50 Community Service Ideas for Teen Volunteers
Today's teens participate in community service for a variety of reasons: school requirements, club participation, college resume building and a simple desire to do good. Finding service opportunities you are passionate about is vital to the experience, especially if you want to nurture a lifelong love for giving back.
Encourage Healthy Living
- Volunteer to help staff or create a booth at a local health fair. Many national organizations such as the American Heart Association, the Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will provide free resources to help make your event successful.
- Sign up to be a coach or assistant coach to a youth team for a sport you love. Teaching others will give you a multitude of new skills.
- Participate in a 5K run. You can find one for almost any cause. Make sure you raise money as well — set a stretch goal beforehand and see if you can meet it.
- Volunteer at a race by taking registrations, handing out water or cheering runners at a charity marathon.
- Become a Safety Ambassador for the National Safety Council and help educate others on preventable injuries at home, work and on the road. One of their programs advocates against distracted teen driving.
Use Your Technology Expertise
- Volunteer to set up a social media account for a local nonprofit. Educate a staff member how to use the tools or volunteer to post on a regular basis.
- Teach computer skills to a senior. Look for opportunities at local assisted living centers and nursing homes.
- Check out afterschool programs at your local elementary schools or YMCA. Offer your technology assistance to promote youth computer skills, such as coding.
Organize volunteers for your nonprofit with an online sign up! SAMPLE
- Collect craft kits to be given to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital patients. Volunteers place all of the supplies needed for a craft in a gallon sealed zipper bag with printed instructions and then mail the craft kits to the hospital for distribution.
- Bake for a cause. Organize a group from your church or school to sell baked goods, raising money for a cause like Cookies for Kids' Cancer or No Kid Hungry, Share Our Strength. Genius tip: Know who's bringing what goodies by organizing an online sign up!
- Put your craft skills to good use by offering to help with your church's Vacation Bible School in the summer or looking into being an assistant in ongoing Sunday school classes. Your creativity will come in handy.
- Warm someone's heart with a handmade blanket. No sewing skills are necessary. One national organization, Binky Patrol, collects the blankets and distributes them nationwide to teens and children in need of comfort.
- Help prepare meals for a homeless shelter. If you need a referral, ask a local church or food pantry. It's likely they already have a volunteer program.
- Check out Habitat for Humanity's Youth United program where volunteers help plan and build a home for a local family.
Assist A Nonprofit Organization
- Find nonprofits that focus on an issue that has touched your immediate or extended family. From the American Cancer Society to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, to the American Heart Association and so many more, there are always organizations looking for teen volunteers. Ask where they have the greatest need.
- Check out Interact, a program of the Rotary Club focused on teens 12-18 who show interest in community service and global exchange.
- Offer office help to a nonprofit. Most could use administrative assistance with mailings, phones and filing projects.
- Contact United Way to look for opportunities in your area. They work with communities across 40 countries and territories and have over 2.5 million volunteers worldwide.
- Become a youth mentor with Big Brothers, Big Sisters.
- Serve as a camp counselor. Many churches, schools and organizations offer summer camp opportunities for teen mentors and leaders to serve with kids (and have some fun while they're at it).
- Look for literacy programs at your local library. Help is often needed with youth and adult literacy programs. Genius Tip: Use an online sign up to recruit guest readers!
- Educate others about an issue that's important to you. Create fliers providing research on the risks of teen smoking, texting and driving or any number of issues.
- Use social media. Create your own issue blog or offer to write for a local nonprofit that could use some promotion help.
- Check out Covenant House Sleep Out, an organization that raises funds and awareness for homeless youth. You could commit to fundraising or hold a "sleep out" to promote awareness.
Share Your Love Of Animals
- Look into opportunities to help your local animal rescue league, ASPCA chapter or animal shelter. Have a favorite breed? Many rescues will have a branch in your state. See if you can convince your parents to let you foster some rescue dogs in need of a good home.
- Assist the Humane Society in your area by helping animals in their care centers or working with community events and outreach.
Plan a community clean up with an online sign up! SAMPLE
- Pick up some nonperishables the next time you're at the grocery store to donate to a local food bank.
- Clean out a closet or storage space and donate items to a local men or women's shelter. See if you can get friends to pitch in as well.
- Bring new or gently used toys to a children's ward at your local hospital. Call ahead, and if allowed, plan on staying to play awhile.
- Start a book drive at your school and donate books and magazines to a local shelter, hospital or library.
- Donate blood to the American Red Cross. Typically, donors must be at least 17 years old, but some states allow teens to donate at 16 with parental consent.
- Look for service opportunities with the Junior Red Cross. Ideas include fire safety canvassing, coin donation competitions and a first aid kit sale.
Clean Up The Environment
- Organize or participate in a recycling drive, park or beach cleanup.
- Check into national environmental organizations with opportunities for youth participation such as the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC).
- Start a community garden in your neighborhood or at your school. Donate your crop to a shelter that could use fresh food.
- Send a care package to a deployed soldier, veteran or wounded soldier. Include thank-you letters for their service. Get a school group or youth group to participate as well.
- Check out ways to help Operation Gratitude or Give2TheTroops. Programs include hosting a collection drive, making paracord bracelets and sponsoring a "cents for service" drive to collect loose change.
Share Your Time
- Visit someone in a nursing home. Consider bringing along card games or crafts.
- Read to an elementary school student after school.
- Take time to call your grandparents (or someone else's) for no particular reason. You'll hear the smile through the phone.
- Volunteer at a crisis hotline. While some have age requirements above 18, many organizations are in need of administrative help.
Gather spring cleaning volunteers with an online sign up! SAMPLE
Write About It
- Find opportunities for content-driven volunteering, such as writing for nonprofit websites and blogs. This can be a great way to build your resume while supporting a charitable organization.
- Participate in or form your own campaign to write letters to your Congressional representative about an issue you care about.
- Write thank you notes or stuff envelopes to acknowledge donors and other volunteers working with nonprofit organizations.
Organize Your Own Event
- Pick a cause you're passionate about, and for your next birthday party, ask guests to give donations instead of gifts.
- Offer free babysitting to a neighbor you know could really use the help. You could also offer babysitting at your church with a group of teens for a donation that goes to a favorite charity.
- Organize a car wash and donate the proceeds.
- Offer to mow the lawn or rake leaves for an elderly neighbor.
- Look into opportunities with DoSomething.org, an online community created to encourage teens to get involved in community service and social change.
- Check out VolunTEEN Nation's large database of volunteer opportunities searchable by interest, location and age.
Remember, approach volunteering with an open heart. Ultimately, you'll get much more out of it than you put in.
Laura Jackson is a freelance writer based in Hilton Head, S.C., with her husband and two teenagers.