Where to Volunteer with Your Kids in Fairfield County, CT

Where to Volunteer with Your Kids in Fairfield County, CT

UPDATED MARCH 2016: Lend a little hand in your community, and make it a family affair! We've put together a guide to some places around Fairfield, CT, that need your help, including non-profit organizations, nursing homes, animal shelters, food pantries, and many more. Volunteer opportunities are available for children and adults alike. And remember - big or small, everyone has the power to make a difference!

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Befriend a Furball

Lessons in responsibility can come while serving as a foster family for a pet from the Connecticut Humane Society. By taking in pets for a short period of time, children will learn to care for others and ultimately learn to take care of themselves. But be wary—some may become attached to the animal and want to adopt it! Most volunteer opportunities at the humane society have an age requirement of 18 or older, but children are always encouraged to support CHS by arranging a supply collection or a fundraiser to benefit the animals. Families may foster pets in their own homes or donate time to the shelter instead. For a complete list of accepted supplies and ways kids can help, visit online.

Donate Books

Donate gently loved books, magazines, age-appropriate DVDs, and non-violent toys to the Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital. For more information on donating, contact volunteer services at 203-688-2297. The Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital also needs and welcomes energetic volunteers 15 and older. Volunteers generally give a minimum of four hours a week for at least six months. There are a variety of volunteer roles to fit individual time schedules, abilities, and interests. Volunteers may work directly with patients or choose to work behind the scenes. For more on these opportunities, visit ynhh.org. 20 York St., New Haven.

Feed the Hungry

If you’re looking to spend a few good hours helping those in your community, head to the Norwalk Community Open Door Shelter to help serve meals or organize non-perishables. Volunteers must be at least 15 years old (ages 15-17 must be accompanied by someone 18 or older) and the shelter encourages some creativity in the ways that volunteers may give of themselves and their time. Opportunities include decorating for holidays or children’s birthday parties, food drives, painting and maintenance, providing training or coaching for job skills, after-school tutoring, and hosting a group session on a topic of interest. More than 12,000 meals are served each month, which means there’s always a need for an extra set of hands. For more information on how to help at the Open Door Shelter, call 203-866-1057 or email [email protected]. Go to the website to fill out a volunteer application form. 4 Merritt St., Norwalk.

At the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County, families are encouraged to help inspect and sort food donations that will in turn be distributed to direct feeding agencies like The Salvation Army, New Covenant House, and Norwalk Emergency Shelter. The Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County provides food to more than 70 nonprofit agencies and programs that serve low-income people in its six-town service area through bags of groceries and congregate meals. These include soup kitchens, food pantries, childcare programs, homeless shelters, senior centers, domestic violence safe houses, and rehabilitation programs. Opportunities are available to get involved as an individual or a group. Volunteers are needed to drive, sort food, and assist with delivery of food. If you want to step it up a notch, consider organizing a food drive at your child’s school. For details, contact Kathleen Lombardo at 203-358-8898 or [email protected]. 461 Glenbrook Road, Stamford.

Help operate a fundraising committee, organize a food drive or food pantry, become a mentor, serve dinner at the community kitchen, babysit or assist babysitting staff, maintain the gardens, or donate a special skill (photography, writing, advertising, etc.) at Homes with Hope. The food pantry provides bags of groceries for those who have a place to cook, but lack the food. All food is donated and there is always a need for food and cleaning items. Contact Audrey Sparre at 203-226-3426 x12 to find out how you can help. 45 Jesup Road, Westport (in the Gillespie Center).

Foster a Love of Learning

Mercy Learning Center, a learning center for women, is accepting volunteers and in need of helping hands. The center provides basic literacy and life skills training to low-income women using a holistic approach within a compassionate, supportive environment. All women are welcome without regard for race, religion, color, creed, sexual orientation, or national origin. Tutors, gardeners, guest speakers, office aides, facility maintenance, mentors, childcare aides, and helping hands in the kitchen and serving stations are always needed. Students may receive credit for volunteering in the childcare program, or by helping out with clerical tasks. To get involved or for more information, get in touch with the center’s volunteer coordinator, Nora Jinishian, at 203-334-6699, visit online, or email [email protected]. 637 Park Ave., Bridgeport.

The Westport Historical Society is looking for docents for exhibits and the historic house, fundraisers including an annual House Tour and Garden Tour, and archival research. If you’d like to help or request additional information, visit westporthistory.org, call 203-222-1424 and ask for director Susan Gold, or email [email protected]. 25 Avery Place, Westport.

The Westport Library Association is supported by the public/private partnership between the town and individual donors. Support from the generosity of donors ensures that the library can continue to provide the excellent service and exceptional programming the community expects. The association is a registered nonprofit cultural institution. Gifts are fully deductible under federal tax regulations. Donations are accepted online using major credit cards. Call 203-291-4800, contact Suzy Hooper at [email protected], or visit westportlibrary.org for more information or to get involved. 20 Jesup Road, Westport.

Live Healthy

The Westport/Weston Family Y enriches the community by promoting youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. A charitable nonprofit organization, the Y endeavors to serve all, regardless of financial capacity or physical capability. To learn how you can become a supporting role in this organization, visit online or call 203-226-8981. 14 Allen Raymond Lane, Westport.

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Make a Wish Come True

The Make-A-Wish Foundation Connecticut Chapter grants the wishes of children diagnosed with life threatening medical conditions. Children in kindergarten through 12th grade can participate in Kids for Wish Kids, a program that develops project ideas to fundraise for the organization. Create your own event and/or recruit others to help. Volunteers don’t need to raise enough to sponsor a whole wish; 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 raise money. The foundation is also always looking for adult volunteers to help out in several different roles from administrative support to wish granting. To apply for a volunteer position, go to ct.wish.org and look under the “Ways to Help” tab. For more information, call 203-261-9044, or contact Nancy Diehl, office manager, at [email protected]. 126 Monroe Turnpike, Trumbull.

Join the Corps

If your young one has really taken to volunteering, the Youth Volunteer Corps of Western Connecticut is the perfect organization to join. YVC gives children ages 11-18 the opportunity to work on service projects throughout the school year, after the school day, and on weekends. Whether it’s helping serve food, promoting literacy, or sprucing up the environment, kids gain experience in volunteering that is challenging, rewarding, and educational. For more information, contact director of volunteer services Casey Levene at 203-797-1154, [email protected]. 85 West St., Danbury.

Lend a Hand, Any Way You Can

The Ronald McDonald House of Connecticut welcomes volunteers of all shapes and sizes (and ages!). The 12-room house offers a temporary “home away from home,” including a kitchen, laundry facilities, a playroom, and a library for out-of-town families whose children are undergoing treatment at nearby hospitals. There are countless ways for local families to lend a hand, such as holding activities for guests, cleaning and decorating the house, preparing and serving dinner for guests, or just stopping by to lend your support to a family going through a tough time. For more information, call 203-777-5683 and ask for Wendy Kirby or visit online. 501 George St., New Haven.

Raise a Roof

A true sense of accomplishment—not to mention great hands-on experience—can be gained by building homes with Youth United, a program by Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County for youth ages 5-25. The program provides children with safe ways to get involved in building houses for families in need, right in their own community. There are many ways to get involved with Habitat CFC. Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds are the lifeblood of the organization. Whether you are interested in swinging a hammer, organizing a fundraiser, or serving on a committee, your participation will be welcomed. Students must be 16 or older to do actual house construction (one work day per month).  There is also one work day a month for younger students, which may involve painting, landscaping, fencing, or craft work. There are opportunities for groups as well as individuals. All volunteers are asked to attend planning meetings on the second Tuesday of every month at 7:30pm at the Habitat office (1542 Barnum Ave., Bridgeport). Volunteers can sign up by emailing Eileen Bakos at [email protected].

Spring Clean Your Closet

Take the time to help others as you help yourself. Enlist your kids in the process of cleaning out their closets to donate old clothes. 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:

1174 E. Main St., Bridgeport; 203-384-6934
129 Main St., Danbury; 203-792-9799

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. Kids ages 12 and older take action all year through Do Something’s campaigns and their own projects (apply here). For more information, call 212-254-2390 or visit online.

Support a Senior

At local nursing homes and rehabilitation centers, the gift of your time can make all the difference to an elderly individual. Stop by one of the locations below to play a card game, make a craft, color pictures, or design cards with a senior resident. If your family really wants to devote some time, you can “adopt a grandparent” and invite them to dinners and holiday parties. Here are a few nursing homes that accept volunteers:

To volunteer at the Jewish Senior Services at The Jewish Home, call Darlene Miakos, volunteer coordinator, at 203-365-6495 or email [email protected]. 175 Jefferson St., Fairfield.

Children ages 13 and older may apply independently (younger children may come with a parent supervisor) to become junior volunteers at Waveny LifeCare Network. Apply your talents, incorporate your interests, and assist with daily activities. Volunteers may receive credit for school. For more information, contact Debbie Perron, director of volunteers, at 203-594-5334 or [email protected] 3 Farm Road, New Canaan.

The Westport Center for Senior Activities offers nutritious congregate and home-delivered meals as well as recreational and educational programming. For more information on how you can lend a hand, call 203-341-5099 or visit online and look for the Senior Center link. 21 Imperial Ave., Westport.

Walk for a 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. Coming up: March for Babies in May, Great Strides: Taking Steps to Cure Cystic Fibrosis in June, Walk Now for Autism Speaks in June.