Serving the Austin Community with Your Kids: 5 Wonderful Places to Volunteer
I’ve never experienced my heart expand, or my kids’ empathy grow like volunteering together. We are lucky to live in a city where there are countless ways to serve others.
To get started, do you and your kids have a passion for a specific cause (the poor and homeless; sick; special needs; elderly; pets; kids; environment; inmates)? Sometimes our hearts tug in a certain direction, but I find it’s beautiful to try new things and expose our kids to a variety of needs.
Here are 5 ways for you and your kids to get involved, based on my experience and those of fellow moms.
- With a tagline like, “Developing generations of community-minded leaders,” I’m already inspired to act.
- Families with children as young as 3 years old volunteer together, and supports 100 nonprofit partners. This gives you the ability to try (and help) many! Generation SERVE works closely with partner organizations to identify and organize volunteer activities that are both meaningful and age-appropriate. Through Generation SERVE, you can find what you and your kids love most and then work directly with that organization (if you like).
- The calendar fills quickly. However, there are a lot of cancellations for weekend activities after the reminder emails go out on Thursdays and Fridays, so check the calendar late in the week.
- For me, this beautiful and inspiring organization exemplifies community. Mobile Loaves & Fishes is the largest prepared feeding program to the homeless; and provider of affordable, permanent housing. It provides opportunities for formerly homeless men and women to earn a dignified income, develop new skills and cultivate enduring relationships as they take part in a restorative journey home.
- There is the food truck ministry (make sandwiches, load trucks and/or distribute and more) – even the littlest can help; and Community First! Village that has an excellent calendar with over 12 different programs from soap making assistant to library volunteer. In addition, on Thursday nights, Steiner Ranch families make and serve dinner for the residents.
- No age minimum as long as an adult is present.
- Volunteer on a farm! Urban Roots is a youth development organization that uses food and farming to transform the lives of young people and inspire, engage, and nourish the community.
- Age minimum: 10
- Urban Roots provides young people a place to grow as leaders, so often our youth are on site on the farm and the ones leading you in your volunteer day.
- Did you know that Austin is America’s largest No Kill city?
- At Austin Animal Center, you can make a difference in the lives of homeless cats and dogs.
- 13 and 14-year-olds may volunteer with an adult who is also a volunteer. I’ve found it’s VERY hard to find a pet volunteering opportunity for younger kids. However, a friend and her 11-year old daughter volunteer at Austin Dog Rescue. We also love Austin Pets Alive! (volunteers must be at least 12). Children younger than 8 can volunteer through Generation SERVE (above).
- The Central Texas Food Bank is the largest hunger-relief charity in Central Texas.
- Child must be 8 years or older to volunteer in the Warehouse or Mobile Pantry; 15 years or older to volunteer in the Kitchen or Garden.
- Said a dad friend of mine, “If my three Neanderthals can do it without complaining, anyone can do it.” Sold!
10 additional ideas:
- Austin Public Library: Sounds pretty cool for older (13+) kids.
- Caritas: Help end homelessness in Austin (note: Generation SERVE has service opportunities for Caritas).
- Championship Hearts Foundation: Assist with a fundraising effort to support a screening in your community.
- Inside Books Project: Austin-based community service volunteer organization that sends free books and educational materials to prisoners in Texas.
- Keep Austin Beautiful: Keep our city clean and beautiful. In addition, Austin Creative Reuse has a zero waste mission.
- Marbridge: Located 13 miles south of downtown Austin, Marbridge provides a distinct alternative to group homes for adults with intellectual disabilities. There are so many beautiful opportunities.
- Ronald McDonald House: Providing comfort and support to families with sick children. Volunteers must be 16 years old to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House and 18 years old to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald Family Rooms.
- Special Olympics: Help children and adults with intellectual disabilities achieve their dreams.
- Thinkery: A great opportunity to inspire families, share your talent and meet new people. Volunteers encourage STEAM exploration, engage in programs and learn alongside visitors. There’s also a teen volunteer program. Another way to serve kids is through Settlement Home.
- Youth2Seniors: A youth-based program to partner youth and seniors within the community to enhance each other’s lives and learning experience. Another idea is to visit a nursing home like Westminster Retirement, make cards, go on walks, etc.
And remember, you can also organize something on your own, or with a few other families. My kids and I make care kits for the homeless. A friend’s boys love volunteering at local races (their favorite is the Austin Marathon) handing out water and cheering on people in their amazing physical endeavors!