It’s never too early to teach children the importance of giving back to others. Many organizations and charities need help year-round, but during the holiday season, the need is even greater. COVID-19 took a hit on charities worldwide, and food banks, homeless shelters and donation sites are in dire need of help, especially during the holidays. Some charities have started to see an increase in participation and donations, but plenty of opportunities remain unfilled.
Project-based volunteering is a great way to get little ones involved. Making holiday cards to send to senior citizens, military posted away from home or hospital-bound children can teach what giving back is all about. Organizing a toy drive or setting up a lemonade stand to raise funds for charity are also kid-friendly ways to help others. Some organizations have age requirements for in-person volunteering, but several opportunities exist for younger children also.
We’ve rounded up some local organizations you can look into for volunteering opportunities to give back for your little ones. Be sure to check with local schools, houses of worship, hospitals and local businesses to ask about charities and organizations that they may partner with as well. If volunteering in-person isn’t an option, most organizations are always in need of donations and funds.
Feeding Tampa Bay
Perfect for: All ages | Feeding Tampa Bay provides 2 million meals per week to 10 counties. Children as young as 5 can sort food in the warehouse with an accompanying adult, and Family Nights are open to all ages. Children 16 and older can also serve at the organization’s Trinity Café. Affinity Groups break volunteers down in age groups from 6-13, 14-18 and 18-24. These groups will teach how to lead others to help fight hunger and inspire them to take action. Masks are still encouraged. feedingtampabay.org
Meals on Wheels Tampa
Perfect for: All ages | Meals on Wheels provides hot, healthy meals to homebound and senior members of the community who live independently in their own homes. The Produce on Wheels (POW!) program delivers fresh, healthy produce free of charge on the third Saturday of every month. Meals on Wheels also provides hurricane preparedness packs, cards and baked goods on Thanksgiving morning, and holiday gift bags of books, games, snacks, juice and toiletries the third Saturday in December. Meals on Wheels has also partnered with The Humane Society of Tampa Bay to deliver free bags of pet food through their Animeals program. Although drivers must be 18 and older, children of any age can tag along to deliver meals, produce, pet food and gifts. mowtampa.org
Kids Helping Kids Pasco County
Perfect for: All ages | Local mom Michelle Patel started this organization to encourage kids to create change by giving back in their community, one small act at a time. They host periodic philanthropic events that allow children to volunteer and give back. This year, they will host their fourth annual Thanksgiving food drive Nov. 20 at Land O Lakes Heritage Park. In December, families will have opportunities to donate to their 2021 Angel Tree. Visit their Facebook page to sign up for volunteer opportunities. Facebook.com/kidshelpingkidspasco
Toys for Tots
Perfect for: Ages 5 and up | The Marine Corps has donated over 600 million toys through the Toys for Tots program since 1947. Families can organize toy drives for new, unwrapped toys at their home, office or other venue. Volunteers can also sort toys at the warehouse for distribution. Children ages 5-14 must be supervised by someone over the age of 18, while those over 15 may be unsupervised with a signed waiver. You can even participate from home by purchasing toys through their virtual toybox. toysfortots.org
Humane Society of Tampa Bay
Perfect for: Ages 5 and up | The Paws for Literacy program allows children ages 5-12 to read to animals after school. Children under 16 can volunteer with a parent or guardian to walk dogs, play with cats and clean kennels. The Teen Program for ages 12-15 allows kids to earn 20 hours of volunteer work by working with animals and assisting with the Humane Education program. Volunteers in the Teen Program do not need to have a parent or guardian present. Donations such as towels, pet food and cleaning supplies are also always welcomed. humanesocietytampa.org
Perfect for: Ages 8 and up | Metropolitan Ministries provides food and essential daily items for families in need. They serve over 75,000 meals each month in Tampa Bay, and over 20,000 holiday meals during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Volunteers are needed to serve meals, host food drives, stock the shelves at the Metro Market or serve in the annual Holiday Tent. Children under 8 can participate but must be at least 14 to volunteer without an adult. metromin.org
The Junior League of Tampa Diaper Bank
This is the only diaper bank in Hillsborough County. “Diaper drops” can be set up at homes, offices, schools and most community locations. Online donations and direct purchases through their Amazon wish list are also available. jltampa.org/community/diaperbank/
Pinellas County’s diaper bank provides diapers, wipes, formula and other necessities to families in need. Their website includes a list of drop-off locations around the county. Online donations can also be made. babycyclefl.org
This grassroots, volunteer-driven organization provides clothing, shoes and hygiene items to low-income students in Hillsborough County. They partner with over 230 social workers in public schools throughout the county to ensure that students can receive items they may need. The organization can arrange for donations to be dropped off or picked up, and online donations can be made through their Amazon wish list. oasisopportunities.org/
Ronald McDonald House Tampa Bay
Ronald McDonald House Tampa Bay keeps families close to their children who are receiving lifesaving treatment in local area hospitals. As well as accommodation, families receive compassionate support and resources. Although most in-person volunteer opportunities are suspended due to COVID-19, trained desk volunteers and pickup volunteers are needed. Volunteers can also pack snack packs, toiletry kits and kids’ activity kits and collect pop-tabs from cans to be recycled. Online donations are highly encouraged. Community members can even adopt a room, providing families private accommodations during their stay.
Originally Published in the November 2021 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.