The days of “there’s nothing to do” are over. Today, millions of teenagers and young people are finding productive and educational ways to get involved in their communities and make some good.
In Austin, thousands of teens and young people can do this through their churches, the Scouts, school groups and other organized volunteering. But if you haven’t signed up to participate in one of these groups, there are still plenty of ways to get involved. But first, know ahead of time how to be a better volunteer:
1. Make sure they understand that it’s important to be reliable. When you sign up to volunteer, nonprofits count on you to show up and help that day. When you don’t it can change everything for that organization, sometimes wasting time and money. Make sure your teens and young people don’t sign up on a whim.
2. Be as responsible as you would it it were a paying job. Nonprofits are serious about creating great volunteer opportunities; make sure teens and young people show respect for the time and energy put into that and act just like they would if it were a paying job. That means following directions, safety precautions and doing the job right.
3. Get creative! Raising money or in-kind items can have a fun, social aspect. Enlist a friend to volunteer with you. Ask a nonprofit you already care about how you might help. Remember that volunteering is not just fun, it can also give you hands-on job training and make for a much stronger college or job application.
Here are some ideas and organizations that can get young folks started in volunteering this summer. In most cases, volunteers of all ages are welcome with minors accompanies by parent.
1. Host a clothing drive and toiletries drive for LifeWorks, the nonprofit that helps youth on the streets and aging out of foster care.
2. Host a baby stuff drive for SafePlace, which accepts all types of new baby items like wipes, diapers, bottles, shampoo, lotion and more.
3. Volunteer to foster dogs and cats for Austin Pets Alive, which allows teens 13 years old and up to foster an animal from a week to a few months to help keep them from being euthanized.
4. Volunteer to sort and label books and/or host a book drive for BookSpring, which provides literacy and reading experiences for families to help children develop a life-long love of reading.
5. Help socialize and walk dogs and cats at the Austin Animal Center, which is in desperate need of more volunteers to keep animals healthy and happy while they wait to be adopted.
6. Use your driver’s license to deliver meals for Meals on Wheels, which currently has an urgent need for substitute volunteers this summer. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old.
7. Volunteer at the TreeHouse store in Dell Children’s Medical Center, which is a retail gift shop within the hospital. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old.
8. Volunteer on Tuesdays or Thursdays to help maintain the farm at Urban Roots, which uses food and farming to transform the lives of young people. Great for younger volunteers who have a signed parent-permission form.
9. Volunteer to help with office tasks — and get office experience — at The Blood and Tissue Center of Central Texas, which is the exclusive provider of the community blood supply. Volunteers must be at least 16 years old.
10. Take care of the gardens, goats, chickens and facilities at Mobile Loaves & Fishes Community First! Village, a master-planned community that provides affordable housing and a supportive community for the chronically homeless.
These are just some of the great ways for teens and young people to get involved. Remember that being reliable, responsible and creative will make for a much more rewarding volunteer experience!
WATCH Courtney Clark on FOX 7’s Good Day Austin talking about “Bored teens? 10 ways to get them volunteering!”