Summertime is finally here, and that means it’s time for beach trips, camping, picnics and spending afternoons at the community park. It’s also a fantastic time to figure out how you can give back to your community. Bringing your kids along during their summer vacation is a fun and easy way to introduce them to the concept of volunteering and show them an exciting way to contribute to their community. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few tips, tricks and ideas to help get the ball rolling.
1. Coach a Team
If your child loves to play sports, why not start volunteering by coaching your local youth sports team? In most cases, it’s on a volunteer basis, but sports teams always need coaches and volunteers to organize the players and make sure everyone is following the rules. If you have older children, bring them along to coach younger teams. If you don’t have a sports team in your area for the age bracket you need, consider taking steps to start one.
2. Visit the Elderly
Currently in the United States, there are more than 28,000 assisted living facilities, and many of the people who live in them don’t have family to visit them or spend time with them. Check with your local assisted living facilities to see what their rules are for volunteer visits. Most are more than happy to have visitors of all ages, as long as they behave well, to talk, play board games or read stories with the residents.
3. Work in a Soup Kitchen
Upwards of 49 million people don’t get enough to eat every day, according to USDA statistics. Most cities offer food for those without food security in the form of food banks or soup kitchens, but these resources are all volunteer-run. If you really want to give back to your community this summer, look into volunteering at one of these locations, donating food or both. There are always soup kitchens that can use some help, whether that help comes in time, money, food donations or some other form.
4. Build a Playground
Now, unless you run a construction company, chances are you won’t be doing the building yourself — but if you don’t have a playground or safe place to play in your area, taking some steps to build one can be a satisfying way to contribute. You’ll need to talk to people in the neighborhood, including businesses, to see if a playground is a good idea and would be beneficial to your area. You will also need to talk to city planners and councilmembers to obtain all the necessary permits before you can even break ground. However, it’s worth doing the legwork, as a playground can be a valuable asset to any neighborhood.
5. Visit a Hospital
Just like with assisted living facilities, there may be many long-term patients at your local hospital that could benefit from a visit. This volunteer opportunity may only be open to older children, depending on the rules of the facility, but in most cases, hospitals are happy to have people who are willing to spend time with their patients. Check with your local hospital to find out what their rules are for volunteering.
6. Volunteer at a Nonprofit
Plenty of places in your area, like museums and art galleries, are always in need of volunteers to lead tours and teach visitors about the exhibits. While some of these positions may require special training, many of them just need someone who is willing to offer their time and learn about the exhibits. In addition to being an excellent way to volunteer this summer, you might end up learning something new!
7. Serve on a Board
Running for public office might be a bit too much for a summer job — it tends to be an entire career — but you can volunteer by serving on a community board. Let your elected officials know what you think and maybe make a difference in your community by volunteering, especially if you have administrative or executive talents. Many boards are at a distinct disadvantage because they are nonprofit and don’t often have the funds to attract the best talent. Volunteering for them can be a gratifying way to help your community.
You don’t have to skip your beach or vacation plans this summer. Just plan in some time to volunteer in your community in between all your summer vacation fun. You might learn something new, and it can be a great way to contribute to your community and do a little bit of good until school starts again in the fall. Bring the kids along! It’s the perfect opportunity to teach them how important it is to volunteer, and they may have some fun along the way.
Jennifer Landis is a 29-year-old healthy living blogger who loves yoga, running, and dancing it out with her toddler! You can find more from Jennifer at her blog, Mindfulness Mama, or by following her on Twitter: @jenniferelandis.