Back by popular demand, here’s our annual guide to family volunteer opportunities in the greater Pittsburgh area. While this list represents just a small number of the agencies in need this holiday season, there are many places to volunteer with kids and make it a family experience. Check it out to find something on this list that will inspire your family to action.
Sometimes the desire to volunteer is there, but it’s hard to know where to get started if you’re new to volunteering, and what the rules are when kids are involved. Pittsburgh Cares partners with nonprofits in the region, and helps match volunteers with the opportunity best-suited for them.
This year Pittsburgh Cares will be holding two Family Volunteer Day events, on Wednesday, Dec. 2 from 5:30 pm-7:30 pm at The Toys for Tots Warehouse, at the Guardian Self Storage Unit on Liberty Ave. in Another Family Volunteer Day will be held Friday Dec. 4 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m, at the same location.
Volunteers at these events will be helping with Toys for Tots, a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve which collects gifts and distributes them to families in need. Family volunteers at the Pittsburgh Cares events will help sort toys and fill orders. Space for both events is limited, so either register on Pittsburgh Cares’ website, or contact them at email@example.com or by calling 412.471-2114 for additional information.
South Hills Interfaith Ministries
South Hills Interfaith Ministries is a human services organization that provides resources and support programs to families in need. During the holiday season, its Angel Emporium Gift Drive allows needy families to “shop” for other family members at no cost to them. Kids can shop for parents in one “store” while parents “shop” in a different store. Packages are wrapped after they are chosen. Donations for the Angel Emporium program are accepted through Dec. 1. South Hills also needs volunteers for gift distribution and wrapping, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 4 and between Dec. 7 and Dec. 10. For more information: South Hills Interfaith Ministries.
Open Your Heart to a Senior
Open Your Heart to a Senior focuses on matching volunteers with senior adults who need assistance to live independently. Each year nearly 600 seniors are enrolled in the program for needs that range from friendly visits and home-cooked meal delivery to rides to the doctor’s office or grocery store. Nearly 20 local nonprofit agencies work with this organization to match up volunteers. For more information: UnitedWay of Allegheny County.
Another great option for families is the Snow Angels program, which is an Allegheny County initiative to help elderly or disabled residents with snow removal from sidewalks and walkways. Along with fostering stronger community relationships, and relieving some of the stress that comes from a snow storm, Snow Angels program helps keep sidewalks safer for postal service workers, firemen, and police officers, who work outside even in inclement weather. Volunteers under 18 have to be accompanied by an adult. For more information: PGHSnowAngels or 412-863-5939.
North Hills Community Outreach
North Hills Community Outreach is a human services organization that assists families dealing with crisis, hardship and poverty. Its Thanksgiving on Every Table project distributes more than 750 complete dinners each year to people in need. Volunteer families can donate all or some of the items from the ‘complete dinner’ list or even organize a collection in their neighborhood or congregation. That program is underway and runs through Nov. 13.
Another seasonal sharing project is the Holiday Toy Shop, which begins Nov. 11 and runs until Dec. 11. Last year more than 1,000 children received new toys and gifts for the holidays through that program. Volunteer families can collect and donate new gifts for children, from infants through age 18. Teen gifts for boys and girls are especially needed. Its In Service of Seniors program always needs families to rake leaves, shovel snow or visit with local seniors. For more information: 412-408-3830.
Grow Pittsburgh’s mission is to educate the public about urban agriculture and to demonstrate how important gardening and fresh foods can be to the health of a community. Through programs like the Edible Schoolyard, Grow Pittsburgh integrates gardening into the classroom. Volunteers to help with harvesting activities are needed at its Braddock Farms site every third Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through November, weather permitting. On Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., volunteers are needed at Shiloh Farm in North Point Breeze. For more information: 412-362-GROW (4769) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Global Links offers medical relief to resource-poor communities in Latin America and the Caribbean by providing health clinics with still-useful surplus materials that have been salvaged from hospitals in the United States. While it always welcomes help with sorting and packing medical supplies, community engagement manager Stacy Bodow says the need for volunteers at Global Links is often greatest after the first of the year.
One program Global Links needs help with this year that Bodow said would be ideal for kids is putting together Welcome Baby Kits for young mothers-to-be in rural Nicaragua. The kits are filled with everyday essentials for newborns, such as clothes, diapers, shampoo and baby wipes, which are often hard to find in rural areas. Mothers in the program commit to receiving prenatal care and having an attended birth, which helps both mother and baby.
Volunteers who want to help can hold a baby “shower” and invite people to bring needed donations, or purchase the items from Global Links’ Target and Amazon wish lists. For more information about this and other volunteer opportunities, contact Global Links at email@example.com of 412-361-3424.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Pittsburgh
The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Pittsburgh (RMHC) provide lodging and supportive services to families with seriously ill children who are receiving medical care at local hospitals. . One of its most popular options is the Prepare a Meal Program where families with children of all ages can go to the house kitchen and prepare a home-cooked meal for residents. For more information, contact Morgan Barnes at 412-246-1103 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Animal Rescue League
The Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center in East Liberty is always in need of foster homes for its animals, since many of the smaller puppies and kittens aren’t yet ready for permanent adoption. Most of its onsite opportunities require volunteers to be 18 or older. But students of all ages can sign up to read to the adoptable cats at Animal Rescue League, as part of its Animal Tales program. It helps build reading fluency for kids, and helps to socialize the cats. Upcoming dates for the Animal Tales reading-to-cats program are Nov. 16, Dec. 7, Dec. 21, Jan. 4 and Jan. 25. For more information and other volunteer opportunities, contact the Animal Rescue League at 412-345-7300 x501 or visit animalrescue.org.
Featured image courtesy Pittsburgh Cares.
Do you know of other family volunteering opportunities in our region? Leave a comment below to share it with others.