Family volunteerism: Teaching grandkids civic responsibility offers rewards for all

By Kimberly Blaker

Volunteering is an excellent way for families to make a difference in their communities, and the benefits extend back to those offering their time and skills. Perhaps nothing is more rewarding than knowing you’ve made a difference in someone’s life. What’s more, volunteering raises children’s sense of civic responsibility, and is an excellent bonding experience with grandkids. It’s builds skills and offers socialization opportunities for all ages. 

Regardless of where you live, countless volunteer opportunities are available, and there’s something to fit every family’s talents and interests. Such as:

Help out at an animal shelter. Cats and dogs spend days, weeks, and often longer cooped up in small kennels or crates with little opportunity to exercise or socialize. Offer to spend an afternoon walking dogs or playing with cats. There are many other things you can do for a shelter, too. You can transport a pet to a new home, clean kennels, donate supplies, or help find loving homes through social media.

Adopt a road or park for cleanup.Most states have adopt-a-highway programs. These typically require a signed contract for a period of two to four years with a promise to clean up a designated area two to four times a year. Alternatively, you could pick an unsightly city street and head out to clean up the debris. Keep kids safe by requiring them to stay off the road and picking up litter only on the boulevard. If you have younger grandkids, park cleanup is a safer option.

Help build a house with Habitat for Humanity. This organization helps build and renovate homes for families in need of safe shelter. Visit to find your local Habitat organization, and ask how you can help. Habitat also offers a teen volunteer program.

Send letters to military members overseas. Veterans, new recruits, and deployed troops deserve and need to know just how much we appreciate their dedication and service to our country. For more information, visit 

Hold a coat, blanket, and backpack drive for the
Homelessness exists in every community throughout the country, whether visible or not. Homeless people are always in need of warm coats and blankets as well as a way to easily carry their bare necessities. Coordinate with a local homeless shelter, and set up several drop off locations in your community. Then create and pass out flyers on grocery store and laundromat bulletin boards, share them on social media, or email family and friends to help spread the word.  

Volunteer at a soup kitchen or food pantry. People that are impoverished or homeless are always in need of nutritious food and meals. Search online for local soup kitchens and food pantries. Then call and speak to the manager, and offer your family’s service. Be sure to mention the age of your grandkids in case there are age restrictions. At a soup kitchen, you can help prepare and serve a meal or do kitchen cleanup. For a food pantry, help with stocking or putting together food baskets for families in need. Some pantries also need delivery assistance since many low-income families don’t have transportation to pick up their food supply.  

Help an older adult by running errands. Do you know an older person who doesn’t drive or own a vehicle? Offer to transport them to do their errands and grocery shopping. If it’s too difficult for the older person to go out, you could offer to do the errands for them.

Put together care kits for homeless shelters. Ask local businesses to donate items for the homeless care kits you plan to create. The following are useful items to include in each kit: toothpaste, toothbrush, dental floss, a comb, bar of soap, shampoo, a package of hand wipes, razor, shaving cream, protein bars, and other small useful items. Any food items should be non-perishable and require no preparation.  

Help someone who’s visually impaired. Search online for your local organization for the visually impaired and offer your help. A visually impaired person may need assistance with cleaning, cooking, yard work, or errands. You can also ask the organization about other ways you can help.

Hold a bake sale for a charity.Pick your favorite charity, and hold a bake sale to raise funds for it. Just ask a busy local business or grocery store if you can set up a table on a given day for your charity bake sale. Then invite family and friends to pitch in and help with the baking.

Plant seeds or greenery along a highway or main street. Check with your city first. Then contact management at local nurseries and ask them to donate plants or seeds for the project. Plant only native flowers, shrubs, and trees that won’t require watering or maintenance  

Rake, mow or remove snow for a disabled person. If you don’t know anyone who’s disabled, ask coworkers or friends if they know of someone. Or do an online search for disability organizations in your area.  

Share these ideas with your grandkids and see what triggers their enthusiasm. Then make a family plan to put it into action. You’ll all be rewarded as a result.

Non-profit volunteer opportunities

Allegheny Valley Association of Churches

1913 Freeport Rd.

Natrona Heights, PA 15065 (724) 226-0606

Food Pantry

East End Cooperative Ministry

6140 Station St. Pittsburgh, PA 15206 (412) 361-5549

Food Pantry 

Focus on Renewal (FOR)

701 Chartiers Ave. McKees Rocks, PA 15136
(412) 331-1685

Food Pantry, clothing distribution

In Service of Seniors: North

North Hills Community Outreach

(412) 307-0069

In Service of Seniors: Pittsburgh

221 Penn Ave.

Wilkinsburg, PA 15221

(412) 345-7420

Jubilee Association

2005 Wyandotte St. Pittsburgh, PA 15219
(412) 261-5417 

Soup Kitchen

Salvation Army Western Pennsylvania Division

PO Box 742

700 N. Bell Ave. Carnegie, PA 15106 (412) 446-1500

South Hills Interfaith Movement

5301 Park Ave.

Bethel Park, PA 15102 (412) 854-9120