As summer 2013 comes to a close, it has been hard not to reflect on past summers of my life, and there is one that stands out. During this summer, I worked as a camp counselor with a group of funny, smart, mischievous kids. Together, we learned to make friendship bracelets, how to shoot an arrow, and what food to avoid in the dining hall. Though poorly paid, I loved the experience because I got to work with some great kids, and being able to put smiles on their faces was a bonus another summer job couldn’t have given me.
Now, years later, I love what I do, but I envy those lucky few whose jobs allow them to interact with children on a daily basis- it is something I miss. Luckily, for me as well as for any other children lover’s out there, Zealous Good has some recommendations for places to volunteer with kids, so that despite having moved beyond our camp counselor years, we can still see the smiles on kids faces on a regular basis.
Check out these places to volunteer with kids if you love…
1. Outdoor Activities: It’s hard living in a city and still embracing your inner nature freak, but with great programs like Chicago Inner City Outings, they make it possible for kids and adults to still discover and explore nature despite our urban setting. If you would like to become a volunteer leader, check out the website here.
2. Sports: Being active and participating in sports can have innumerable benefits. Specifically, those with disabilities can truly benefit from exercise. Across the country, you can find many opportunities to volunteer to do sports with kids, but a few of our favorites are KEEN (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now) and Girls on the Run. Get involved and work up a sweat!
3. Art: You don’t have to be Picasso to be able to be an artist and make a difference. In Chicago, Lillstreet Art Center is a great place to volunteer and get your hands dirty (with paint). Local art centers and community centers can also have classes for kids where you can volunteer. Or, better yet, approach your local community center and propose to teach an art class to kids! Bravo!
4. Tutoring: Did you rock at chemistry in high school? Did your essays always get hung up on the fridge at home? There are many programs in Chicago, such as Cabrini Connections, that could use volunteers as tutors or mentors. They offer weekly one on one tutoring for under served minority children in grades 7 thru 12 at their facility in Chicago. If you could like to volunteer as a tutor, or in some other capacity, you can fill out a volunteer application here.
5. Animals: Are you a child and animal lover? Then Sit, Stay, Read may be the perfect place to volunteer for you! They help children grades 1-4 improve their literacy by bringing teams of trained volunteers and reading assistance dogs into Chicago public schools and inner-city community programs. If you have a dog you would like to train as a reading assistance dog, or if you would just like to become a volunteer and work around kids and dogs, check out volunteer opportunities here.
And if volunteering really just isn’t your thing, there are many other ways to give back to the kids in your local community and put that smile on your face- for example, if you are in the Chicago area, consider donation any excess items you have using Zealous Good. We’ll connect you to local charities, including those focused on kids, to donate your items.
Morgan Brock-Smith is a 2013 non-profit outreach intern at Zealous Good, an in-kind donations marketplace in Chicago. You can find Morgan on Twitter at @mbrocksmith or Google+, and Zealous Good on Facebook or Twitter at @ZealousGood.