In order to improve a community, volunteers of all ages are needed to advance the common good. Even children can make meaningful contributions to their neighborhoods. Research has found community service for kids produces real benefits when they volunteer alongside their families. According to The Center for Urban Policy and the Environment, volunteering:

- helps children develop life goals;
- allows children to learn and share the values of their families;
- gives children a chance to spend time with their parents and to talk about important issues.

Last week I saw these lessons in action while working alongside several families from FCA US, and UAW Local 1268 and Local 1761 during a service project with Northern Illinois Food Bank. While sorting and distributing items at the free mobile food pantry site, my conversations with the kids ranged from the importance of reading and sharing what they want to be when they grow up (one nail specialist and two police officers by the way).

United Way of Rock River Valley provides an online tool,, to help find appropriate family engagement volunteer activities across our community. Or, your children might like to try these simple ways to get involved closer to home.


Organize a school supply drive

In the fall, many retails stores deeply discount their school supplies. Have your children organize a school supply drive to help their neighbors and classmates start the year ready to learn. Collect school supplies from friends, families, people at church, and neighbors. Also, as the school year progresses, classroom resources are limited so a mid-year school supply drive can help teachers replenish their classroom tools. Work with teachers and administrators to get the necessary supplies to the students who need them most.


Volunteer with a youth sports league

Does your child enjoy sports? Many youth league coaches could use extra help in teaching the preschool, kindergarten, and first grade athletes. Younger children look up to older children and appreciate the extra attention. Volunteering as an assistant coach will let your child share her love of the game as she encourages healthy living in her community.


Help out at a food pantry

Many food pantries need help in order to organize donations for distribution. They represent a great opportunity for community service for kids. Volunteer as a family, or as part of a workplace, scout troop, or youth group, and help feed the hungry in your area.


Put your artwork to good use

Does your child produce more arts and crafts than you have room to store? Encourage him to donate his creations to residents of a local nursing home. Many elderly residents receive very few visits and very little mail. Ask the staff to direct the artwork to whoever needs it most, and use that creativity and talent to make someone happy.


Community service for kids can help your children become more compassionate, empathetic, and engaged. Start now, so that they can be tomorrow's good citizens. Search for volunteer opportunities by visiting