10 Great Community Service Ideas for Philly Kids
Young Philadelphians can volunteer their time to help the local community.
Philadelphia is known around the world as the City of Brotherly Love. We’ve come by that reputation through generations of giving back whenever we can. We truly love our city and our neighbors. That’s not a tradition that just comes out of nowhere. I’s bred into us. It’s how we’re raised, which is why it is no surprise to learn that studies have shown that children who see their parents volunteer grow up more empathetic and tolerant. Not only that, but they are more likely to volunteer as adults.
Address: 30 Clipper Road, Conshohocken, PA 19428
Ages: 6 & up
Imagine not having shoes that fit, school supplies to take to class, or even a backpack to carry them in. That’s a reality one in four Philadelphia children face every day. Cradles to Crayons is trying to lower those numbers by working with volunteers to get supplies to the children that need them. Volunteers can expect to be handling donations for people in the community. Each shift lasts two hours. Duties range from sanitizing donations to sorting and packaging them, depending on Cradles to Crayons’ current needs. They request each group brings one new or like-new item to donate per shift. Be sure to check their “most needed items” list.
Address: 350 E. Erie Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19134
Phone: 215-426-6300, ext. 248
Ages: 8 & up
The SPCA is the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and its mission is to speak for the four-legged residents of Philadelphia who can’t speak for themselves. Currently they have two programs for younger volunteers. The first is specifically designed for classrooms and youth groups. Although the animal interaction varies, some of the volunteer opportunities can include feeding snacks to goats, passing out toys to cats, and sometimes a special dog visitor will come up during activity time. The second program is for individuals. Kids can volunteer through the Cat Tales reading program. The 30-minute shift is spent reading to up to six freely roaming cats. Be sure to bring something other than your copy of “The Cat in the Hat.” They get that a lot.
Address: 3616 S. Galloway St., Philadelphia, PA 19148
Ages: 8 & up
A food bank established in 1984, Philabundance works to feed the 750,000 people in and around our city who are facing hunger every day -- 30 percent of whom are children. In Philly, Philabundance is synonymous with Preston and Steve’s Annual Campout for Hunger. If you’ve always wanted to get your kids involved but couldn’t make it to the campout, here’s your chance. Most of their volunteer opportunities are for ages 14 and up, but they do a family night on the second Tuesday of every month. Volunteers as young as 8 years old can help stock pantries and sort canned goods for their fellow Philadelphians.
Address: Drexel Hill, PA 19026
Ages: 11 & up
Not quite sure where your teen’s passion lies yet? Try the Philadelphia chapter of the Youth Volunteer Corps. Acting as a type of volunteer smorgasbord, Youth Volunteer Corps offers various options to help in the community. Although they are generally a school-based volunteer group, they do accept “drop in” volunteers. The program works to place kids in the projects that would have the best fit for their age and skills. They offer a variety of options to sample in an effort to inspire a lifelong love of volunteering.
Address: 3925 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104
Ages: April - October: Ages 12 & up | November - March: Ages 16 & up
The Ronald McDonald House provides housing and meal planning for families that are in Philadelphia seeking treatment for their sick or injured children. It allows families to remain close to hospitalized children without having to take on the additional emotional or financial burden of coordinating the details of their stay. They work off donations of time and money in order to make this possible. One of the many things they offer these families is meal planning. That’s where you and your family come in! You provide the ingredients, and they provide the kitchen. Groups of up to 10 people can come in and prepare meals for the families.
Address: 3400 W. Girard Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19104
Ages: 14 & up
Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room... (Zoo joke. Nailed it.) None of these positions involve working directly with the animals. I know that’s a bummer for the kids, but there really are so many opportunities here, and the benefits are endless -- discounts on food and free tickets to name a few. It almost makes up for the fact that you won’t be feeding llamas. Most of the work involves educating park attendees about animals and conservation efforts. If your kids are still nonplussed (and having a hard time getting over the lack of llama feeding), tell them that they’re helping support an organization whose local efforts include educating the community about reforestation and restoring native wildlife habitats in the hopes that someday soon they’ll be able to see a variety of wild animals outside the walls of the zoo, as well.
Address: 1901 Vine St., Ste. 111, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Ages: 14 & up
The Philadelphia libraries have many volunteer positions available. (Including helping older Philadelphians learn how to navigate computers. Ahem, something your children are probably already doing at home.) You can check their website to see the full list, as it offers a variety of opportunities. Based on how outgoing of a personality your teen has they can choose from activities ranging from reshelving books to being trained to act as an English Language Facilitator, where their primary goal will be to help new Americans become familiar with the language.
Address: 160 E. Erie Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19134
Ages: 16 & up
Hospitals are always looking for volunteers, and nobody needs them more than children’s hospitals. Their little patients require so much more care and attention, especially during a time that is so stressful for them and their families. The smiling face of your teen might be just the thing they need to brighten their day. There are a variety of positions open and include everything from helping with admissions paperwork to cuddling babies. This is a hospital, so there are very strict rules and requirements for volunteering, which include an interview process and proof that your children are up to date on all vaccinations.
Address: 1829 N. 19th St., Philadelphia, PA 19121
Phone: 215-765-6000 ext. 10
Ages: 16 & up
Made famous by former president Jimmy Carter (who is still building houses at 93 years old), Habitat for Humanity is perfect for an aspiring carpenter or a teen who wants to apply all their Minecraft skills to the real world. And don’t worry parents, Habitat doesn’t allow anyone younger than 18 to use power tools or go higher than 10 feet off the ground. What they will be doing is building and repairing homes across Philadelphia, fulfilling Habitat’s goal of helping every Philadelphian obtain safe and affordable housing.
Address: 1515 Arch St., Ste. #10, Philadelphia, PA 19102
Ages: Varies by park
Looking for a way to give back but also soak up those last long days of sunshine? Try your local parks department. The Philadelphia Parks and Recreations department has a list of local parks where you can volunteer to help with outdoor cleanup, activities at the recreational centers, and set up for events. Take advantage of these last few weeks of summer and give back to the parks that give so much to us the rest of the year!