Volunteering in the community is a great way to serve the people
in the area where you live. Many non-profit organizations are
run by people who give a lot of their own time and money to make
your community a better place, and volunteers help these services
In addition, community service is a great way for teenagers to
become aware of needs outside themselves. Don't wait until your
teenagers are required to perform mandatory community service to
help them get more involved in your community.
Our first experience with volunteer work came about when our
daughter was about 12. I was working full time, and we were
looking for something for her to occupy her time during the
summer. We contacted our local "volunteer center" to find out
about available volunteer opportunities in our community.
Through that center we found out about a local day camp for
disabled children. It is administered by adults but almost
completely run by teenagers. The older kids (ages 16-21) are
employed by the organization as camp counselors, and the younger
teens (ages 12-16) are volunteers. Each disabled child has a
teen "pal" for all activities. They go to the park, go swimming,
and a variety of other activities for about 4 hours a day.
Volunteers sign up for 1 week at a time, and can volunteer all
summer if they want.
This kind of volunteer work isn't for everyone, of course, but
our daughter had a great time volunteering for this organization
and worked there every summer for four years. A lot of the
volunteers come back as paid counselors when they turn 16. The
younger teens also love hanging out with the older teens, and the
disabled kids love all the attention. This service gives the
parents of these kids very needed time off and is a wonderful
resource in our community, while also offering a unique
experience for the volunteers.
There are many other types of volunteer work. Other types of
services our daughter has been involved with:
* Your local humane society is a great place to volunteer as a
family. My daughter and I used to go to our humane society and
play with the cats and take dogs for walks. They called this
"pet socialization", so that the animals would have an easier
transition into new homes. We had a great time doing this
together. Our daughter also organized her own yard sale and
published a newsletter for kids to raise money for the humane
* When our daughter was 16, she became involved in a teen
"suicide hotline" program sponsored by our community. She went
through an intensive training program to teach her how to talk to
teens who are considering suicide. Teens volunteer to man a
phone line in 4-hour shifts.
* Local churches are great resources for volunteer opportunities.
For several years I was a youth group leader in our daughter's
high school youth group. One year we spent a week in Billings,
Montana, working in their homeless shelter and food bank. To me
this was quite an eye-opening experience, especially talking to
and sharing experiences with the people who work at these places
every day. Last year our daughter spent a week in Idaho fixing
up and updating several schools, and this year she is travelling
to Honduras for two weeks.
The services performed through volunteer work are only a portion
of the benefits of volunteering time in the community. Teenagers
by nature are very often self-focused and need to be offered
opportunities to reach out of themselves and help others. The
earlier they learn to do these things the more natural it will
become for them later in life. Other benefits of volunteer work
are valuable experience for applying for jobs and college
Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom of four. For more
inspirational articles and tips for everyday living, visit her
web sites at http://www.creativehomemaking.com and
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