Getting your teen to do her homework or clean his room is hard enough. So how in the heck are you supposed to get them to volunteer?
For most of my life I’ve been a pathetic slacker, but recently I committed to being a volunteer in a big way with the Trauma Intervention Program (tiporangecounty.org). Perhaps I’m trying to make up for years of being a self-absorbed, self-centered twit.
While raising my two children, I made some effort to get them to volunteer, too. They ended up volunteering at aid stations during marathons, dispensing snacks and drinks to trail runners, and they also fostered kittens for a bit.
My son, when he was in his late teens, also helped sort, label and package food for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County (feedoc.org). It’s a great way to spend a few hours helping people in need. Check the website for details, but on weekdays and Saturdays, children ages 14-17 can volunteer with parents at Second Harvest’s huge warehouse near the Orange County Great Park in Irvine.
How to get your teen to volunteer
Forcing teens to volunteer won’t work. Helping them tap into what they are passionate about will. (Social media has greatly increased awareness of issues that may interest teens.) Having them see you volunteer will make it much more likely that they, too, will get off their tushes and do some good for the world.
When I think about why I volunteer, I believe it’s because it satisfies my drive to find a purpose in life. You can make all the money you want and achieve success in your career, but the act of giving gives life purpose – and pays priceless dividends.
“Developing a sense of empathy and compassion in our children is one of the ‘holy grails’ of parenting,” says Shelley Hoss, president of the Orange County Community Foundation, a Newport Beach-based nonprofit that collaborates with individuals, families and businesses to match their charitable interests with the needs of the community.
“Many of us are concerned about the potential impact of growing up in an affluent county, within an affluent state, inside an affluent nation,” Hoss says. “Giving teenagers, in particular, the opportunity for hands-on experiences that introduce them to the needs of our community, and getting them engaged in offering meaningful help, can inspire a lifetime commitment to giving back.”
Following are a selection of teen-friendly volunteer opportunities in Orange County. There are many more, including nonprofit community service organizations formed to provide volunteer opportunities for teens, such as the National Charity League (nationalcharityleague.org) for women and their daughters in grades seven through 12, and Lion’s Heart (lionsheartservice.org), for sixth- through 12th-grade boys and girls.
For other opportunities, visit OneOC’s website (oneoc.org) and search for teen/youth volunteer opportunities. The website includes a youth volunteer guide.
And note that Global Youth Service Day (gysd.org) is April 15-17.
Volunteering opportunities for teens
Orange County Family Justice Center: The center in Anaheim provides assistance to survivors of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault and elder/dependent adult abuse. Volunteer opportunities include administrative support, case management, hospitality, interpreting, reception and special projects/events. Volunteers are asked to commit a few days each month and must pass a background investigation conducted by the Anaheim Police Department.
Contact: Elia Renteria, firstname.lastname@example.org or 714-765-1627;orangecountyfamilyjusticecenter.org
Acacia Adult Day Services: Volunteer opportunities include helping with activities such as bingo and arts and crafts for frail, elderly or disabled adults, and people with Alzheimer’s disease and developmental disabilities. Volunteers also serve meals and snacks and talk with elderly people one on one. To volunteer on a regular basis, the volunteer would have to go through an application process and complete a TB test. There is no minimum age, but depending on the age of your teen, adult supervision may be required.
Contact: Debbie Kaiser, 714-530-1566, or email@example.com;acacia-services.org
Alzheimer’s Orange County: Adult supervision is required except for children 16 and older. Volunteer opportunities include youth outreach, the annual Memory Walk, office administration and development. High school groups are accepted. There is no minimum time commitment.
Contact: Brent Deines, 949-955-9000 or firstname.lastname@example.org; alz.org/oc
GOALS (Growth Opportunities through Athletics, Learning & Service):The organization’s Goals Cadets program combines elements of education, personal fitness, job training and community service to help others. The program is open to Goals participants in junior high and high school who are able to volunteer 40 hours during the summer months.
Contact: 714-956-4625 or email@example.com; goals.org
The Shea Center for Therapeutic Riding: The Shea Center is ideal for teens 14 and older who love horses. Horse-riding-lesson volunteers work directly with instructors, therapists and staff members, providing assistance before, during and after a rider’s lesson.
Contact: Christina Cragun, 949-240-8441; sheacenter.org
Jessie Rees Foundation: Whether you’re a family, club or corporation, there are many opportunities to get involved with the Jessie Rees Foundation, whose mission is to ensure every child fighting cancer has the support and resources to never give up. The foundation, named for a 12-year-old girl who died of brain cancer, focuses completely on care as opposed to finding a cure. Volunteer opportunities include stuffing JoyJars and helping to organize a spring gala and NEGU Gold Classic in the fall.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 888-648-6348; negu.org
Pretend City Children’s Museum: This child-size interconnected city, where children assume real-world roles through 17 interactive exhibits and activities facilitated by professional staff, offers volunteer opportunities for children 12 and older. Teens can help support staff with a birthday party, assist with administrative tasks in the office and much more.
Contact: 949-428-3900 or email@example.com; pretendcity.org
Environmental Nature Center: For kids who love the outdoors, there are lots of volunteer opportunities at the ENC in Costa Mesa, including Leaders in Training, which lets high school students help with nature camps during school breaks, organize the spring fair, assist in keeping up the grounds, do administrative work and prepare programs. Children under 14 are welcome, but they must be accompanied by an adult or guardian.
Contact: 949-645-8489; encenter.org
Team Kids: Team Kids invites middle and high school students from all over Orange County to participate in its Youth Council, a service group independent of schools that continues Team Kids Challenge objectives. Adult coaches train, mentor and support Youth Council members as they assess community needs, plan youth-driven service projects, and engage others in their passion for community service. Past Youth Council projects include a five-day Servathon, a project in Mexico City and conference presentations at a Teen Summit and Peace Jam.
Contact: 949-861-4887; teamkids.org
Ocean Institute: There are a host of opportunities for teen volunteers who love the ocean and all things related to the sea. This institution at Dana Point Harbor offers volunteers options such as administrative support, helping on the research vessel, working information booths and at special events, husbandry and much more. In most cases, volunteers must be at least 14.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; ocean-institute.org
Source: Orange County Register