Volunteer Opportunities in the DC Area Where Kids Can Help Out, Too

DC Diaper Bank welcomes all ages to bundle diapers and more at  their warehouse

DC Diaper Bank welcomes all ages to bundle diapers and more at their warehouse



I’ve received quite a few inquiries over the last few weeks — and, really, over the years — about family-friendly volunteer opportunities around the DC area. I used to respond with one or two places that I knew welcomed kids to help out, but finally did some deeper research to offer more suggestions of organizations where children and parents can give back in a hands-on way together. And if you know of opportunities that you don’t see listed here, feel free to let me know in the comments, and I’ll add them to the mix. Happy Volunteering!

Greater DC Diaper Bank
The Silver Spring non-profit that provides diapers and other essential items to families in need welcomes volunteers of all ages to help with bundling diapers and other tasks at the warehouse. And if your babes are too little to pitch in, they have a sweet little area where they can play while you help.

Capital Area Food Bank
The largest organization in the Washington metro area working to solve hunger and related problems distributes food to hundreds of thousands of people per year. Kids ages 12 and up can help sort and package food in the warehouse. Families with younger children can volunteer together in an area outside of the warehouse — the kids will be assigned easier tasks like prepping boxes and bags. They can also help out in the Urban Demonstration Garden, which yields over 2,000 pounds of fresh produce for education and distribution each year.

DC Central Kitchen
Volunteers can help their mission to break the cycle of hunger and poverty by actually working in the kitchen — cut, chop, peel, and package meals for the community. From June through October, there are special Thursday gleaning shifts, where volunteers help harvest crops at local farms. Kids must be at least 12 years old and prepared to stand for three hours.

Martha’s Table
The organiazation works to support strong children, strong families, and strong communities by increasing access to quality education programs, healthy food, and family supports. Volunteer opportunities include working at their pop-up food markets, helping sort and sell secondhand clothing at their community boutique store, driving, and food prep. The minimum age to volunteer 12 years old. Volunteers aged 12-14 must bring one adult chaperone for every three volunteers. Some opportunities require volunteers to be at least 15 years of age. Younger children can help out by working with their parents or caregivers to help prepare trail mix or muffins and drop them off for donation.

Wreaths Across America
On a specified day every December, the public is welcome to help place Veterans’ Remembrance Wreaths on the graves of American heroes buried at Arlington National Cemetery. There is no sign-up or age requirement — families are encouraged to volunteer together. Be sure to visit the website for the most updated details, including schedule and meeting location.

Washington DC Jewish Community Center
The DCJCC has volunteer opportunities throughout the year, many of them family-friendly. You can check the calendar to see what is coming up and and register to hep out. Their big annual Day of Service December 25, when thousands of volunteers in the DC-Metro area serve meals, sing carols, visit home-bound seniors, throw holiday parties, play bingo, and deliver holiday cheer to those in need (many of these opportunities are family-friendly). Registration with more details is available in late November. And something to keep in mind ahead of Thanksgiving: The signature Everything But the Turkey event takes place right before holiday. As the name implies, they prepare everything except the bird (that’s provided by DC Central Kitchen) for Thanksgiving meals for thousands of people in need around the area. And they have family-friendly sessions, too.

Animal Welfare League of Alexandria
During the school year, kids in grades 3-12 can take part in the Book Buddies program and read to cats and other small animals at the shelter. It’s a win-win — kids can improve their reading skills while the kitties enjoy the human interaction. Sign-up is 30 days in advance for 20-minute reading sessions on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 12-6pm. Children must be accompanied by a parent.

S.O.M.E. (So Others Might Eat)
The interfaith, community-based organization helps the poor and homeless in DC by meeting the immediate daily needs of the people they serve with food, clothing, and health care. While kids need to be at least 13 to volunteer in the dining room (and up to age 15 needs an accompanying adult), there are other ways younger children can help, too. Youth groups can organize food drives, create holiday or seasonal decorations, and make treats that can be served to clients.

Thrive DC
The group provides vulnerable people in Washington, DC, with a wide range of services to help stabilize their lives. They welcome young volunteers to help with their evening program, which includes dinner service and enrichment programming. There is no age requirement; they leave it up to the discretion of the parents to decide if their child is ready for the experience.

Meals on Wheels Maryland
The non-profit helps homebound people to eat well and remain in their own homes by preparing and delivering nutritious meals. Their Moms for Meals program encourages parents to volunteer with their children during the summer and winter breaks from school as a driver/visitor team. Home School families are welcome and community service hours are available.

A Wider Circle
The organization aims to help families rise out of poverty, and their Center for Community Service in Silver Spring, MD, welcomes volunteers of all ages to stock and organize donations in their Neighbor-to-Neighbor program. Do this as a family or get a group together. It is recommended that volunteers under 14 are accompanied by an adult.

Charlie’s Place
Per a KFDC reader (below): The organization resides at an Episcopal Church, but their focus is to address social needs and not religious ones. They take special care in welcoming all people of any race, age, gender, background, faith, and sexual orientation without judgment or evangelization of any kind. Volunteers of all ages are needed throughout the Charlie’s Place program, primarily during meal service every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 6 – 9am, and now on Saturdays from 7-10am.

National Park Service
There are many opportunities to get involved with the NPS in the DC area, from helping out with maintenance on the National Mall and memorials to removing invasive plants at local parks to cleaning up trails.

Catholic Charities
Per a KFDC reader (below): Catholic Charities has chapters in DC, MD and VA. There are tons of one-time and ongoing volunteer opportunities, including for families. For instance, they seek family mentors to be paired with a refugee family, to welcome them and help them learn the area, etc.

Carpenter’s Shelter
Per a KFDC reader (below): They have a special service group for families called Circle of Hope. Families, with their children, have many opportunities throughout the year to get involved and help the homeless. Some are onsite at the shelter and some are at a local park but putting together snack bags for the children living at the shelter. It’s very flexible and rewarding!

Casey Trees
Committed to restoring, enhancing and protecting the tree canopy of the nation’s capital, Casey Trees engages thousands of volunteers of all ages to help them plant and care for trees (and more) to help with their mission.

Food & Friends
They depend on thousands of volunteers to carry out their mission of delivering specialized, nutritious meals and groceries along with nutrition counseling to men, women and children facing HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other life-challenging illnesses. Volunteers must be at least 14 to work in the kitchen preparing and packaging meals, but younger children can join adult family members delivering meals to clients’ homes.

Comfort Cases
Recommended by several KFDC readers, the charity provides a proper bag, filled with comfort and essential items, to brave youth in foster care on their journey to find their forever home. The have volunteer hours each week at the Comfort Cases Center in Rockville, MD. Volunteers help with processing donations, counting inventory, assembling bags, checking packed cases, and staging for deliveries — there is something for all ages.

Help from Home
You don’t always have to be on site to give back. If the options above don’t work for your family, have the kids do activities at home with end results that benefit others. They can help sort clothing to donate (see this article from DCist for where to take it), set up a lemonade stand and give the earnings to charity, or organize a food or clothing drive with friends or a youth group. And if you have other ideas, feel free to share them below!


20 Comments

Filed under All ages, Charity, DC, Holidays, Maryland, Virginia, Volunteer, Weekdays, Weekend

20 Responses to Volunteer Opportunities in the DC Area Where Kids Can Help Out, Too

  1. Kate B

    Catholic Charities has chapters in DC, MD and VA. There are tons of one-time and ongoing volunteer opportunities, including for families. For instance, they seek family mentors to be paired with a refugee family, to welcome them and help them learn the area, etc.
    https://catholiccharitiesusa.org

  2. This is a great list – thank you! Another terrific group is the Carpenter’s Shelter in Alexandria. They have a special service group for families called Circle of Hope. Families, with their children, have many opportunities throughout the year to get involved and help the homeless. Some are onsite at the shelter and some are at a local park but putting together snack bags for the children living at the shelter. It’s very flexible and rewarding! Visit the website for more information.

  3. Ashley

    Great! Thanks

  4. Robin

    Thank you for this list! If we all volunteered more often — what a positive way to make the world a kinder place!!!

  5. Our family volunteered this week at A Wider Circle’s Center for Community Service (9159 Brookville Road, Silver Spring, MD 20910) in their Neighbor-to-Neighbor Program. We stocked and organized linens, housewares, and kids toys to make sure everything was in “dignity condition” for families and individuals transitioning out of shelters or simply living without life’s necessities. Our friends joined us and the kids were 5-8 years old.

  6. Michael

    Thank you for this list. We enjoy doing volunteer work as a family. Any volunteer opportunities you are aware of on January 20th that would be appropriate for families? Much appreciated.

    • Linda @ KidFriendly DC

      Hi Michael – Unfortunately, I don’t know of anything specific, but I would try some of the organizations listed. An idea: Consider hosting a little drive that day to gather items that for a local non-profit, like diapers and essentials for DC Diaper Bank or canned goods for S.O.M.E.? If you do find a good family volunteering opportunity, do let us know!

  7. Pingback: Where to celebrate MLK wkend with the kids in DC: – Its not that serious… SERIOUSLY

  8. I am looking for volunteer opportunities for our 10 camp children one day of the week, for a couple of hours the week of July 24, 2017. Who should I contact?

    • Linda @ KidFriendly DC

      Hi Toni – Try contacting some of the places listed here. They have have special group volunteering opportunities for camps.

  9. sol

    Charlie’s Place At St Margaret
    Charlie’s Place resides at an Episcopal Church and their focus is to address social needs and not religious ones. Charlie’s Place takes special care in welcoming all people of any race, age, gender, background, faith or sexual orientations without judgment or evangelization of any kind. Volunteers of all ages are needed throughout the Charlie’s Place program, primarily during our meal service, every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 6 – 9am and now on Saturdays from 7-10am. http://charliesplacedc.org/

  10. Julie

    Tree planting with Casey Trees. What better way to volunteer with kids than to help ensure the planet’s health for their future. Or Anacostia River clean ups.

  11. Lucan

    This is super helpful as I have had this question for some time as well. My kids are 6 and 3 so options are always limited. This seems to clearly be a need. Is there not some sort of centralized website where organizations can post local volunteer needs or opportunities and individuals and families can search and find them? I’d love to know if there is!

  12. Nai Sky

    food and friends allows small groups to deliver food.

    from their site:

    In addition to providing nourishment, a smile and a warm greeting go a long way for our clients, many of whom are homebound and therefore do not interact with many people.

    Meal & Grocery Delivery requires the use of your own vehicles. Drivers need to be over the age of 18, with a valid driver’s license. We have no age requirement for passengers. Most organizations team up volunteers and carpool so that each driver has a navigator. A typical route is 6-10 households and can take between 1-3 hours.

    Food & Friends will provide a full orientation upon arrival to ensure a successful first delivery day for your group.

  13. Please also consider comfort cases. They put together bookbags packed with love and necessary items for kids in foster care

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