“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.” – H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Volunteering is an excellent way for families to make a difference in their communities and offers lots of benefits to those who volunteer their time and skills.

What’s more, volunteering raises kids’ sense of civic responsibility. It’s a great skill-building experience and offers socialization opportunities for kids and adults alike. It also makes for an excellent bonding experience with grandkids.

Regardless of where you live, countless volunteer opportunities are available — and there’s something to fit every family’s talents and interests. So share these ideas with your grandkids to see what triggers their enthusiasm, and make a family plan to put it into action.


Volunteer at a soup kitchen or food pantry. People who are impoverished or homeless are always in need of nutritious food and meals.

Search online for local soup kitchens and food pantries. Then call and speak to the manager and offer your family’s service. Be sure to mention the age of your grandkids in case there are age restrictions.

At a soup kitchen, you can help prepare and serve a meal or do kitchen cleanup. For a food pantry, help with stocking or putting together food baskets for families in need.

Some pantries also need delivery assistance, since many low-income families don’t have transportation to pick up their food supply.


Help out at an animal shelter. Cats and dogs spend days, weeks, and often longer cooped up in small kennels or crates with little opportunity to exercise or socialize. Offer to spend an afternoon walking dogs or playing with cats.

There are many other things you can do for a shelter, too. You can transport a pet to a new home, clean kennels, donate supplies, or help find loving homes through social media.


Adopt a road or park for cleanup. Most states have adopt-a-highway programs. These typically require a signed contract for a period of two to four years with a promise to clean up a designated area two to four times a year.

Alternatively, you could pick an unsightly city street and head out to clean up the debris. Keep kids safe by requiring them to stay off the road and pick up litter only on the boulevard. If you have younger grandkids, park cleanup is a safer option.


Paint a park bench. Benches can be found in parks as well as shopping districts and along bus routes. Contact your city hall or parks and recreation department and request permission to freshen up a bench. If your family is artistic, ask if you may do something creative to make it more cheerful.


Help build a house with Habitat for Humanity. This organization helps build and renovate homes for families in need of safe shelter. Visit habitat.org to find your local Habitat organization, and ask how you can help. Habitat also offers a teen volunteer program.


Send letters to military members overseas. Veterans, new recruits, and deployed troops deserve and need to know just how much we appreciate their dedication and service to our country. For more information, visit operationgratitude.com/writeletters.


Put together care kits for homeless shelters. Ask local businesses to donate items for the homeless care kits you plan to create.

The following are useful items to include in each kit: toothpaste, toothbrush, dental floss, comb, bar of soap, shampoo, package of hand wipes, razor, shaving cream, protein bars, and other small, useful items.

Any food items should be nonperishable and require no preparation.


Hold a bake sale for a charity. Pick your favorite charity and hold a bake sale to raise funds for it. Just ask a busy local business or grocery store if you can set up a table on a given day for your charity bake sale. Then invite family and friends to pitch in and help with the baking.


Plant seeds or greenery along a highway or main street. Check with your city first. Then contact management at local nurseries and ask them to donate plants or seeds for the project. Plant only native flowers, shrubs, and trees that won’t require watering or maintenance.


Rake, mow, or remove snow for a disabled person. If you don’t know anyone who’s disabled, ask coworkers or friends if they know of someone. Or do an online search for disability organizations in your area.


Kimberly Blaker is a freelance writer. She also owns an online bookshop, Sage Rare & Collectible Books, specializing in out-of-print, scarce, signed, and first editions; fine bindings; ephemera; and more at sagerarebooks.com.

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