Volunteering has countless benefits for children and teens – and the holiday season is a great time to give back
Check out these tips for getting started, then read on for seven places where you can volunteer this year:
1. CNY Diaper Bank
Founded in May 2016, CNY Diaper Bank collects and distributes diapers to local families. Volunteers are needed to count, sort and repackage donations– or you can coordinate your own diaper drive.
More information: cnydiaperbank.org/volunteer.
2. Food Bank of Central New York
The Food Bank of Central New York distributes more than 22 million pounds of food annually, according to its website. Families can volunteer in the community or at the Food Bank’s office and warehouse (though there is an age limit – 14 and up – for the latter).
More information: foodbankcny.org/get-involved.
HumaneCNY works to find new homes for dogs and cats. Volunteers can assist the shelter with events and the care of its animals. Children must be at least 13 years old (and be accompanied by an adult).
More information: humanecny.org/volunteer.
4. Meals on Wheels of Syracuse
In 2021, Meals on Wheels of Syracuse provided more than 194,000 meals to those in need, according to its website. There is no age limit to help with delivery (as long as a parent or guardian is also present), but children must be older than age 10 to volunteer in the kitchen.
More information: meals.org/volunteer.
5. Rosamond Gifford Zoo
The Rosamond Gifford Zoo houses more than 200 different species, according to its website, ranging in size from poison dart frogs to Asian elephants. Children as young as 10 can participate in its volunteer youth group (but supervision by an adult is required).
More information: rosamondgiffordzoo.org/support/ways-to-support/volunteer.
6. Samaritan Center
Located in downtown Syracuse, the Samaritan Center offers daily meals, a basic needs closet and the My Place program. Three shifts are available: breakfast; meal prep/housekeeping; and dinner. The minimum age to volunteer alone is 16 (teens ages 14-15 are welcome, but must be joined by an adult).
More information: samcenter.org/volunteer.
7. Sleep in Heavenly Peace (Syracuse)
Sleep in Heavenly Peace has a motto: “No kid sleeps on the floor in our town!®” Families can help build, or deliver, beds (visit the organization’s website for a full list of dates), but keep in mind, volunteers need to be at least 12 years old to attend a build day.
More information: shpbeds.org/chapter/ny-syracuse.