Making the world a little bit better than I found it as a passion of mine, one that I hope rubs off on my three kids. Sometimes I think it’s working, like when my boys share change from their piggy banks to save snakes (hey, someone’s got to look out for the endangered cobras of the world). Other times, I’m not so sure, like when they proclaim that they’re going to keep the dollar I’ve given them for the church collection plate, and will never, ever, ever give any money away again because they need it all so they can be rich and buy every Lego set ever made.
During the school year, we participate in school and church activities to give back, from bringing diapers to a diaper drive to collecting money to support Lutheran World Relief, but it’s hard to fit in more organized family volunteer projects, especially ones that work for three kids under seven. But in summer, we have a little more time to spare. Before our summer fills up with pool trips and outdoor adventures, we’re going to make plans to do something good for the community as a family.
Colorado has a fantastic nonprofit community, with over 19,000 nonprofit organizations doing everything from housing single parents and their families to helping preserve and protect natural resources around the world. There are so many groups doing great work out there that there’s sure to be one that lines up with your family’s interests.
Here are a few easy, family-friendly ways that you and your kids can give back this summer:
Organize a Park Clean Up
I know, at first glance, this one sounds kind of like a drag, but when my then-two and four-year-olds participated in a clean up day, it couldn’t have been more awesome in their eyes. They saw a snake! They filled bags with garbage! They got to use fantastic grabbers to touch yucky stuff! Two years later, they still talk about that time they saw a snake and picked up trash. If only clean-up time was so easy at home…You can join an already-organized clean up, or you can just call up a friend and plan to fill up a bag with trash at the start of a play date. Just don’t forget the grabbers and gloves.
Host a Lemonade Stand for Charity
I’ve had a hard time convincing my kids that lemonade stand money should go anywhere but their pockets, but for many other kids, it’s an easy and fun way to take a favorite summertime activity and use it to give back. Kids can pick a charity of their choice, or make use of the useful tools from well-known Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a nonprofit founded by a little girl named Alex to raise money for childhood cancer research.
Book Round Up
Gather up gently used books around your house, and invite neighbors and friends to do the same. Colorado’s Reach Out And Read provides books to children living in poverty through donations at well child checks. You can add a few to the over 165,000 books Reach Out and Read gave away last year. My preschoolers found it very easy to part with baby books they’d outgrown, and felt very benevolent about the whole thing.
This one comes straight from the kids. Eighteen Parker kids organized a bowl-a-thon to raise money for Hunger Free Colorado. Together they raised over $400, and collected canned goods, all while having fun in support of a good cause.
For Animal Lovers
The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keensburg is home to over 350 rescued animals, from tigers to emus. You can visit and say hello to the animals and also help them by bringing along something from the Sanctuary’s wish list, such as bags of apples ready to be gobbled up by the bears.
Want more ways you can volunteer together? Check out local group Metro Volunteers’ online postings. Most are better for families with older children or teenagers. Volunteer Match is also a great resource, with tons of opportunities that are appropriate for kids, all searchable by location and area of interest.
Oz Spies has over 15 years’ experience working in the nonprofit sector. She lives in Denver with her husband and three children.