Volunteer Opportunities for Teens

Volunteer work can teach your teen a lot of valuable life lessons. Whether you want your child to learn the importance of giving back to the community or you're hoping they'll gain some valuable skills that will help them in a future job, there are lots of reasons to pursue local volunteer opportunities.

Volunteering also benefits your teen by building their self-confidence and imparting empathy. Additionally, many college applications ask teens to list their service projects. If you're not sure where to find volunteer work for your teen, consider these options which usually offer something in every local community.

American Red Cross

The American Red Cross has an entire youth section called Red Cross Youth. Teens can organize blood drives, become educated and ready for disaster relief, or train younger children on in-home safety.

The Red Cross offers many opportunities throughout the year for youth, as well as programs for adults that teens can do too, such as their knitted items program. Check out the national website to find your local chapter.

Meal Programs

A soup kitchen in your area may serve meals one or two times a day and need dishwashers and general help for the serving of food. Some meal programs may have age restrictions due to local laws about teens working in kitchens and preparing food. But your teen may still be able to serve food or assist with set-up and clean-up.

Depending on the state in which you live, your teen may have to volunteer alongside an adult initially. Call your local meal programs to determine what volunteer opportunities are available to your teen.

Hospitals and Skilled Nursing Centers

Hospitals and nursing homes are often looking for volunteers to perform a variety of duties. Your teen may be able to make photocopies, direct visitors, or work in the gift shop. Some hospitals have minimum age requirements that will vary among organizations. Contact your local hospital to see if they accept teenage volunteers and what the minimum age requirements might be.

Throughout the pandemic, most hospitals and long-term care facilities did not accept in-person volunteers. As vaccinations become more widely available and the world returns to a new normal, some may now allow volunteers. Check with your local facilities to find out their policies. Teens can also volunteer from home by writing cards and letters and creating care packs full of snacks, magazines, and toiletries to boost patients' spirits.


Food Banks

Food banks need donations as well as helping hands. Even if your teen doesn't have a lot of time to work in a food bank, they may be able to participate in fundraisers. Food banks also may need help sorting food, carrying boxes, or handing food out.

Contact your local food bank to learn how you can best assist them. Keep in mind that some food banks have an age requirement for their volunteers and may require teens to volunteer on specific days or for blocks of time.

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity has youth programs in which teens can help plan and build a home for a local family. In fact, Habitat accepts volunteers from age 5 to 40 in their youth program.

Teen volunteers assist with a variety of jobs and it can be a very rewarding experience for them to see first-hand how their work helps a specific family. Reach out to the organization for more specifics on volunteer opportunities for teens.

Libraries

Libraries enjoy having volunteers assist with cleaning, organizing, or checking books out. Often, they have a variety of programs designed specifically for teens during the summer months.

Your teen also may be able to get involved in helping read to younger children or organizing special themed events for kids. Contact your local library to determine what type of volunteer opportunities exist as well as the minimum age requirement.

Meals on Wheels

Some Meals on Wheels programs seek volunteers to make small crafts that can be delivered to the elderly along with their meals. A small little treasure that is placed on a tray, like a napkin ring, for example, can brighten someone's day. Contact your local Meals on Wheels program to see if they have opportunities for your teen to get involved.

Best Buddies

If your teen has a heart for people with disabilities, they may want to explore volunteer opportunities with the Best Buddies program. This program is designed to foster one-to-one friendships for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Their goal is to ensure that everyone has a friend.

To help facilitate friendships, the group often holds activities like pizza parties, bowling events, ice cream socials, and more. Once matched, teens make a commitment to contact their buddy once a week and get together twice a month. Many buddies eat lunch together or go to school functions together.

Other similar programs include Special Olympics and Miracle League, which also give teens the opportunity to work with peers who have special needs or disabilities. Volunteers with Special Olympics perform a variety of tasks from coaching and helping with teams to taking photographs and helping organize events. Those who are interested should contact their local Special Olympics office to determine what opportunities are available.

Meanwhile, Miracle League provides opportunities for kids with disabilities to play baseball regardless of their abilities. To get involved with Miracle League, reach out to their national office for help in locating local volunteer opportunities.

Animal Shelters

Much like libraries and hospitals, animal shelters are always looking for volunteers. Shelters often need people to help clean and care for animals. They may even have options for spending one-on-one time with the animals or helping to walk the dogs.

Other options include organizing drives for pet food, blankets, and towels or making homemade pet treats. If the entire family wants to get involved, they could consider fostering a pet as well. The minimum age requirement varies by state and shelter, so contact your local organization to see how your teen can get involved.

Key Club

Key Club is one of the oldest and largest service organizations for high school students across the country. Some larger high schools have a Key Club chapter that provides volunteer opportunities for kids, while other chapters are community-based.

Typically, service opportunities are based in the local community and include everything from community clean-up projects and food drives to tutoring programs and clothing donation events. If your teen's high school doesn't have a Key Club, visit the website to find a community-based group.

Sierra Club

If your teen is passionate about the environment, you may want to check out the Sierra Club. They have a Sierra Student Coalition that helps teens get involved in climate justice. Teens can clean up outdoor spaces and organize nature outings. Visit their website to determine how your teen can get involved locally.

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  1. Moreno MA, Furtner F, Rivara FP. Adolescent volunteeringJAMA Pediatr. 2013;167(4):400. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.2118