As someone who has spent the past decade working in the field of philanthropy, it's incredibly important to me to raise kids who understand the importance of showing compassion for others and acting on that compassion. However, it can be difficult to find local volunteer opportunities that are age-appropriate and do not require long-term commitments (which may not be realistic for many at this hectic stage of life). I've done some research, though; here are five Boston-area volunteer opportunities that family members can participate in together:
1. Socialize with elderly residents at Hale House. Located in the Back Bay, Hale House is a residential assisted living facility for an active and diverse older population. Volunteers visit Hale House to socialize and play games such as bingo and Scrabble with residents. This is a great opportunity to converse with a dynamic and lively older population. Volunteer activities are best suited for children 8 years and older. One-time volunteers are welcome; however, all visits should be scheduled in advance.
2. Create a "birthday in a box" for a homeless child. Based in Newton Centre, Birthday Wishes is a non-profit organization that brings the magic of birthday parties to thousands of homeless children each year. They believe that all children, regardless of their living situation, should celebrate their birthdays joyfully. Volunteers create birthday boxes containing various party supplies for children who live in 'safe' shelters that do not allow outside volunteers to enter the shelter. The boxes allow parents to have a party for their child in the safety and comfort of their shelter. This is an opportunity in which children of any age can participate and there is no expectation of a long-term commitment. First-time volunteers must register prior to participation.
3. Make lunch for women at On The Rise. Located in Cambridge, On The Rise is a day program for homeless women. The goal of On The Rise is to create a safe community in which homeless women can access resources and develop the relationships they need to move out of homelessness. Volunteers cook a meal in own home and deliver it to On The Rise. This volunteer opportunity is available 6 days per week. All ages are welcome to volunteer and individuals can sign-up one time or multiple times. There is no expectation of a long-term commitment.
4. Plant vegetables at Stearns Farm. The mission of Stearns Farm in Framingham is to preserve the historic farm as a sustainable all-natural garden, providing locally grown food in partnership between the land, the farmer, and the community. Excess food from Stearns Farm is donated to the needy. Volunteers plant vegetables and actively participate in the farming process. There is no official age requirement for volunteers; however, field work is involved so they generally suggest that volunteers be age 10 and older. There is no expectation of a long-term commitment. Volunteers are welcome Tuesday through Saturday from 9:45 to noon; however, visits should be scheduled in advance.
5. Rose garden with the Emerald Necklace Conservancy. Volunteers of all skill levels are needed to prune, deadhead, weed, and care for the roses in the Kelleher Rose Garden, in the Back Bay Fens. Rosarians will be on hand to train and demonstrate rose care. This is a unique opportunity to learn gardening techniques while helping to maintain and beautify one of the jewels of the Emerald Necklace. Children of all ages are welcome if accompanied and supervised by an adult. Volunteers are usually regulars, but one-time visits are welcome.
For more ideas on how you and your children can volunteer in the Boston community, visit VolunteerMatch.org and BostonCares.org. And if you have great ideas for other volunteer opportunities in the Boston area, feel free to share them below in the comments!
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