The Field Guide to Community Service
Get the Kids Involved
“As you grow older, you will discover you have two hands. One for helping yourself and one for helping others.”
— Audrey Hepburn
Whether you have toddlers or teens, it’s never too early or too late to teach your children how to get involved and give back to their community – and our example speaks louder than our words. When you help an elderly neighbor, bring a home-cooked meal to a friend or volunteer in our community, your children are learning what it means to be a good citizen.
Take a moment to watch “On Life and What We Do With It,” which is a project by Sophia Alloggiamento, a student at Archbishop Mitty High School. It is based on the TEDx Talk “Follow the Leader” by Suli Breaks, a spoken word poet from the United Kingdom.
Introduce your children to the San Jose 311 app. This practical tool will empower your children to report graffiti for cleanup, a broken street lamp for repair or a pothole to be filled.
Watch the Life Vest Inside – Kindness Boomerang – One Day video; it’s worth the 5 minutes and is sure to bring a smile to your face.
Check out Project Giving Kids to find opportunities for teens to get involved.
Check out Operation: Care & Comfort’s “Ten Ways to Help” list; there are lots of family-friendly ways to get involved.
Become a buddy with Jacob’s Buddies and bring smiles to the faces of children with physical or mental disabilities.
Organize your own family community service project by bringing trash bags and brooms to a park and spend time together tidying up.
Visit Doing Good Together for a list of volunteer opportunities in the Bay Area. It also includes books to help nurture empathy, gratitude and a desire to give back in your children.
Travel abroad with Amigos de las Americas, which offers programs that last from two weeks to a year. Volunteers learn about community service in another country, practice Spanish, spend time with a host family and work on a service project with local volunteers.
Create an allowance system for your children with three buckets of money: share-save-spend. Allow your kids to find charities that have meaning for them and then help them make donations with their “share” money.
Pursue a virtual volunteering opportunity with Youngzine, which is looking for students interested in writing and journalism for a six-month commitment of three to four hours per week.
Apply for The Rotary of San Jose and Los Gatos’ Enterprise Leadership Conference (ELC), which is designed to help develop leadership and presentation skills of 96 industrious high school juniors from throughout Silicon Valley.
Amigos offers cultural immersion experiences through summer volunteer and gap programs in Latin America. Programs give students the opportunity to gain education and life experience, leadership training, and a new network of friends by living and working in communities throughout Central and South America.
The American Cancer Society is a nationwide, community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. Start a Relay for Life team; putting a team together to walk for 10 hours is family-bonding at its best.
Angels on Stage enhances the lives of children and young adults with special needs by breaking down stereotypes and empowering them to develop friendships, independence, confidence, self-esteem and life skills through the performing arts. Look into the organization’s Buddy Coach program, which engages volunteer peers to work and bond with AoS participants. This highly successful approach provides participants with special needs an inclusive opportunity to connect and build relationships with typically developing peers as role models, friends and supports.
Animal Assisted Happiness works to enrich the lives of youth with special needs through barnyard animal interactions at its Smile Farm and mobile visits. Youth volunteers (6th-12th grade) are needed to care for and socialize animals, assist children interacting with animals, maintain the facilities and help with fundraising and community outreach.
Bay Area Friendship Circle creates inclusion and friendship for children and teens with special needs. The organization empowers teen volunteers to become engaged and caring community leaders.
Bill Wilson Center supports and strengthens the community by serving youth and families through counseling, housing, education and advocacy. Look into the Chat 4 Teens Peer Counselor program, which has volunteer opportunities for high school juniors and seniors.
Boys Team Charity was founded by families that wanted to teach their 7th-12th grade boys the importance of giving back and making a difference in their local community. Parent(s) and son(s) volunteer side by side to strengthen their community and family relationship. There are 15 chapters in California, including Almaden, Los Gatos and Saratoga.
California Youth Symphony provides talented young musicians with musical experience and the opportunity for personal growth through the training and performance of symphonic music at the highest level.
Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose inspires creativity, curiosity and lifelong learning through hands-on activities and exhibits. CDM has opportunities for families to volunteer together on weekend afternoons and for teens (16 years and up) to become part of Team Teal.
CMT San Jose trains and educates youth through musical theater to enable them to achieve their artistic and personal goals, and to inspire them to become exemplary artists, patrons and citizens of tomorrow.
CityTeam provides hot meals, safe shelter, showers and clean clothing to our city’s homeless population. Family Volunteer Together is an opportunity that encourages parents and children to work together to make a positive impact in the community for those in need. Families can help pack hygiene kits and food boxes and sort donations.
The Crayon Initiative recycles used and unwanted crayons to preserve our environment and enrich the lives of hospitalized children through art and imagination. Children can become Crayon Advocates by hosting a crayon drive at their school. Crayon Initiative even has a downloadable school program guide to help.
Eating Disorders Resource Center
Eating Disorders Resource Center (EDRC) works to increase awareness and understanding of eating disorders for the general public and health professionals; to promote early diagnosis, effective treatment and recovery; and to advocate for mental health parity legislation and effective insurance coverage. EDRC needs volunteers to assist with its programs, services and activities, including office duties, writing grants and maintaining its website.
The Family Giving Tree inspires the values of kindness, philanthropy and volunteerism through programs serving Bay Area communities. The organization’s Holiday Wish Drive and a Back-to-School Drive provide gifts and supplies to families in need across the Bay Area. Families and teens can volunteer together.
Family Supportive Housing provides temporary housing and targeted support to guide families from crisis to independence. There are many opportunities to volunteer for students age 16 and older, as well as children ages 12 and up with a parent.
First Tee of Silicon Valley works to impact the lives of young people through golf by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices. There are volunteer opportunities for students in 9th grade and above.
Furry Friends Pet Assisted Therapy Services
Furry Friends Pet Assisted Therapy Services is devoted to bringing the healing power of animals to those less fortunate in our community. Children ages 12-16 can volunteer at Furry Friends when accompanied by an adult. Check out Reading Buddies and other opportunities
Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
The conservancy preserves the Golden Gate National Parks, enhances the park visitor experience, and builds a community dedicated to conserving the parks for the future. There are volunteer opportunities for all ages, including Park Youth Collaborative’s Youth Advisory Council, which re-engages diverse teams of young people who have previously been involved in other park youth programs, giving them new leadership opportunities and major involvement in various PYC projects.
Guadalupe River Park Conservancy
GRPC provides community leadership for the development and active use of the park and gardens through education, advocacy and stewardship. The organization offers student internships and organizes community service opportunities, such as trail maintenance, river clean-ups and orchard projects.
Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley
Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope. The organization offers many volunteer opportunities for students 16 and older, including the Playhouse Program and the Women’s Crew.
Happy Hollow Foundation supports Happy Hollow Park & Zoo, which is part of the species survival program to help ensure the survival of selected species in zoos and aquariums, most of which are threatened or endangered in the wild. The ZooTeen Program is for teens who are interested in pursuing a career involving zookeeping, zoo education, veterinary care, conservation biology or a related field. ZooTeens work closely with the zoo’s education and animal care teams.
Hospice of the Valley affirms dignity and hope for those facing serious illness by providing comfort through compassionate palliative, hospice and grief care. The organization strengthens the community through advocacy, education, research and volunteerism. Look into the Teen Program, which matches teens with hospice patients to provide friendship, practical help and companionship, allowing for growth and discovery for both.
Humane Society saves and enhances lives of animals by working to eliminate unnecessary euthanasia. The organization has been in Silicon Valley for over 85 years. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities for children between 10-13 and teens. You can even host a birthday party at the facility.
Jacob’s Buddies League Adaptive Sports Program
Jacob’s Buddies offers a community-based sports program that is designed to meet the needs of children with physical and/or mental disabilities through the utilization of peer buddies and professional coaches. If you are 12 years old, you can become a buddy with this program and play sports or provide encouragement.
LifeMoves provides interim housing and supportive services for homeless families and individuals to help them rapidly return to stable housing and achieve long-term self-sufficiency. There are many volunteer opportunities for families and teens.
Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen
Loaves & Fishes prepares, delivers and serves hot, nutritious meals to low-income families and disadvantaged individuals, with a special concern for children, families, seniors, veterans, students, the disabled and the homeless. There are volunteer opportunities for children 10 and up to help prep fruits and vegetables, serve hot meals, pour beverages, wash dishes and tidy-up the site facility.
The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito is leading the field in ocean conservation through marine mammal rescue, veterinary medicine, science and education. The center’s Youth Crew is an annual service-learning program that enables teens 15-18 to become animal care and education volunteers at the center’s main facility near Sausalito. The recruitment and application process takes place each fall; the program runs from January through August.
Martha’s Kitchen is an interfaith, mom-and-pop hot meal program that has served tens of thousands of hungry men, women and children in the San Jose area. Volunteer opportunities are available for those 16 and older and are limited to Tuesdays and Wednesdays, except when you have pre-arranged a special day.
My New Red Shoes provides homeless and low-income children with new clothing and shoes. Volunteer opportunities for families include hosting a shoe drive, sewing gift bags and creating cards for the first day of school.
NCL enables for mothers and their daughters in grades 7–12 to embrace community service, leadership development and cultural experiences. The organization has chapters across the country, including many throughout the Bay Area.
OCC allows Americans to donate their time, talent and treasure to honor those serving our country and those who have served. Conduct a neighborhood scavenger hunt, volunteer at a care package assembly or start a letter writing campaign.
The Princess Project promotes self-confidence and individual beauty by providing free prom dresses and accessories to high school teens who cannot otherwise afford them. High school students can organize a dress drive at school.
PGK teaches empathy and social responsibility to young people by providing technology that connects kids, teens and families to high-quality, age-appropriate volunteer activities with their network of nonprofit partners across the country, including Silicon Valley.
Project Linus provides homemade blankets to children in need. The blankets are lovingly made by adults and children from all walks of life. Become a blanketeer and make a warm, cozy blanket for a child in need.
The Rabbit Haven rescues abandoned rabbits and accepts surrendered rabbits from the general public and shelters. They secure medical care, including spaying or neutering, and work to place rescued rabbits in loving foster and permanent homes. There are lots of ways for students 14 and older to volunteer, including a sewing program, photography or social media help.
Ronald McDonald House Charities Bay Area
Ronald McDonald House Charities Bay Area provides communities of support, access to medical care, and the healing power of family and home for critically ill children. Ronald McDonald House has volunteer opportunities for students 16 and older and families to put together comfort kids, toiletry kids and snack packs.
Sacred Heart Community Service
Sacred Heart works to build a community free from poverty by creating hope, opportunity and action. The organization provides essential services, advocates for justice and inspires our community to love, serve and share. There are opportunities for families and teens to volunteer.
The San Jose Youth Symphony gives young people a foundation for life through orchestral music. The symphony creates programs that assure young musicians achieve technical proficiency, musical knowledge and an emotional connection to music. It strives to make each performance uplifting, spirited and exciting.
Second Harvest provides food for people in need in our community. Family activities include creating colorful grocery bags for seniors, making holiday cards, preparing comfort kits, doing a mini food drive and creating family food baskets.
Sunday Friends empowers families to break the generational cycle of poverty by fostering positive development in children while educating and guiding parents to support their children’s life success. Family volunteering is the norm at Sunday Friends, with teens and pre-teens facilitating art sessions, cooking lessons or playing educational games. Younger children can join in on art, cooking and games.
The Trash Punx is cleaning up our community, one piece of trash at a time. It’s hard to imagine that cleaning up litter would be fun, but Trash Punx makes the experience interesting and rewarding for children, teens and families.
Veggielution connects people from diverse backgrounds through food and farming to build community in East San Jose. Check out 1st Saturdays at Veggielution where the diversity of our community comes to life. Whether by exploring the Youth Garden, morning stretching during yoga class or taking in the sights and sounds of the kitchen during Veggielution Cocina, the farm instills a strong sense of connection among participants from many different backgrounds.
Village Harvest is a volunteer organization that provides food for the hungry, preserves our heritage and skills, and promotes sustainable use of urban resources. It organizes backyard fruit harvesting, and provides education on fruit tree care, harvesting and food preservation. Village Harvest encourages families and students to volunteer for backyard harvests.
Vivace Youth Chorus of San Jose provides young singers with the means and opportunities to experience and share the power and poetry of song.
Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley
WCSV provides high-quality care and rehabilitation of injured, sick and orphaned wildlife within Silicon Valley. Through educational programs, it fosters a positive coexistence between the general public and wildlife, and encourages an interest in and concern for wildlife conservation issues. Ongoing volunteer opportunities and internship program for those 16 and up.
Young Men’s Service League, Silicon Valley Chapter
YMSL encourages young men and their mothers to pursue philanthropic involvement in their community and provides an opportunity to enhance mother/son relationships.
Youngzine is a unique website where children can learn about current news and events shaping their world, in a simple, engaging and interactive manner. The volunteer-led organization relies on students for this virtual volunteering opportunity, which requires at least a six-month commitment of three to four hours per week.
Teach your children to be grateful.
Share family stories.
Teach your children what it means to be a good neighbor.
Check out Doing Good Together, which empowers families to raise caring, engaged children by offering unique programs and events, valuable services, and fun activities that promote kindness and giving.
Learn about Project Giving Kids for opportunities to connect your children with opportunities to give back.