by Lenora Kruk-Mullanaphy)
Volunteering is an ideal way for children and teens to be part of their community. It gives them a chance to explore their talents, and it also teaches morals and empathy toward others. When children volunteer with their parents, they spend valuable time together while doing something positive in the community.
Robin Wild and her daughters Grace, age 11, and Rose, age 5, of Fredericksburg, began volunteering at the Old Dominion Humane Society in 2018. Grace wanted to do something to help animals, and Robin found Old Dominion to be the most accommodating for her daughters’ ages.
“The most important thing volunteering teaches them is giving time, heart and soul—and love,” says Wild. “It teaches them how to give purely with no expectation of getting something in return.”
Old Dominion allows children who are under parental supervision to volunteer, including brushing and bathing dogs, filling water bowls, snuggling with puppies, dressing canines for adoption events, and fostering dogs. Teens 15 years and up can walk the dogs, organize cabinets, clean crates and assist at adoption events. Children who are crafty can make no-sew blankets, t-shirt dog ropes, and healthy, homemade treats.
“We’re an extremely kid-friendly rescue, and we understand the impact a child can make on a shelter dog,” says Michelle Storm, spokesperson and volunteer. “Many times, we see a dog’s spirit lift after spending a few minutes with a child. We realize the importance of teaching children that their actions, compassion and desire to help really make a difference.”
The Wild family’s love of volunteering at the shelter has led them to open their home, at one time or another, to a total of 43 foster dogs. With two current foster dogs in the family, each person has specific responsibilities to care for them.
“Many times, children are told they’re too young to volunteer, and that’s not the case with our rescue center,” says Storm. “No matter what the age, it’s never too early to teach compassion.
When parents volunteer with their children, they have a chance to see each other in a different light, according to Storm. She says when a parent watches their child interact with lonely, homeless dogs, it just warms the heart and is a great way for them to bond. While volunteering, they’ll also have a chance to make new friends—both the two- and four-legged kind.
At the Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank, children are welcome to participate in warehouse tours, food drives and family volunteer events. According to Carey Sealy, volunteer and event coordinator, 18,000 children in the area struggle with getting enough food to eat.
“It takes a community to end hunger,” she says. “If just one child finds a passion in ending hunger, the world will be a better place. We want our youth to recognize hunger can be a temporary situation that can impact anyone. If a parent is there to offer insight and explain to their child as only they know how, we may end up with a few hunger crusaders.”
Sealy says volunteering at an early age allows children to get to know their community and its needs. While every community has a magnitude of deficiencies, it’s up to us as part of the community to take action and make our surroundings a better place for everyone. She sums it up in a quote by Helen Keller, who said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
Children 10 years and older can volunteer with a parent or as a group with an adult leader, becoming part of monthly volunteer pack programs. Youths ages 14 and 15 can volunteer in the warehouse or mobile pantry with a parent or adult leader for a group. Teens 16 years and older can participate in activities alone or with a group.
The following are just a few of the organizations that invite children to volunteer.
Old Dominion Humane Society
3602 Lafayette Boulevard, Fredericksburg, Va., 22408
Offers community service and work project hours, as well as Saturday adoption events. Individuals who volunteer on their own need to complete an orientation.
Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank
3631 Lee Hill Dr., Fredericksburg, VA 22408
Children can participate in warehouse tours, food drives and family volunteer events.
American Red Cross—Rappahannock Area Chapter
3310 Shannon Park Dr., Fredericksburg, Va., 22408
Serves teens with a fresh outlook on their community through a combination of service projects, fundraising events, and discussions concerning the local environment.
Downtown Greens Community Greenspace
206 Charles St., Fredericksburg, Va., 22401
Ideal for all ages, offering workshops/regular programs. Send an email for ideas of how you can be a part of the Downtown Greens community.