Lend a little hand in your community, and make it a family affair! We've put together a guide to some places around Queens that need your help, including non-profit organizations, nursing homes, animal shelters, food pantries, and many more. Volunteer opportunities are available for children and adults alike. And remember - big or small, everyone has the power to make a difference!
It’s never too early to teach your youngsters the importance of volunteering and giving back to their community. By volunteering together, you can show them firsthand the positive impact they can make by using their time, energy, and compassion for the greater good. Rockland County offers many kid-friendly community service opportunities with a little something for every type of volunteer, from working outdoors to earn that green thumb to providing comfort to furry friends in local animal shelters. Whichever cause you choose, make volunteering a must on your list of family activities this year and take time to remind your children how important it is to reach out and help others in our world.
Feed the Hungry
At Citymeals On-Wheels, an organization that provides food and company to the elderly housebound in New York City, you can volunteer once or sign up for a longer commitment. Volunteers younger than 18, accompanied by an adult, can help hand-deliver meals. All prospective volunteers must submit an application along with two references and attend an orientation/training session prior to beginning their volunteer work. For more information, call Sheila Clay at 212-687-1234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org; to download a volunteer application, visit citymeals.org/volunteer.
The Youth Empowerment Program of Puppetry Arts (YEP!) is an arts- and civics-based youth development program for students ages 10-18 that empowers them to be stronger, proactive, and responsible citizens while building interactive relationships with each other and the community. YEP! provides projects such as group art programs, mentoring, professional support, youth-led community outreach, and volunteerism. Partnering with NYC schools in all five boroughs, YEP! targets teenagers from all backgrounds with special efforts for those that live within environments that lack significant role models or positive reinforcement from family or community. If your school or organization is interested in participating in YEP!, email email@example.com. Puppetry Arts offers many more volunteer opportunities for all ages; visit puppetryarts.org for more information.
Alley Pond Environmental Center engages volunteers along with college and high school-aged interns (ages 14 and older) in community service through assistance with animal care, outside work, educational programs, and special events. APEC provides guidance, training, and supervision, as well as a sense of commitment and sensitivity to environmental issues. Contact the volunteer coordinator Kameesha at 718-229-4000 x202 for volunteer opportunities, or visit alleypond.com for more information. 228-06 Northern Boulevard, Douglaston.
GrowNYC’s environmental education program implements a service learning model, where volunteers go out into their communities to make real changes in the areas of conservation and alternative energy. Common activities include tree planting along the Bronx River, city parks and school campuses in the city, during which volunteers learn about habitat restoration and why trees are important to our ecosystem, along with watershed maintenance, during which volunteers learn how they can help keep watersheds clean and ensure the city has healthy drinking water. Educational programs are grant-funded and city schools can sign up for free. GrowNYC staff works with teachers and students in four- or 8-week sessions. Grow to Learn is a city-wide program founded by GrowNYC and provides money to city schools so children can learn to grow gardens and their importance to the environment. For more information on Grow to Learn, visit growtolearn.org and learn about this citywide school gardens initiative. GrowNYC does not formally accept volunteers younger than 18, but middle school and high school students throughout the five boroughs can get involved through programs in their schools. If your child’s school is interested in getting involved with this program, contact director of the environmental education program Mike Zamm at 212-788-7932 or firstname.lastname@example.org; grownyc.org.
Partnerships for Parks helps New Yorkers work together to make neighborhood parks thrive. The organization has a diverse, growing network of dedicated park volunteers and groups and it provides opportunities for them to celebrate their parks, become more effective leaders in their communities, and work with government to affect decisions about their parks. Partnerships for Parks is a joint program of City Parks Foundation and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. For more information on how to get involved, visit partnershipsforparks.org.
Queens Botanical Garden offers a variety of volunteer opportunities for adults and teens ages 14 and older. Whether you like getting your hands dirty in the soil, prefer office work, or savor the excitement of special events, there are opportunities for every interest. Volunteers are interviewed and placed according to the garden’s needs, and training is provided. High school students can enroll in a summer volunteer program at the Children’s Garden. To apply, contact Rebecca Wolf at 718-886-3800 x237 or email@example.com. For general volunteer opportunities, download the volunteer application online at queensbotanical.org or contact Grisela Quiles at 718-886-3800 x203 or firstname.lastname@example.org. 43-50 Main St., Flushing.
Help the Homeless
The Partnership for the Homeless offers volunteer opportunities for ages 12 and older. Volunteers are needed for the organization’s two main annual events—a Thanksgiving dinner giveaway in November and a Children’s Holiday Party in December—as well as other smaller events throughout the year, which benefit homeless children and families throughout NYC. For more information, contact Ed Snowden at 212-645-3444 x107 or email@example.com.
Keep Someone Company
At local nursing homes, hospitals, and rehabilitation centers, an afternoon of your time can make all the difference to someone. Volunteers can just sit and chat with residents or organize a fun activity.
For volunteer opportunities at the Steve and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, apply online at northshorelij.com/ccmcny Volunteers can assist patients in the playrooms or at bedside. They can also greet visitors as they come and help out in the gift shop. Volunteers must be at least 14 years old. The summer program is full, but the center will be accepting applications for the fall. Contact Maxine Legall, coordinator of volunteer services, at 718-470-3258, or firstname.lastname@example.org. 269-01 76th Ave., New Hyde Park.
Lend a Hand at the Stable
Kids 16 and older can get involved with GallopNYC, which brings the benefits of therapeutic horseback riding to kids and adults with developmental, emotional, social, and physical challenges. Volunteers can help with lessons, supporting riders by leading their horses and providing encouragement; lend a hand with stable work; or participate in fundraising and special programs. Volunteers sign up on a weekly basis for two-hour shifts a week for multiple weeks. GallopNYC asks its volunteers to help with riding lessons (leading of horses) or sidewalking (two volunteers walk along either side of the horse). No experience is needed as training is provided. GallopNYC offers its programs at three stables: Kensington Stables, 51 Canton Place, near Prospect Park in Brooklyn; Jamaica Bay Riding Academy, Shore Parkway, Brooklyn; and Lynne’s Riding School, 88-03 70th Road, Forest Hills in Queens. Sign up to volunteer at gallopnyc.org/volunteer or contact Ellen Dry at 917-727-1241 or email@example.com.
Make a Wish Come True
The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Metro New York grants wishes to children with life threatening medical conditions. Children in kindergarten through 12th grade can participate in Kids for Wish Kids, a program that develops project ideas to fundraise for Make-A-Wish. Take part on your own or recruit others to help. Volunteers don’t need to raise enough to sponsor a whole wish, but every little bit helps a wish come true. A bake sale, pajama days, car wash, read-a-thon, or penny drives are all great ways to start raising money. Make-A-Wish will provide balloons, buttons, banners, and other MAW items to sell. For Kids for Wish Kids, contact Kathie Lombardi at 516-944-6212 x141. For other volunteer opportunities, contact volunteer services coordinator Sarah Jacobs at 516-944-6212 x130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Serve Your Community
March is Red Cross Month. The American Red Cross provides relief to individuals affected by disasters and helps people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies. Parents and kids age 13 and older can help with mailings, hand out flyers at fundraising walks, help with fundraising events, or come up with their own projects to raise money for the Red Cross. Teens ages 14-18 can start or join a Red Cross Club at their high school. For more information or to fill out the online volunteer application, visit nyredcross.org. The Queens branch of the Red Cross is located at 138-02 Queens Blvd., Briarwood; 718-558-0053.
Spring Clean Your Closet
Enlist your kids in the process of cleaning out their closets. It can even turn into a fashion show to see what still fits. Take your kids with you when you donate the clothes so they can see the good their efforts are doing. Check with your local Salvation Army thrift store for instructions on donating clothes:
• 148-15 Archer Ave., Jamaica; 718-523-4648
• 34-02 Steinway St., Astoria; 718-472-2414
• 462 Hempstead Turnpike, Elmont; 516-354-9498
• 39-11 61st St., Flushing; 718-458-1526
Start Your Own Project
The NYC-based DoSomething.org is one of the largest organizations in the United States that helps young people rock causes they care about. Kids older than 12 can join or start their own Do Something Club in their community and take action all year through Do Something’s campaigns and their own projects (apply at dosomething.org/clubs). You can also apply for a Do Something grant (dosomething.org/grants) to start your own community project—the organization gives out two $500 grants per week. For more information, contact Chloe Lee at 212-254-2390 ext. 231 or email@example.com.
Use Common Cents
Students in schools across the five boroughs can participate in Penny Harvest, the largest children’s philanthropy in the US, to raise money for different causes, including animal rescue and homelessness. Children ages 4-14 have collected pennies and turned them into grants for community organizations. Volunteers can also complete neighborhood service projects through Penny Harvest. The Run for Change event, scheduled for April 28 in Manhattan, is a run-walk event for Penny Harvest. Fundraise for the event or volunteer to staff it; visit celebration.commoncents.org for more information and to sign up. For more information on Penny Harvest, visit commoncents.org or contact Gracie Rifino at 212-736-6437 x114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Walk for the Cause
Head to nymetroparents.com/walks to find fundraising walks in your community. Walking together for a cause can bring your family closer together while supporting a worthy organization. It’s also a great way to get outdoors, add exercise, and make new friends. Most charity walks in the Connecticut and the New York metro area take place in the spring and fall. Be sure to plan ahead, because the sooner you register, the longer you have to raise money for the cause.
Work for Water
The UNICEF Tap Project is a nationwide campaign that affords everyone the opportunity to help provide the world’s children with safe, clean water. We don’t usually think twice about the quality of our water but more than 900 million people around the globe do not have access to clean drinking water and approximately 4,100 children perish from water-related illnesses daily. A one-dollar donation can provide a child with clean water for 40 days, or 40 children with access to safe water for one day. World Water Week (March 19-25) will raise awareness of the world water crisis and vital funds to help millions of children it impacts daily. Kids can join the cause by organizing a lemonade stand, bake sale, car wash, or similar fundraising event and donating their proceeds. Visit tapproject.org/volunteer to sign up and find a list of ways to get involved.
To further encourage your children to volunteer, check out this great contest opportunity from Kids Who Give.