Things To Do: Year-round volunteer opportunities to serve fellow North Texans / 13 ways to serve all year long
The holidays are behind us, and gone are the Red Kettles and coat drives. But worthy causes in the area need volunteers year-round. There are numerous volunteer opportunities in the North Texas area. Sign up your family
for a year-round opportunity to help fellow North Texans who are hungry, homeless, sick or homebound. Begin here and find a local cause that tugs on your family’s heartstrings.
The hospital waiting room can be a scary place so help parents and kids at Children's Health pass the time with busy books. Assemble coloring pages (you can download free, themed printables online) bound with yarn and drop them off at the Dallas or Plano campuses.
Help Kids in the Hospital
Don’t forget to tape a few crayons to them. Children who have long hospital stays appreciate donated board books, Spanish, braille or bestselling children’s literature. Older kids benefit from gift cards to Barnes & Noble, which are
used to purchase textbooks and other academic reading material when they have to spend extended periods away from the classroom.
Crochet, knit, sew or tie a no-sew fleece blanket for Project Linus, an organization that distributes handmade blankets to ill and traumatized children at local hospitals and shelters. Project Linus gives instructions easy enough for elementary kids to make no-sew security blankets using only soft fleece material, scissors and simple knot-tying skills. Visit the local chapter websites for drop-off locations and instructions, and for more help, email Regina Forthman at firstname.lastname@example.org (Collin County) or Maria Simpson at email@example.com
Children’s Health Dallas, 1935 Medical District Drive, Dallas, 972/489-5404 // Children’s Health Plano, 7601 Preston Road, Plano, 469/303-7000; childrens.com // Project Linus, Multiple drop-off locations; plcollin.org; projectlinusdallas.org
Kids are part of the local homeless population, and kids can be part of the solution too. Family Gateway works to end homelessness for Dallas children, and the organization gives families opportunities to help. Recruit your kids to help plan a game night or cook and serve a
Help Homeless Families
meal for kids in the shelter. All ages are invited to volunteer but kids under 14 have to be supervised by an adult. Visit the website to find a full list of needs and to fill out a volunteer application.
More than 1,000 children struggle to find a place to sleep each night in the Dallas area, but Hope Supply Co. and its partner shelters work to provide basic needs for these kids. Your children can help by building a birthday box or hygiene kit. For the birthday box, have your children collect small toys, coloring books, games, knickknacks, etc.—they can add whatever they would want to receive on their birthday (excluding food or candy). Package everything in a shoebox-size container, wrap it or decorate it with stickers and drop it off year-round at the Dallas warehouse. Hygiene kits including shampoo, body soap, lotion, diapers, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other
body care items also are accepted year-round.
Family Gateway, 711 S. St. Paul St., Dallas, 214/823-4500; familygateway.org // Hope Supply Co., 10480 Shady Trail, Suite 104, Dallas, 214/630-5765; hopesupplyco.org
Budding environmentalists can build character and beautify their favorite outdoor spaces at the same time with a Community Cleanup through the Plano Parks and Recreation Department. Have your children choose a location to clean up like their school, their favorite park or playground, their neighborhood or even a nearby creek. If nothing comes to mind, the city can assign a place in need of TLC. Fill out a registration form online a week in advance so you can receive all the needed tools for your project in a free cleanup supply bag.
Help Your Neighborhood
City of Plano, 1520 K Ave., Plano, 972/769-4313; plano.gov/1387/community-cleanup
Learn sustainable gardening practices when you and the kids volunteer as docents in the butterfly house at Texas Discovery Gardens, the first certified organic public garden in the state. Learn how to care for the insects, plants and animals, then pass on the knowledge to visitors. Experiences can be tailored to your child’s interests, whether it’s trimming the tropical foliage or feeding the cockroaches.
Help the Environment
Then take your knowledge home and build a conservation butterfly garden in your backyard, on your porch or even on a windowsill. A butterfly garden conserves the pollinator population by providing a safe place for them to grow, breed and pollinate plants. To build a garden, you need to plant nectar plants (like zinnia or Mexican sunflower) and host plants (like milkweed). And here’s a perk for your nature lover—volunteers can attend garden walks for free every second Saturday from March to September.
Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park, 3601 Martin Luther King Junior Blvd., Dallas, 214/428-7476; txdg.org
Kids age 6 and up who can pitch in four hours a month can become junior volunteers at Operation Kindness in Carrollton. The gig comes with responsibilities like walking dogs (with a parent’s supervision), cleaning kennels, changing litter boxes, socializing kittens and even taking the family pet to senior living centers. Kids who
Help Rescued Animals
can’t commit to the junior volunteer program can drop off much-needed items like chew toys, Fancy Feast and paper towels year-round or volunteer to read to dogs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Just bring a book from home or check one out at the shelter. Fill out a volunteer application online and pay the $35 volunteer fee
for adults, $25 fee for juniors or call for times to drop off donations.
Animal lovers age 10 and 11 and their parents assist the SPCA of Texas with facility upkeep such as washing dishes, doing doggy laundry and greeting customers. Twelve-year-olds pitch in by walking, feeding and grooming dogs, cuddling cats, uploading photos to the website and even fostering a pet. To be assigned a two- or three-hour weekday shift (which is when they need the most help), pay the $50 parent-child volunteer registration fee and fill out an application online.
Operation Kindness, 3201 Earhart Drive, Carrollton, 972/418-7297; operationkindness.org // SPCA of Texas, Multiple locations; spca.org
Homebound seniors in Dallas County always are grateful for a meal delivery from Visiting Nurse Association Meals on Wheels, but a delivery by a young volunteer is an especially bright spot. First attend a volunteer training, offered the first and third Thursdays of the month from 1:30–3pm at the Patrick and Beatrice Haggerty Center in Dallas. There, you will be assigned a nearby depot to pick up meals and a compact route to drive and deliver meals in three hours or less Monday–Friday.
Help Senior Citizens
Visiting Nurse Association, 1600 Viceroy Drive, Suite 400, Dallas, 214/689-3222; vnatexas.org
City House in Plano provides shelter to homeless, abused and neglected children, teens and young adults. Your child can show them love and support by writing cards of encouragement to their peers. As a family, you can cook a meal for young adults housed in the Transitional Living Program, collect birthday gifts for children, donate canned goods and loose change, or build welcome boxes for new residents. Bring your donations to the administrative office on 18th Street.
Help Vulnerable Kids
Thanks to the Rainbow Room at Community Partners of Dallas, caseworkers can shop for clothes, school supplies and toiletries for local abused and neglected children without having to pay out of their own pockets. Have your kids help meet the basic needs of these kids by volunteering to stock the room with necessities like Pull-Ups, coloring books, sip cups and birthday party supplies. Find a complete list of needs on their website.
City House, 901 18th St., Plano, 972/424-4626; cityhouse.org // Community Partners of Dallas, 1215 Skiles St., Dallas, 214/624-7622; cpdtx.org
For many Collin County families, the Heritage Farmstead Museum is a monthly destination for dress-up and time travel to the turn of the century—maybe you’ve even celebrated a birthday there. To give back to this family favorite and preserve a piece of Plano history, you and the kids can pick up trash and rake the farm on the first and third Saturdays of the month. Garden
Help Preserve History
volunteers pull weeds and plant (when needed) in the kitchen plot, and livestock helpers feed the goats and sheep and clean their pens too. Complete a volunteer application online.
Heritage Farmstead Museum, 1900 West 15th St., Plano, 972/881-0140; heritagefarmstead.org