. If your family has loved ones in care, make a point of spending extra time with them this season. Ask your teen to bring pictures of friends and family to share and to serve as talking points.

Feed the hungry

The holidays are a time to gather and enjoy the bounty of the season. For the homeless and hungry, this can be an especially difficult time. Help your teen volunteer at a local food drive or soup kitchen this Christmas season. Many soup kitchens have adequate help during the holidays, but find that volunteers dwindle after the New Year. Talk to your teen about committing to giving back after the holidays instead of volunteering only during winter break. If she is unable to volunteer in person at a soup kitchen, help your teen work with a canned food drive. Food drives always need help with organization and promotions. She can even do her own mini food drive amongst your family and friends.

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