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Helping Out: Volunteer ideas for young kids

Remind kids that there are other less fortunate folks out there by getting them involved in some volunteer projects.

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Raleigh mission packs, delivers food to needy families
Sarah Lindenfeld Hall

Along with the Christmas trees and tinsel and treats come the gimmees this time of year. I'm talking about the whining and general bad behavior that results when kids get a little greedy.

Throughout the year, I think it's always good to remind them that there are other less fortunate folks out there. But this time of year, it's always good to hammer that lesson home a little bit harder.

So I called over to the United Way of the Greater Triangle, which helps and works with local nonprofits and other groups in Wake, Durham and Orange counties. And Dalia Santos, a coordinator there, sent over some tips and ideas for volunteer projects for kids, along with some specific agencies where kids can help out.

Today I'll focus on preschoolers to grade schoolers. Come back next Wednesday for ideas for tweens and teens.

Here's what Santos shared with me:

General projects for preschoolers to grade schoolers

  • Making holiday cards for seniors. Not many supplies are needed except some crayons and construction paper. Then take your children to the senior homes and have them give the cards to the seniors themselves. It's important for your child to help you deliver the cards so they can see how they have brightened the day of senior and see how much they helped.
  • Park clean up, landscaping or community garden. These projects are great for this age group because there is generally not an age requirement to be able to help. They can help plant flowers, clean trails and pick up trash.
  • Donations and toy drives. If you choose to do an angel tree or pack a holiday meal be sure to include the child in picking out the toy, making the shopping list or organizing a coat drive. They can be involved in asking friends, family and neighbors to contribute to the drive and be sure to include them in delivering the items to the agency they are supporting.
  • Healthy snack sacks. There are many agencies serving kids who could benefit from healthy snack donations. Grab some paper bags and healthly snacks like raisins, pretzels, granola bars, etc. Have your child decorate the bags and fill the bags with the snacks. Many Boys & Girls Clubs and homeless shelters that support families could benefit greatly from these types of donations

Santos tells me these specific agencies could use some help:

  • Resources for Seniors in Wake County and Durham Center for Senior Life in Durham County. Just be sure to contact the senior centers to coordinate a visit.
  • Boys and Girls Club in Wake County is always looking for healthy snack donations. They also have an angel tree this year. Contact volunteer coordinator Tia McLaurin at 919-834-6282.
  • Genesis Home in Durham. They are looking for volunteers to sponsor families and cover their needs for winter coats. A family with kids also could work together to cook a meal for a family at the Genesis House. Contact Circles of Support and Volunteer Coordinator Tasha Melvin at 919-683-5878, ext. 28 for more information.
There are many other agencies who need help now and all year. For other ideas, you can check the United Way's Volunteer Solutions website, which connects volunteers to opportunities across the Triangle. You can search the site by location, special interest or agency.

Make plans to participate in the 6th annual Triangle Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, which is sponsored by the United Way here. There will be service projects taking place across the Triangle that day including youth and family-friendly projects. Projects will be listed on the Volunteer Solutions site starting Dec. 1. Volunteers can use the site to reserve a spot.

And check back next Wednesday for tips for tweens and teens.


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