Holiday Helpers: Awesome Places to Volunteer as a Family

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This time of year, there’s no shortage of reminders to give as much as you receive. Whether it’s toy drives, sponsoring a family in need or bringing canned food donations to pretty much any and every holiday event, charity is top of mind right now. But people need help all year long, and there’s no better gift than teaching youngsters to give of themselves. Here are 10 ways to get involved in the community—now and later.


Neighborhood libraries in the District
Library helpers can volunteer up to five hours a week at any of D.C.’s 26 public libraries. In exchange for restacking books and other tasks, they earn community service credit.

Ages: 14 and up
901 G St., NW

food-and-friendsPhoto credit: Food and Friends via Facebook

Food & Friends
This organization delivers meals to more than 5,300 square miles in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia region. Although kids can’t do the driving, they can help with food prep and packaging.

Ages: 14 and up
219 Riggs Road, NE

Miriam’s Kitchen
Although volunteers must be at least 18 in the kitchen and 21 in the dining room, youngsters can still help. One way is by organizing a donation drive to collect clothing, food and toiletries.

Ages: All
2401 Virginia Ave., NW

Arlington Food Assistance Center
The second Monday of each month, this nonprofit serving about 2,200 families holds Family Bagging Nights open to kids ages 5 to 11. The job? Putting food in bags for distribution. Other ways of contributing include making flyers for food drives or organizing an event yourself.

Ages: All
2708 S. Nelson St. (Arlington, Va)

Washington Animal Rescue League
This group has a junior volunteer program that requires a parent or guardian to be present and responsible for handling the dogs and cats available for adoption. Last year, the organization found homes for more than 1,500 pets.

Ages: 12-17
71 Oglethorpe St., NW


Baltimore County Adopt-A-Road Program
Clean up the streets (literally) through this program in which groups or individuals pick up litter on county roads. The goal is to reduce the amount of debris that pollutes the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Kids 16 and under must have adult supervision.

Ages: 12 and up
400 Washington Ave. (Towson, Md)

Hebrew Home of Greater Washington
Adopt a grandparent at this home for the aged that has provided long-term and other care since 1910. Activities include reading to residents, playing games with them or helping with special events, such as Shabbat services and Bingo games.

Ages: 13 and up, younger with a guardian
6121 Montrose Rd. (Rockville, Md)

Our Daily Bread’s Food4Thought Program
Give new meaning to packing a lunch with this program, which pairs social workers and parents at select Fairfax County Public Schools to prepare food to be sent home for the weekends in the backpacks of students who get food assistance at school during the week. Schools often recruit students to help pack these lunches.

Ages: All
4080 Chain Bridge Rd. (Fairfax, Va)

Inova Fairfax Medical Campus

Teens have five opportunities to volunteer here. One is through patient support services such as delivering flowers and taking them to procedures. Others include organizing activities or disinfecting toys in the pediatric department and providing companionship though the Hospital Elder Life Program. Hopeful helpers should apply for the twice-yearly lotteries.

Ages: 15-17
3300 Gallows Rd. (Falls Church, Va)

Girl Scouts’ Be a Friend First
The BFF program of this empowerment-focused organization aims to stop bullying, and kids can bring it to their middle schools or communities by contacting their local Girl Scout council.

Ages: Middle schoolers

Are there any other awesome family-friendly volunteer opportunities we should know about? Tell us in the Comments section below.  

—Stephanie Kanowitz