Cincinnati Family Magazine

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April 23, 2024

Volunteering for 'Tweens and Teens

Volunteering for ‘Tweens and Teens

Finding ways for older kids to serve in the community matters.

Finding ways for older kids to beef up their personal profiles is important. For teens, volunteer work looks great on college applications. Many high schools require community service for graduation. In addition, most youth volunteer programs are designed for them to have fun while meeting other kids from different schools and helping with a good cause.

Volunteering for ‘Tweens and Teens

Hundreds of youth volunteer opportunities exist all around us. As with adults, what kids get out of the experience depends largely on the time, effort and commitment they make. Choosing commitments wisely will increase the chances of a positive experience both for the kids and the people they serve.

Generally, the older the child, the more options that are open to her. Few organizations use children younger than 13. Parents of younger children who want them to experience the benefits of volunteering should look for situations where they can volunteer with the child or for special family day projects.

Before rushing to the internet to start emailing organizations, you and your teen should discuss what it means to volunteer. “A teen’s commitment to volunteer is also a commitment for the parent,” says Nicole Ozer, a youth volunteer director. “If they are going to depend on you for transportation, their volunteering is going to impact your time.” Plus for school credit, they will need to log their time served.

Help your son or daughter determine a realistic number of hours that he can serve. “The number of hours is less important than following through on the commitment, showing up on time when you are expected and having a good attitude,” says Susie Hodges, a youth program manager. Planned absences for family vacations usually aren’t a problem, but the agency needs to know about them in advance.

Making the Call

Some prime volunteer internships such as those at the zoo or  fill up fast. Students interested in these opportunities should start calling about them early on. Less exotic opportunities in libraries, hospitals, nursing homes, tutoring programs and day camps fill more slowly, but by May kids should be on their way to exploring the possibilities.

The initial call to an agency can make or break your child’s chance to volunteer there. “I know programs where they automatically eliminate the child if the parent calls,” says Susie Hodges. “They figure if the kid isn’t mature enough to call herself, then she isn’t mature enough for their program.” Starting the conversation with, “My school says I have to do [some number] hours of community service to graduate” is another turn off.

Agencies are concerned that they will spend time to train students only to have them quit as soon as they fulfill the requirement. “The world is a lot nicer in nonprofit organizations than it is in junior high and high school,” says Nicole Ozer. “Kids who volunteer are more accepting, and volunteering is a good way to meet new people who go to different schools and to get a feel for what the adult world is like.”

Tish Davidson is a freelance writer.


Volunteering for ‘Tweens and Teens

Matthew 25 Ministries 

11060 Kenwood Rd., Blue Ash, Ohio 45242 (513) 793-6256

Matthew 25 is an international humanitarian aid and disaster relief organization. Volunteers can sort and package donated goods. Kids 16 and under are welcome as long as they have an adult to child ratio match.

Ronald McDonald House Charities 

350 Erkenbrecher Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45229 (513) 636-7642

The Ronald McDonald House houses families of children receiving life-saving medical care in Cincinnati. Families can help prepare and serve a meal or help with day to day operations.

Hope’s Closet 

332 Dayton St., Hamilton, OH 45011 (513) 7733-4018

Help organize the clothing closet, sort and inventory donations.

Hands Against Hunger 

A Child’s Hope International, 2430 E. Kemper Rd., Cincinnati OH 45241 (513) 771-2244 

Saturday “packing sessions” are a great way to get the whole family involved in this worthwhile service organization.


Habitat for Humanity Cincinnati

4910 Para Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45237 (513) 721-4483 x2

Numerous opportunities for teens include helping with store and construction.

Cincinnati Nature Center 

4949 Tealtown Rd, Milford, OH 45150 (513) 831-1711

Teens age 13-17 can participate in helping with a river clean up, all while learning about conservation.

The American Red Cross 

2111 Dana Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45207 (513) 579-3000

The Red Cross equips volunteers with materials, training, and support.  Youth will need to fill out an application and then will be paired will local volunteer opportunities.

Local Assisted Living Facilities

‘Tweens and Teens your time reading to seniors, playing board games,  create crafts, painting nails, etc.  When my daughter was younger, she loved to go to our local senior center and performing magic tricks and playing musical instruments for the residents.

Your Local Animal Shelter

Bake homemade dog treats to donate to the shelter, make and donate dog or cat toys, or volunteer to walk dogs alongside a responsible adult.

It’s a good idea to contact the organizations before planning to volunteer to verify age requirements, complete paperwork, and get days/times approved.

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