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November 13, 2019

Start a Giving Back Tradition: Best Ways to Volunteer and Give Back as a Family in Tampa Bay

By Laura Byrne

Giving back is on everyone’s tongues, hearts and minds around the holiday season. While Thanksgiving is a perfect time to think about the importance of giving back, learning to appreciate what they have and to help others in need is a life lesson our children can learn year-round. This is the perfect time of year  to choose an organization to help and perhaps begin a new family tradition. Here’s our handy guide of places that you and your family can explore together.

Metropolitan Ministries: Metropolitan Ministries hosts a Holiday Tent in Tampa as well as partner tent locations in Pinellas and Pasco counties where people of all ages and backgrounds come together to make the holidays special. More than 15,000 volunteers serve in the Holiday Tents each year distributing food and toys to thousands of families in need in Tampa Bay. Children over 12 years old can also help prepare meals with their families in the Metropolitan Ministries kitchen. Learn more about volunteering at Metropolitan Ministries: metromin.org/volunteer

Metropolitan Ministries

Feeding Tampa Bay: Feeding Tampa Bay encourages families to volunteer at the morning or afternoon warehouse food sorting sessions held daily from Tuesdays through Saturdays. Through kid-friendly, age-appropriate activities, each family member will gain awareness about the 1 in 4 children in our community who go hungry—and see how they can actually do something to help them. For more information and to register for warehouse volunteering and other family friendly volunteer opportunities, visit: feedingtampabay.org/volunteer 

High Risk Hope: High Risk Hope’s Books for Babies is an easy way to involve children in giving back with the organization’s mission to help families dealing with premature birth. Children can a host school book drive or donate their own gently used books to be placed in NICU Napsacks given to the parents of premature infants. Learn more at highriskhope.org

Hope Children’s Home: Hope Children’s Home takes in abused and orphaned children and provides them a family atmosphere with house parents who are always there to guide and encourage them. Hope Children’s Home is entirely supported by community members like you, churches, clubs and organizations, so your family’s volunteer efforts are vital. Learn more about volunteer opportunities and create your volunteer profile at hopechildrenshome.org/new-volunteer/ 

Goodwill’s Bookworks program: Since 1999, this program has put books into the hands of 40,000 kids in our eight-county area each year. To volunteer, you and your kids can donate new or gently used books or even host a book drive of your own. Kids ages 10 and up can also volunteer by becoming a Story Reader in local classrooms or helping sort, clean and prepare books for donation. Learn more at goodwill-suncoast.org

Bookworks at Goodwill

Ronald McDonald House: The Ronald McDonald House has many opportunities for the whole family to get involved. Children under 14 can make and decorate snack bags for families with children in hospital, collect items for the wish list drive and hold penny drives to support the families. Children ages 14 and up can volunteer by preparing dinner for resident families at one of the four Tampa Bay Ronald McDonald Houses. To learn more about Ronald McDonald House and the volunteering opportunities available, visit rmhctampabay.org 

Meals on Wheels: Meals on Wheels serves seniors in the Tampa area who live independently in their own homes but require help getting the meals they need. You can volunteer with Meals on Wheels by delivering nutritious meals and providing daily visits for the homebound seniors. Children can brighten seniors’ days by riding along with their parents for meal delivery or by making gifts for the seniors to keep them from being lonely. Visit mowtampa.volunteerhub.com to sign up to deliver meals. 

The Salvation Army: Did you know 75% of The Salvation Army‘s income to help families in need comes from bell ringing? Kids ages 8 and older may volunteer with their parents as bell ringers at more than 100 locations throughout Tampa Bay from early November through Dec. 24. The Red Kettle tradition that began back in 1895 helps raise money to help local families with food, shelter and emergency assistance. You can learn more about how to take part in Tampa’s Salvation Army Kettle Bell program by visiting: salvationarmyflorida.org or registertoring.com. 

The Salvation Army

Kids Helping Kids Pasco County, Inc.: This nonprofit was established last year by local mom Michelle Patel and they’ve already made a big difference in Pasco County! The goal is to encourage kids to give back to their community through small acts of kindness like preparing bags of food, packing and donating backpacks of school supplies, donating entire Thanksgiving meals and meeting Christmas Wish lists. Drives are scheduled for Thanksgiving and Christmas. To learn more, visit their Facebook page: Facebook.com/KidsHelpingKidsPasco

Clothes to Kids: Young ones can learn about this charity’s mission to provide free new and quality used clothing to low-income or in crisis school-age children. Then, they can help by going through their closets and choosing items to donate items for local kids in need. Your kids can even help you shop for brand new clothes to donate. To find out what Clothes To Kids needs right now and how to donate, visit clothestokids.org.

Toys for Tots: Toys for Tots is the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve program for helping families in need have the holiday season they deserve by collecting and distributing Christmas gifts. Families with young children can set up toy drives to collect donations before the holidays. Those with children over 16 can volunteer in the warehouse in the sorting process. To learn more about the Toys for Tots program, visit tampa-fl.toysfortots.org

Humane Society of Tampa Bay: The Humane Society of Tampa Bay is committed to helping homeless animals by providing shelter and care. Children ages 5 to 12 can volunteer in the Paws for Literacy program in which they read to animals to make them feel more comfortable. Children under 16 can volunteer with a parent or guardian to walk dogs, play with cats, clean kennels, and more. Volunteers can also collect items from the organization’s wish list to donate. Register for a volunteer open house or learn more about volunteering opportunities at the Humane Society by visiting humanesocietytampa.org/become-a-volunteer/  

More ways to help:

Don’t forget about your school, PTA, church, community organizations, local diaper banks and other non-profits your family supports. While it’s hard to find organizations where very young kids can volunteer, you can get the philanthropy seed planted early by encouraging them to donate their gently used toys, books and clothing. They can also host fundraisers or food drives. One of our favorite trends is asking for donations for a selected non-profit instead of birthday gifts!

Local hospitals often need donations for their Child Life Departments which helps support children and teens during their stay at the hospital. Wish list items include baby toys, board games, Play-Doh, Legos and more. Check out these links for needs:

St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital: https://www.give2stjoeskids.org/wishlist/

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital: https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/Giving

For other holiday articles check out our Holiday Family Fun.

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