One way to make sure you have a successful year is by planning to give back. There are so many ways for teens to get involved in their community all year long.
Teens today are more cause-oriented than previous generations. They care about environmental causes, animal rescues, and more. We’ve come up with the top volunteer opportunities for teens each season—winter, spring, summer, and fall—so you can do something good all year.
Soup Kitchens and Food Pantries
One of the best ways to help someone in their time of need is to give them a good meal, especially in the colder months and around the holidays. Soup kitchens and food pantries serve communities both large and small. They help people get nutritious food for free or for a small donation. Volunteers help collect, package, prepare and distribute food for guests. Note that some facilities have an age requirement, so you may need a parent to volunteer with you.
To find a soup kitchen or food pantry near you, visit FoodPantries.org.
Hospitals and Nursing Homes
Healthcare facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes often rely on volunteers, whether for transporting patients to the cafeteria, running the gift shop, greeting visitors, or just chatting with residents. Most hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities to require some training before you begin, and you may also need parent permission. Some facilities require background checks and a minimum time commitment. Contact your local hospital or nursing home for more information on their volunteer programs.
Create the Good also has a list of opportunities at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
The Red Cross
Whether you hope to support a community during a crisis or year-round through a variety of programs, the Red Cross is an iconic volunteer organization. There are plenty of opportunities to support their three lines of service: blood, preparedness, and fundraising. They even help connect youth who want to volunteer in their communities with Red Cross Clubs.
Find a Red Cross Club in your area or learn how to start one at your school.
Volunteerism isn’t just for supporting our human friends. Animal shelters rely on volunteers to help care for animals and their facilities, as well as for events and activities. Volunteers often help walk dogs, groom cats, clean kennels, and assist with meals. Working with animals creates many benefits for people, as well. Some shelters have a minimum age for volunteers, and you may need parental consent.
The Humane Society has volunteer opportunities nationwide, or you can get in touch with your local animal shelter to find out how you can help.
When the ground starts to thaw, it’s time to start a garden. Share the harvest by starting or joining a community garden. If you’ve got a green thumb, you can grow plants that produce food, support your local environment, and even help your local food pantry. If you’re not a natural gardener, help out by building garden beds, collecting compost materials, or transporting materials.
The American Community Gardening Association can help you find a garden nearby.
Smithsonian Transcription Center
If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity you can sign up for right from home, the Smithsonian Institution uses virtual volunteers to transcribe historical and scientific documents. They have vast collections of handwritten documents that volunteers read and type. The typed transcriptions allow for better readability and searchability. Once you’ve finished a project, another volunteer reviews your work before it’s submitted to Smithsonian staff for use. You can sign up for free and access the collections 24/7.
National Park Service
The National Park Service includes more than the 61 big national parks you've heard of, like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon. There are over 400 national park sites across the country, including battlefields, monuments, and recreation areas. Each has its unique volunteer opportunities to support operations and preservation. The NPS offers one-time and ongoing volunteer programs. Some involve special skills or training, and others may require a background check. You must have parental consent to volunteer if you’re under the age of 18.
Find a site near you and start volunteering in a national park this summer.
Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity’s mission is to create decent and affordable housing. It builds houses worldwide and needs volunteers to help with building and repairing. However, they also appreciate help with fundraising, advocating, and educating. There are one-time, long-term, and group volunteer opportunities with Habitat for Humanity. Its youth volunteer programs have nearly 500 campus chapters at high schools and colleges nationwide.
Boys and Girls Club
The Boys and Girls Clubs of America helps kids, especially those in vulnerable populations, to reach their fullest potential. There are clubs nationwide that strive to create a positive and hopeful environment during out-of-school time. Volunteers work with children ages six and up on homework, craft projects, and games. They also inspire leadership, promote tech literacy, and help build job skills.
Find a club and sign up to volunteer with the Boys and Girls Club in your area.
Many library systems enlist volunteers to re-shelve books, help patrons find what they’re looking for, and assist with events and other programs. Libraries often host a wide range of activities through which you can help staff, support young readers, tutor students, and pitch in during classes on all kinds of topics (from long division to knitting). Volunteering with the library can be a great way to help others in your community, and it can help you get to know more about the services and materials.
Visit your local library branch to see how you can get involved.
Like libraries, schools often turn to volunteers for tutoring and academic support. You can help younger kids or students who are struggling to master concepts that you can explain well. Schools also benefit from an extra pair of hands and eyes during after-school programs and other community events. Some districts even sponsor mentorship programs to help younger students benefit from older kids’ interest and support.
Contact your nearest school’s guidance counselor or your district administrators to find out what opportunities are available. Also, look at the many nonprofits that work with schools.
UNICEF has enlisted help from trick-or-treaters since 1950. Using the iconic orange boxes to collect donations, kids of all ages can help raise funds for UNICEF. Donations are used to help provide immunizations, education, healthcare, safe water, and more for kids in 190 countries. Donations can be submitted year-round to support the campaign.