The Winter Wander List: Get out and do good
Shake off the winter doldrums by starting a family volunteer habit that will last all year. In the process, you can help kids explore their interests, such as gardening, critters or cooking — and get involved in important social and environmental justice issues. Here’s a starter list.
Cheer up a senior: Connect with a local nursing home facility to see if you can drop off or mail letters or cards to the residents, or volunteer with a nonprofit such as North East Seattle Together (NEST), which supports seniors aging in place. You can also join an organized letter drive, such as the Love Letters to the Elderly project, which includes handwritten cards in food bags picked up by seniors associated with the Northshore Senior Center.
Create care kits: Buy basics in bulk for homeless people — energy bars, socks, hand wipes, lip balm — and get a group together to make care kits that can be handed out at street corners and bus stops. Kids can make cards to include in the kits to brighten somebody’s day.
Drive for good: Turn your car into a do-good-mobile — and your kids into your deputy do-gooders — by picking up and delivering donations for area organizations that help people who are homebound and in need. United Way King County maintains a list of a number of delivering volunteer opportunities.
Empower your teen: Older teens are eligible to volunteer independently for many types of causes, from animal care to trail building to radio work and more. Check out our list for ideas.
Foster an animal: Apply to be a foster family through rescues such as Red Waggin’ Rescue or Seattle Feline Rescue; you can also check with larger shelters such as Seattle Humane. Families can also help raise money, donate needed items or participate in annual fundraising events like the annual PAWSwalk.
Garden for good: Want to flex your family’s green thumb for a cause? Late winter is the perfect time to begin thinking about planting a giving garden or helping grow one in a local community garden.
Home-based help: With your kitchen table designated as your “Doing-good HQ,” you can write cards to veterans, sick children or seniors; decorate placemats, lunch bags or oven mitts; or assemble care packages for Meals on Wheels.
Join a trail work party: If your kids enjoy hiking, join a Washington Trails Association (WTA) work party to maintain trails in some of the most beautiful spots in the region.
Plant trees: It’s hard to beat the earthy pleasure of planting trees, doing battle with invasive plants or cleaning up a beach. Find events run by the likes of Mountains to Sound Greenway, Delridge’s Nature Consortium and the Tacoma Nature Center.
Sort baby clothes and toys: Let your kids practice sorting skills by helping nonprofits organize incoming donations of children’s clothes and material goods. Examples include WestSide Baby, Eastside Baby Corner (EBC), Hopelink and Treehouse, which runs a free store for kids in foster care.
Learn, Volunteer and Give — Together
Online tools abound for helping you find a volunteer match for your family. Try Doing Good Together; GenerationOn; Learning to Give, which offers simple and safe service projects you can do as a family from home; or DoSomething, a particularly useful resource for older kids and teens.
If you have funds to spare, one of the most effective ways to give back is to donate. Figure out how much your family can give and have your kids help research organizations and causes. Some places to start: