“Volunteers are paid in six figures…S-M-I-L-E-S.”
Back in the day, before I had kids, I use to travel extensively speaking and singing at a variety of venues from churches to non-profit organizations.
One of my favorite parts about performing was the opportunity to share with my audiences about an organization that is near and dear to my heart named World Vision.
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. They are able to accomplish this through their highly effective child sponsorship program.
In 2004, I had the privilege of traveling with World Vision to El Salvador to see first hand how child sponsorship made the difference in the life of a child and their community. It was a life changing experience, that’s for sure.
Over the years, my family and I have sponsored several children through World Vision. One such little boy was named Fuad. We sponsored Fuad from the time he was 2 years old until fourth grade.
From time to time, we would write him letters, send him pictures and deliver care packages.
Fuad’s community in Palestine was eventually deemed self sufficient and did not need any further humanitarian assistance. Therefore, our sponsorship ended and we wrote him a farewell letter.
I share this story with you, because volunteering through child sponsorship, taught my children that life is not always about them or what they want.
Instead, they now see the needs of others and voluntarily try to find ways to help them and cheer them up.
Volunteering as a family creates special memories and brings families closer together.
But you don’t have to travel the world to volunteer. All you have to do is step outside your front door and see what needs are in your community.
Whether helping an elderly neighbor mow their lawn or serving meals at a local soup kitchen, volunteer opportunities are all around us.
Someone is always in need.
Here’s an important tip. While researching places to volunteer, make sure to verify age limits and how much time is required to serve. You personally know the strengths and limitations of your family the best.
Recently, I reached out to my friends in the homeschool community and asked where were the best places to volunteer as a family in Southern California.
Here were their responses.
Los Angeles County:
Cory’s Kitchen (Irwindale)
Cory’s Kitchen provides emergency food to families in need. Families can obtain an allotment of food once a month, for a period of six months. The amount of food distributed to each family is dependent on the food collected from grocery chains and outlets that week, and from government food available to Cory’s Kitchen
The American Military Museum (El Monte)
A military vehicles museum founded in 1962 that consists of over 178 exhibits and also loans out vehicles, props, and uniforms to the movie industry. The Volunteers at the museum are a family. The museum’s volunteers participate in events like the Sierra Madre 4th of July Parade and the Rose Parade. Our volunteers help with living history displays, restoration of vehicles in mechanical and cosmetic ways, and many other things. If you are interested please contact the museum to find out how you can help.
Operation Gratitude (Van Nuys)
Operation Gratitude hosts volunteer days where families can come and prepare care packages to send to American troops overseas.
Heal The Bay (County Wide)
If you want to help protect the ocean you love from pollution, Heal the Bay can help. From volunteering with your friends and family at one of their monthly beach cleanups, choosing your favorite beach for a year of cleanups, to helping orchestrate an event for your own company, there are many ways you can protect what you love.
L.A. Family Housing (Los Angeles)
L.A. Family Housing’s mission is to help families transition out of homelessness and poverty through a continuum of housing enriched with supportive services. Volunteer opportunities abound from helping children with homework to beautifying their premises.
Toberman Neighborhood Center (San Pedro)
Toberman Academy offers after school activities for children in Kindergarten through 6th grade. They need youth volunteers who are juniors/seniors in high school to provide an enriched activity with the kids. The goal is to teach the youth something about an activity in music, art, dance, science or leadership skills. Adult volunteers can assist within the classrooms by helping youth at homework stations, reading, engaging by asking questions about the homework and identifying if the youth comprehends the assignment.
Sharefest (South Bay)
Sharefest focuses on mentoring youth to develop the leaders of tomorrow, fostering volunteerism in the community through service projects in specific points of influence including schools, parks and community programs, and establishing working coalitions made up of city leaders, schools, businesses and the faith community.
Love In The Mirror (Long Beach)
Love in the Mirror began with the love of Jonas, a 6 year old boy who wanted to help kids that were less fortunate than him by giving them things he felt no child should live without. The idea grew into a non-profit organization that strives to meet the needs of disadvantaged youth, while at the same time, kids like Jonas can gain the ability to develop self-esteem and learn great leadership skills. With the support of dedicated adults, these kids can grow into great community leaders and feel good about themselves while they offer those in need necessities like clothes, toiletries, learning materials, toys and a chance to be happy so they can look in the mirror and love what they see. They have a variety of needs for volunteers.
Aquarium of The Pacific (Long Beach)
Families can volunteer together starting at age 7. You and your child would interpret exhibits at the aquarium.
Adobe de Palomares was the 13 room home of Don Ygnacio Palomares and his wife, Dona Concepcion Lopez de Palomares. The Palomares and Vejar families owned the Rancho San Jose, which covered eastern Los Angeles county, some 150 years ago. Due to recent budget cuts, they need help with general maintenance such as cutting back weeds, minor repairs, etc.
Bunny Bunch (Fountain Valley)
Bunny Bunch’s goal is to place rabbits into loving homes where they will spend the rest of their life in a happy, healthy, environment. They do this this by helping people make the right choice about adopting a rabbit, by educating them about rabbits and their care, and what to expect when you have a rabbit living in your home as part of the family. Children can volunteer along side their parents.
OneOC (County Wide)
OneOC goal has been connecting nonprofits with volunteers for over 50 years. They connect young and old, diverse cultures and religions, and people of all economic levels to build a stronger, more vibrant Orange County. Volunteer opportunities are available all over the county.
The Harvest Club (County Wide)
The Harvest Club helps people with an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables they cannot or would not harvest themselves and donate the food to the underserved with their volunteer harvesting teams.
Love Fullerton (Fullerton)
Love Fullerton is a citywide service day that happens in the spring. It is a partnership of 20+ churches, city government, the Mayor and City Council, the Chief of Police, local businesses, service organizations, public and private education, and local residents all working together to enhance the world-class experience of living and working in our city.
Families Forward (Irvine)
Do you remember that end-of-summer feeling with “Back to School” signs on every store window? Having those new supplies in your hand on the first day made it fun to go back. Families Forward wants to give every student that same oopportunity by participating in their Back to School Program. Grade-appropriate school supplies and backpacks are distributed to low-income elementary, middle, and high school students in August, helping them start on the same foot as their peers – building their confidence for the coming school year. They accept donations for their Back To School Program at their office through August 2014.
Great Strides of The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (Dana Point)
Great Strides provides a great opportunity for people within the community to get involved in a great cause. Participants can form walk teams at their workplace, through their clubs and organizations, or with friends and family. Walk day is a fun, family-oriented event with a healthy 5k walk, children’s activities, food, and festivities that participants look forward to year after year.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County (Count Wide)
Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County has a really cool children’s volunteer program called Izzy’s Corner. It is a kid-friendly space inside the Food Bank’s warehouse that provides a volunteer experience unlike any other. From the colorful cartoon town walls, to the kid-sized Candy Palace, kids are captivated by their surroundings, as they volunteer to help their peers in a safe environment. Here they learn that they can make a real difference in the lives of needy children in their community. Students age 7 to 13 gain hands-on experience packing nutritious food for their neighbors in need.
Bolsa Chica Land Trust (Huntington Beach)
The Bolsa Chica Land Trust was formed in 1992 by a small group of Californians who believed that one of the last standing wetlands ecosystems in Southern California was worth preserving for future generations. The Land Trust now includes more than 5000 members from throughout California and twenty other states. They offer a Junior Stewards program for youth.
Grandma’s House of Hope (Santa Ana)
Grandma’s House of Hope mission is to provide compassionate and uplifting transitional care for women in crisis and hungry children in Orange County. Their vision is to provide a safety net for uniquely challenged and under-served women and children through love, hope, and spiritual healing.
Orange County Rescue Mission (County Wide)
The Orange County Rescue Mission provides assistance to those in need in Orange County in the areas of guidance, counseling, education, job training, shelter, food, clothing, health care and independent living communities.
Loves & Fishes (County Wide)
Volunteers come from churches, food pantries, college clubs, and individuals participate each year in Loaves and Fishes x10 gleaning and harvesting activities. Each year, thousands of pounds of produce are salvaged and given to the poor at no cost to them. Gleaners are people of all ages and income levels who want to give of themselves. Usually within 48 hours of picking the produce, hungry community members receive the gleaned food.
Shea Center for Therapeutic Horseback Riding (San Juan Capistrano)
The J.F. Shea Therapeutic Riding Center is dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities through therapeutic horse-related programs. Volunteers must be a minimum of 14 years old.
Riverside / San Bernardino Counties:
Inland Harvest (Redlands)
Inland Harvest was established in late 1990 to feed hungry people by transporting this surplus food donated by hospitals, restaurants, hotels, schools, bakeries, caterers, wholesalers and retailers to already established feeding programs in the Inland Empire.
Amy’s Farms (Ontario)
Amy’s Farms welcomes volunteers of all ages. They are open for help Monday through Saturday year-round, rain or shine. You make your own schedule and hours. The only requirement is that you have a primary orientation meeting with their head farmer, Randy to become acquainted with the farm first.
San Diego County:
The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society is committed to ensuring that all available resources are used to assist personnel of the Naval Service–active, retired, and their eligible family members – to achieve financial self-sufficiency and find solutions to emergency needs.
Great opportunity for high school students that need Community Service hours. Our Critter Camp runs all summer and we need JV’s to help out the counselors with campers. It is both fun and hard work. JV’s should enjoy working with children, be able to demonstrate respect for animals, serve as a positive role model for campers and be dependable and responsible! Must be at least 14 years of age and entering 9th grade in the Fall 2014.
City of San Diego Park and Recreation Dept. Habitat Restoration Crew
Join us in our effort ot enhance and preserve unique habitats and biodiversity. Share the enthusiasm and help protect nature.
Meets the Second Saturday of each month. RSVP to http://www.mtrp.org/events.asp to find out the specific meeting location.
We meet for this project from 8:00am to 11:00pm on the 2nd Saturday of each month.
*Volunteers who are coming to habitat Crew formerly known as habitat restoration crew) need to RSVP by emailing [email protected] that I can prepare appropriate project and enough tools.
**Court Referral Volunteers must contact Park Ranger prior to showing up to volunteer by calling Visitor Center 619-668-3281.
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Join the Habitat Restoration Crew in their effort to enhance and preserve unique habitats and biodiversity throughout San Diego. The crew meets the second Saturday of each month.
Gull Wings Children Museum (Oxnard)
The Museum features hands-on exhibits designed to make a child’s imagination soar. For close to 25 years, the nonprofit Museum has provided high quality educational programs and exhibits to children aged toddler to 12. They offer many volunteer opportunities for teens, adults and groups. As a part of their Crew, you will interact with visitors, assist staff with our hands-on exhibits or help our hard-working administrative staff.
Ty Warner Sea Center (Santa Barbara)
At the Sea Center visitors of all ages enjoy interactive exhibits, opportunities to work like scientists, a theater showcasing the wonders of the Santa Barbara Channel, hands-on close encounters with sea creatures, and a live shark touch pool. A variety of volunteer options are available such as cleaning tanks and greeting visitors.
Community Roots Garden (Oxnard)
The Community Roots Garden invites you to come dig, weed, learn, teach, ask questions, take a shift on irrigation, cook for our Saturday meals, share ideas, or donate materials or funding. You can help in whatever way you’d like. Working in the garden is also a fun way to complete needed community service hours.
ACROSS ALL OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA:
VolunteerMatch strengthens communities by making it easier for good people and good causes to connect. The organization offers a variety of online services to support a community of nonprofit, volunteer and business leaders committed to civic engagement.
Guide Dogs of America is dedicated to its mission to provide guide dogs and instruction in their use, free of charge, to blind and visually impaired men and women from the United States and Canada so that they may continue to pursue their goals with increased mobility and independence.
Doing Good Together’s only aim is to make family volunteering accessible, easy, and enjoyable. For parents and other caregivers, this means project ideas and resources that empower you to raise generous, civic-minded children, most popularly through their new Big-Hearted Families program. For schools, faith groups and businesses, they work to deepen your organization’s culture of service, through a one-time workshop, Family Service Night event or fully integrated program.
Operation Help A Hero (Serves Military Families in So. Cal)
Operation Help a Hero is dedicated to the well-being and care of our American military members. Their programs support military units and families as they prepare for separation, while they endure the challenges of deployment, and as they transition back to the United States. Every cent contributed to Operation Help a Hero is used to serve the military community, and every project is based on real needs.
The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.
Ronald McDonald House (Loma Linda, Orange, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Long Beach, San Diego and Mission Viejo)
Since 1974, The Ronald McDonald’s House network of local Chapters have been making children happier and healthier by keeping families together – giving them a place to rest and refresh during a trying time. A place that feels like home. These programs, tailored to meet the urgent needs of each community, can now be found in 58 countries and regions across the globe.
Big Sunday Weekend
The idea behind Big Sunday is that everyone has some way that they can help somebody else. Tens of thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds join together one weekend a year to help make the world a better else. There are projects for every passion and every talent ranging from helping people with AIDS, low-income children, the elderly, animals, deployed U.S. troops, the disabled, the homeless, the hungry, the environment and so much more.
If you know of any places that are great for families to volunteer together, please send them to [email protected] and we will happily add them to the list.