Inevitably, just as the first rounds of camp and vacations cease each summer, the same declaration fills family homes: “I’m bored.” The answer isn’t more screen time; it’s helping.
Rachel Allnutt, program coordinator for youth and family volunteers at the Volunteers of America Colorado, says taking rare free time to teach giving back can build a foundation for life-long volunteering. “When kids get kind of bored during the summer, and there isn’t the stress of school, it’s the ideal time to introduce volunteer opportunities. These experiences get them off the couch and engage them with meeting and helping real people.”
One of the chief problems when it comes to family volunteering is age. Projects like trail-building and work in shelters often come with age requirements. But the Volunteers of America offer three programs that aim to include any person who wants to help.
For youth who want to work on a project without the overview of an adult, kids ages 14 to 17 can apply to be an individual youth volunteer. With an adult in tow, children (sports teams, school groups, and more) as young as 11 years old can join the cause. And if a family unit wants to spend a couple hours serving others, the VOA hosts monthly family projects, where age requirements are left to the discretion of parents. For July and August, families are encouraged to be “yard angels” and spend a morning or afternoon lending their efforts to a person who is struggling to take care of their property. For each of these programs, all you have to do is contact Volunteers of America Colorado and they’ll match your child’s interests and availability with projects.
“Start kids with projects and causes that they are interested in,” Allnutt suggests. “Encourage them to have an open mind and explain that they’ll get out of the experience what they put in. Pick opportunities that require a little work and a little fun.”
Need a place to start? For families with teens, Allnutt says an easy way to break into volunteering is to signup to serve a meal at the VOA Mission on Lawrence St. It’s a simple two-hour commitment to dish out lunch or dinner and meet some people who live in our city.