When you want to contribute to our community in a meaningful way as a family, there are a number of places and ways you can get involved
We frequently get questions submitted to us that center around the subject of volunteering as a family. This tells us just how important it is to Champaign-Urbana area families to be involved in positive and meaningful ways! Many of us are trying to find new and better ways to shut down screen time for a few solid hours, make our community a better place, and instill strong values in our kids.
Although most area non-profits require their volunteers to be at least older teens, there are good local volunteer opportunities for families with children aged birth (yes, birth!) on up. Read on for some more ideas to get you started. And if we’ve missed an organization that allows family volunteering, please contact us at email@example.com. Your suggestions could be included as we update this page in the future.
(Editor’s Note: We have received this question so many times during the COVID-19 pandemic and we have done our very best to update this list with accurate information before releasing this post. It is worth a note to mention that we realize that not every organization updates its website as circumstances continue to shift and evolve, and we know you may run into situations where an opportunity is not available at the present time through these different organizations. File it away for the future, if that is the case, and try another on the list for the present.)
Clark Lindsey Village has a number of different volunteer activities listed on its website, including an opportunity to “adopt” a grandparent or be a part of the children’s programming at Clark Lindsey. At the publishing of this post, there is a statement on the website about requiring COVID-19 vaccinations in order to volunteer in any capacity at Clark Lindsey Village. We also realize that in reading through the list of opportunities, not all may be happening at this time. Apply to volunteer here.
Feeding Our Kids is dedicated to fighting food insecurity among the youth of Champaign County. It does this through sending bags of food home with school children in Champaign County through more than 30 schools. Middle school and high school aged children can volunteer with or without a parent (paperwork necessary to be on file for them to volunteer alone). Connect with the organization now to learn about current available opportunities.
Delivering lunch to seniors and others who benefit from this program is a great way to spend a couple of hours in the middle of the day. It’s great if your children aren’t in school yet, or you have summers off together, or if you homeschool. You can choose one or more days a week to volunteer, and you can give Family Service — the agency that oversees the program — whatever start/stop dates work best for your family.
You will need transportation that fits your whole clan plus the two coolers that hold the meals. It’s best if you have two adults (or one adult plus a responsible teen), as it’s not super doable if you’ll need to unload everyone at each stop on the route. You should have someone available to wait with kids in the vehicle at all times. Having said that, kids can definitely take turns helping to hand out meals at each stop. Tip: Do your assigned route a few times without kids first to get the hang of it.
Your own place of worship (or a place of worship in your neighborhood)
The benefit to plugging into places of worship to volunteer is that, typically, they offer a range of opportunities that fit different schedules and family sizes. You may find food pantries, special events, and an assortment of ways to serve the more senior members of the community, just to name a few. Use your best judgment (and ask questions of the organizers) about plugging in with kids along for the ride. There may even be things you can do entirely from home to serve in some of these roles.
Salt and Light is happy to have small groups (e.g. families) help sort donations of clothing and food, tidy up the pantry, and help keep the thrift shop running smoothly. Some activities are appropriate for children as young as 7 with a responsible adult; we just don’t know if those activities are available for volunteers right now.
In the meantime, Salt and Light also encourages volunteering in other ways: hosting a food/clothing collection, raising funds (think lemonade stand), or doing anything else that fits in easily with family life and can help in its mission to support those struggling with unemployment, food insecurity and other personal crises.
Champaign County Humane Society (Pet Pals Club, ages 10-15)
What child doesn’t want to help out the Humane Society? Of course, coming in to visit the animals (from afar, following shelter rules), is available to all ages. Additionally, the Champaign County Humane Society has a “Pet Pals Club” for children ages 10-15.
Every child can get into the act of picking up trash (of course with the proper safety precautions). Organize the neighborhood kids and divide up the area; provide gloves. Or wait for the annual Boneyard Cleanup Day, this year scheduled for April 9.
Eastern Illinois Foodbank (typically ages 10 and up) – not currently an option
The Eastern Illinois Foodbank is a favorite place for us to consider volunteering in Champaign-Urbana. The Foodbank takes bulk quantities of food staples and repackages them into portions that are more easily distributed to (and then by) area food pantries. This is an activity that can be done by children as young as 10 with a parent or other responsible adult. The Foodbank also sometimes hosts a Kid’s Day to get children as young as 5 and their families involved in the cause.
Repacks aren’t happening right now but volunteers are needed at Foodmobile distribution days. Kids age 10-13 are required to have a parent/caregiver with them at all times. Distributions may be a short drive from Champaign-Urbana. This is a great option for volunteering right now!