When life feels overwhelming, it’s tempting to curl up on the couch and worry only about my own little family. But reaching out a helping hand is such a beautiful act of hope. When we volunteer, donate, and care for others, it brings light to our own worlds — and that applies to our kids, too.
Let’s be honest: It can look pretty dark these days. According to Feeding America, the number of people seeking help from food banks is up 60% — and many local charities have echoed that they’re seeing huge increases in the numbers of people looking for help. But as Mister Rogers would say, “look for the helpers.” Then, take it a step further, and be a helper!
Local Volunteering Opportunities for Families and Kids
DuPage Pads works to end homelessness in DuPage County by supporting clients with overnight shelters, life coaching, job counseling, and more.
Virtual volunteer opportunities include creating Boredom Busting Kits with a Pinterest-worthy project for local families, writing a short recipe for a cookbook project, and more. Another idea with big impact? Host your own food drive or purchase these essential items to donate. The DuPagePads Client Service Center has a contact-free drop-off box in its parking lot.
You can also check out the DuPage Pads Amazon wish list for their current needs.
Feed My Starving Children offers a hands-on volunteering experience for any sized group. Families hand-pack dried vegetables, rice, soy and a nutritionally complete blend of vitamins/minerals into bags. The meals are then sent to groups around the world. Feed My Starving Children has required adult-to-children ratios for larger groups, and all volunteers must be 5 years or older.
FMSC is still running packing sessions! The minimum age has been raised to 8, and people in high-risk categories are asked to stay home. Check the website to reserve a time for your family.
Hinsdale Humane Society supports animals and families with lost pets, pet therapy and fostering programs, community outreach and obedience classes. Animal shelters in general are always looking for donations of food, cleaning supplies, etc. Consider hosting a garage or bake sale and donating all your proceeds to the animals.
In addition to fostering and adopting animals, you can also sponsor a homeless animal. Looking through the pet photos and profiles is a great family activity!
St. Cletus Food Pantry in La Grange serves residents throughout 18 municipalities in Lyons Township. Volunteers must be at least 13 years old and are needed on Thursday nights from 5:30-8:30pm. Dress for the weather, you will be outside! Click here to be taken to the signup.
The Inside Out Club is a nonprofit that focuses on helping kids develop character, and they’ve done an amazing job pivoting to online events. Check their calendar for upcoming weekend events! These include several virtual Zoom events where kids work on projects to donate to local charities.
After you register, you can pick up supplies in Naperville to have on hand for the event; afterwards, you’ll drop off the completed projects in the same place. The club will film the donation being dropped off so kids can see the impact, too!
Playitforward started in Wheaton in 2014 and has since grown to Naperville, Arlington Heights, Elmhurst, Chicago, and beyond since then. They have regular events to spread kindness and help our children learn to be kind and grow up to be kind adults. While their website has not been updated recently, their Facebook page is regularly updated with local events, projects, and inspiration.
The LeaderShop inspires youth to become community-minded individuals through their array of training classes, retreats, and workshops. Currently, the organization is offering a new R.I.S.E program to support students during e-learning and offer safer opportunities for social-emotional learning.
Loaves and Fishes provides community members with groceries, as well as educational and employment resources through their CARES programs.
Organize a food drive to help collect the most-needed items. Kids can get in on the action by contacting friends and relatives, asking them to donate, and picking up donations from the porch to bring to Loves and Fishes.
The virtual food drive lets you view the most-needed items, add them to your cart, and purchase them online. Right now, this also includes Holiday Hope meal donations to help brighten the holiday season! My kids liked being able to see and pick out the food together with my husband and I. It was a great opportunity to talk about why these items are needed and the impact of hunger in our community.
Meals on Wheels works with volunteers to deliver hot meals to senior citizens and disabled community members. Volunteers pick up and deliver meals at lunchtime, Monday through Friday. Volunteers must attend a training session, and must be over the age of 18; however, minors may participate if accompanied by an adult. This organization has made such a difference in the communities it serves!
Check out their volunteer page for ways to get involved.
Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization. Through their website, you can select from a wide variety of relief efforts to support with monetary donations. With Operation Christmas Child, families send shoeboxes full of small gifts to children around the world, many of which who may be receiving Christmas gifts for the first time. Select a theme, or pick out favorite small toys to include for their donations. The FAQ page has guidelines about items to pack.
Families are welcome to pack as many boxes as they would like with a suggested donation of $9 per box. This is intended to cover processing and shipping costs. In order to volunteer at a drop-off location, your child must be 13 years of age. National collection week is November 16–23, 2020 at various drop-off locations in the suburbs. Check out the website for YouTube and Veggie Tales videos that explain Operation Christmas Child and how to pack your box.
Operation Warm focuses on keeping children warm during the cold winter months. Instead of collecting used coats in a coat drive, monetary donations are used to provide new winter coats to children. Money can be used to purchase coats sent to a local distribution event, or in neighboring cities.
Check out their website for inspiration on how to create your own fundraiser, start a drive, or get the family involved in a garage sale to keep children warm this winter season.
Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization that helps build and improve homes for families. They offer several ways to get involved starting from age 5! Check out their website on how you can volunteer and assist someone to finally feel “at home.”
DuPage Habitat for Humanity and Habitat for Humanity Chicago South Suburbs share a joint calendar of volunteer events, which also includes a list of creative ways kids can start their own fundraisers.
Ronald McDonald House Charities has countless ways for people to volunteer. Whether setting up a weekly commitment, or volunteering periodically, you’ll make a difference in the lives of families who are away from home as their children are treated for medical concerns. Group volunteering include planning family activities, preparing meals or baking cookies. Individual activities include home improvement projects or cleaning common areas. Some of the volunteer opportunities have minimum age requirements for children. The Volunteer Manager will help you find the best fit for your family.
Ronald McDonald House Charities are located near the following hospitals: Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Edward Hospital in Naperville, Loyola Medical Center in Hines, Lurie’s Children’s Hospital in Chicago, Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, and UChicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital in Chicago. Click the link above to read more and fill out a volunteer application for the location nearest you.
The GardenWorks project assists families in DuPage County each spring by helping plant home gardens. This organization helps families by providing garden beds, seeds, and organic gardening education. They truly believe everyone is capable of growing their own produce that will be healthy for them and their family. There are many different ways to get involved with this organization from gardening pro, to grant writer, to getting to the site to build the garden.
ARF – IL is a non-profit, 501 (3) (c), no-kill humane society. This organization is dedicated to rescuing, fostering, and caring for dogs and cats while searching for forever homes for them. Volunteering opportunities include being a pet foster home, helping to transport animals, and participating in adoption events. All volunteer opportunities require the participant to be 18 years or older, but some allow for adult supervision if you are younger than 18. Check the volunteer page for more information.
World Relief is accepting virtual volunteers! They are a volunteer organization that welcomes refugees and immigrants, helping them acclimate to life here. They have several local chapters including Chicago, and DuPage/Aurora.
Volunteer opportunities include friendship partners, ESL aides, youth group volunteers, mentors, and tutoring. You can also help with a collection project to collect items such as school supplies, toiletries, and more; see their top needs during COVID-19 here.
Don’t forget! You can get your children involved in service through a variety of other ways. Children can make a difference in their local community through school clubs or PTO groups, religious groups, or scout organizations. With the holidays approaching, making cards for a hospital or retirement home is always appreciated. And lastly, Random Acts of Kindness are wonderfully positive ways to teach the beauty of good deeds and selflessness to children.
We hope to be able to host the Kidlist Family Volunteering Event again in the future too!
Thanks for reading, and check out the rest of our amazing articles to get ideas for fun things to do with kids!