Getting Your Children to Volunteer

Childwise logoKathleen GansterChildwise: A column for parents of children from birth to 21

By Kathleen Ganster

We all want compassionate children and a good way to get them thinking about others is to have them volunteer at a non-profit or organization in your area.

But how do you choose where and when they should volunteer? How many hours provide a meaningful experience? How do you entice a child to want as opposed to make them give to others?

Linda Robins, Volunteer Coordinator for North Hills Community Outreach shared some tips and ideas for helping to not only find a volunteering experience for your child, but one that means something to him.

“I always tell people to check out the organization first. You don’t want to call a place and say you want to volunteer without really knowing what they do,” she said.

4youngvolunteerswithcabbagenMost non-profits and agencies have wonderful, informative websites and Facebook pages. Take a few minutes – or if your child is older, have him do it – and explore their website. Find out what kind of work they do, who they serve and where they provide services.

“They will probably also list volunteer opportunities available,” Robins said.

While doing your research, see if they have time commitments that may prove to much for your child’s or your schedule. See if they have age appropriate tasks – if you have little children, you need to select activities where they can actually help – not get in the way.

For those older children, Robins feels it is particularly important to match their skills and interests with the needs of the non-profit.

“I want youth to have a positive impact and to meet their goals as well as ours,” Robins said.

At NHCO, younger children are great at assisting at the organic garden in the warmer months, Robin explained. They can also help with one-time projects such as food drives, coat drives, or other types of activities.

And don’t be afraid to think outside of the box, Robbins suggested. She explained that they had a young man who was a musician and while there weren’t any opportunities that paralleled with his musical talents, he hosted a concert and donated the money he raised from the event to NHCO.

Robins said her own son, also musically talented, found his niche at playing music for the residents of a senior citizen facility.

3 NH students kneelingMany organizations may need a long-term commitment, but others, like NHCO often need folks who will help with a one-time event, drive or project.

“For example, we have a team from North Allegheny High School that runs a relay in the Pittsburgh Marathon and raises money for us,” she said.

They also need walkers for the Highmark Walk, assistance with organizing and hosting food and other drives mentioned above, or assistance with their annual Citrus sale.

Once you do your research and determine a good match, call and talk to the volunteer coordinator. Many places also host volunteering orientations where you can also find out more information about an organization.

Ask friends as well – maybe they volunteer at a food bank and have a really great family experience.

Don’t find a match but think there is still a way your child can assist? Pick up the phone and call.

“There are all sorts of things we need help with. We may find something that we hadn’t thought of before – you may have an idea that we have never tried or you may not know we need someone to do a can opener drive,” she said.

For more information and volunteering opportunities at North Hill Community Outreach visit or contact Robins at 412-487-6316, option 2, ext. 3215.

Do you have a topic you want Childwise to explore? Email Kathleen Ganster at

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