Lend a little hand in your community, and make it a family affair! We've put together a guide to some places around Nassau County, Long Island, that need your help, including non-profit organizations, animal shelters, nursing homes, and many more. Volunteer opportunities are availablefor kids and adults alike at these locations - and remember, big or small, everyone has the power to make a difference!
It’s never too early to teach your youngsters the importance of volunteering and giving back to their community. By volunteering together, you can show them firsthand the positive impact they can make by using their time, energy, and compassion for the greater good. Rockland County offers many kid-friendly community service opportunities with a little something for every type of volunteer, from working outdoors to earn that green thumb to providing comfort to furry friends in local animal shelters. Whichever cause you choose, make volunteering a must on your list of family activities this year and take time to remind your children how important it is to reach out and help others in our world.
Adopt an Animal
Billed as the largest no-kill animal shelter in the world, the North Shore Animal League America is in constant need of willing families to offer a welcoming home for countless puppies and kittens, as well as full grown dogs and cats. Its doors are open 10am-9pm Sunday-Thursday and 10am-10pm Friday-Saturday to prospective families. Parents and children can also organize small fundraising events to support the league. There are volunteer opportunities at the shelter for animal lovers ages 16 and older as well. For more information, call 516-883-7575 or visit animalleague.org. 25 Davis Ave., Port Washington.
Build a Home
Habitat for Humanity of Nassau County recruits volunteers as young as 16 to pitch in building houses (must be 18 or older to use power tools) for underprivileged families. School-aged children can serve morning refreshments to work crews, help prepare and deliver lunches to the construction sites, assist new homeowners with seasonal cleanups, and babysit for Habitat for Humanity’s clients as they perform the mandatory “sweat equity” requirement at the work site. Volunteers ages 16 to 18 can also assist with landscaping and interior painting. Enterprising families can also organize fundraising campaigns to raise money needed for building supplies. For more information, call Gail Scaramuzzo at 516-627-6047 or visit hfhnc.org. 1421 Northern Blvd., Manhasset.
Do Something Special
Camp Anchor is a year-round program serving 1,200 children and adults with special needs. The camp is split into a six-week summer program and an October through May program. Volunteers have to be at least 14 years old and help out with the different recreational activities such as the bowling program, a swim class, or a dance event. The camp facility is completely outdoors at the Lido Beach Town Park (630 Lido Blvd., Lido Beach), but for indoor activities the camp rents out the necessary venue and space. For more information on how to volunteer, call 516-431-6946 or visit campanchor.org.
Special Olympics New York aims to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-style sports for all children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Volunteers can coach athletes, raise money, coordinate events, provide office support, volunteer at one-day events, serve on local program committees, help with sport development, and more. There is a place for volunteers of all ages (kids ages 13-16 must be accompanied by a parent/guardian), abilities, and interests. For more information on sports events, contact Tim Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 631-254-1465 x15. For more information on development, contact Merrell Angstreich at email@example.com. For more information on the organization, call 631-254-1465 or visit nyso.org. The Long Island office, which serves both Nassau and Suffolk counties, is located at 819 Grand Blvd., Suite 3, Deer Park.
Feed the Hungry
Island Harvest works to end hunger and reduce food waste on Long Island. The organization offers opportunities for all ages to make a difference, including children involved in a school club, scout troop, or youth group. Kids and adults alike can help out at community fairs, food drives, and other special events. Groups can also organize their own “food raisers” or fundraisers with help from Island Harvest. One idea is to run a themed food drive through your group or in your neighborhood, with themes like “sandwich fixings,” “kids’ stuff,” or “holiday trimmings.” To become a volunteer, contact Joan Flynn at 516-294-8528 x121 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are planning a food drive, contact Doreen Principe at 631 873-4775 x208 or email@example.com. For more information, visit islandharvest.org.
Founded in 1983, The Interfaith Nutrition Network (INN) is a conglomeration of soup kitchens that feeds hungry Long Islanders. A total of 19 soup kitchens feeds more than 7,500 people on the island each week. The network also has emergency shelters and a long-term housing program for the homeless on Long Island. The INN Youth Advisory Board is one way for high school students to volunteer. The board is comprised of representatives in grades 9-12 and educates them on hunger and homelessness on Long Island. To volunteer and serve meals at one of the soup kitchens, children must be 16 years and older. At the Mary Brennan INN Hempstead soup kitchen, which is the largest facility that is part of the network, children ages 10 and older can help sort goods, organize shelves, and clean up. The Mary Brennan INN is located at 100 Madison Ave. and will be holding an open house on March 10, when community members of all ages can tour the facility. For more information, contact Emily Wilensky at 516-486-8506 x138 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the-inn.org/volunteer.
Help a Family Far From Home
The Ronald McDonald House of Long Island provides a home away from home for families of seriously ill children undergoing critical medical treatment in area hospitals. RMHLI strives to provide a comfortable and supportive environment, to help families through their most difficult time. Donate a few hours of your time to help with administrative duties or represent the house at community events and distribute information to the public about its mission. Individuals and groups can also help organize and participate in fundraising events. If you’re short on time, show a little love for families far from home through comfort food—donate nonperishables to the house’s food pantry or participate in the dinner or brunch program, where your family, friends, or community organization can prepare a meal for resident families in-house. The Ronald McDonald Family Room will open this spring at the Stony Brook Long Island Children’s Hospital. The room, which provides a place to rest and relax at the hospital for the families of children undergoing medical treatment, has volunteer opportunities. Volunteers will provide reception for families, restock snacks and beverages, keep statistical records, and maintain the tidiness of the room. To find out more about what you can do, contact volunteer/program coordinator Betti McClellan at email@example.com or 516-775-5683 x131. 267-07 76th Ave., New Hyde Park. rmhlongisland.org.
Lend a Hand at the Hospital
For those interested in volunteering their time at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, there are plenty of customizable opportunities. The center offers a dynamic volunteer service that strives to meet the everyday needs and schedule of the volunteer. Junior volunteers ages 14-18 are given administrative and clerical assignments, which include filing, copying, and answering phones. Clerical work is need in various departments, so volunteers will gain a lot of knowledge about the hospital and their specific department. Applicants are interviewed; they attend orientation after acceptance and must receive medical clearance before beginning their first assignment. For more information, contact director of volunteer services Denise Romero at 718-470-7092 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit northshorelij.com.
Make a Wish Come True
The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Metro New York and Western New York grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength, and joy. Children in kindergarten through 12th grade can participate in Kids for Wish Kids, a program that develops project ideas to fundraise for a Make-A-Wish Kid. Take part on your own or recruit others to help. Volunteers don’t need to raise enough to sponsor a whole wish, but every little bit helps a wish come true. A bake sale, pajama days, car wash, read-a-thon, or penny drives are all great ways to start raising money. Make-A-Wish will provide balloons, buttons, banners, and other MAW items to sell. For Kids for Wish Kids, contact Kathie Lombardi at 516-944-6212 x141 or email@example.com. For other volunteer opportunities, contact Kerry Logan at 516-944-6212 x135 or firstname.lastname@example.org. 1111 Marcus Ave., Suite LL22, Lake Success. metrony.wish.org.
Protect the Environment
Clark Botanic Garden needs individuals who enjoy gardening, working outdoors, and designing displays, as well as those with specific knowledge in horticulture and photography. Volunteers can take visitors on tours and help with cleanup, basic plant maintenance, and most importantly, weeding. For more information, call Carol Murphy at 516-484-2208. 193 I. U. Willets Road, Albertson; clarkbotanic.org.
Spring Clean Your Closet
Donate clothes to the Salvation Army. Enlist your kids in the process of cleaning out their closets before springtime. It can even turn into a fashion show to see what still fits. Take your kids with you when you donate the clothes so they can see the impact of their good efforts. Check with your local Salvation Army thrift store for instructions on donating clothes:
• 462 Hempstead Turnpike, Elmont; 516-354-9498
• 194 Front St., Hempstead; contact Evan at 516-481-7600 x355
Start Your Own Project
DoSomething.org is one of the largest organizations in the United States that helps young people rock causes they care about and has made it their goal to have 5 million active members by 2015. Kids can start their own Do Something Club in their community (dosomething.org/clubs) and take action all year through DoSomething.org national cause campaigns (dosomething.org/campaigns). If they have their own idea, young people can also start their own projects and apply for a $500 grant, given out weekly (apply at dosomething.org/grants). This March, DoSomething.org will be launching two national cause campaigns: Battle for the Bands, centered around music education advocacy, and Tackle Hunger, the largest youth-led canned food drive in the nation. Check back for updates on these campaigns at dosomething.org/campaigns to find out how you can volunteer your time. For more information, contact Chloe Lee at 212-254-2390 x 231 or email@example.com.
Support a Family Far from Home
The Ronald McDonald House of Long Island provides a home away from home for families of seriously ill children undergoing critical medical treatment in area hospitals, such as Cohen Children’s Medical Center. RMHLI strives to provide a comfortable and supportive environment, to help families through their most difficult time. Volunteers are the “heartbeat of the house,” and opportunities to get involved are offered on many different levels. Donate a few hours of your time to help with administrative duties or represent the house at community events and distribute information to the public about its mission. Individuals and groups can also help organize and participate in fundraising events. If you’re short on time, show a little love for families far from home through comfort food—donate nonperishables to the house’s food pantry or whip up some tasty treats together that you can drop off. To find out more on what you can do, send an email, with “Volunteer” as the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Betti McClellan at 516-775-5683 or 718-343-5683 x131. 267-07 76th Avenue, New Hyde Park. For more information, visit rmhlongisland.org.
Walk for the Cause
Head to nymetroparents.com/walks to find fundraising walks in your community. Walking together for a cause can bring your family closer together while supporting a worthy organization. It’s also a great way to get outdoors, add exercise, and make new friends. Most charity walks in the Connecticut and the New York metro area take place in the spring and fall. Be sure to plan ahead, because the sooner you register, the longer you have to raise money for the cause.
Work for Water
The UNICEF Tap Project is a nationwide campaign that affords everyone the opportunity to help provide the world’s children with safe, clean water. We don’t usually think twice about the quality of our water but more than 900 million people around the globe do not have access to clean drinking water and approximately 4,100 children perish from water-related illnesses daily. A one-dollar donation can provide a child with clean water for 40 days, or 40 children with access to safe water for one day. World Water Week (March 19-25) will raise awareness of the world water crisis and vital funds to help millions of children it impacts daily. Kids can join the cause by organizing a lemonade stand, bake sale, car wash, or similar fundraising event and donating their proceeds. Visit tapproject.org/volunteer to sign up and find a list of ways to get involved.
To further encourage your children to volunteer, check out this great contest opportunity from Kids Who Give.