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    Kids Helping Their Communities

    The holiday season is a time when we turn our thoughts to giving, especially to those in need. Helping people doesn't have to be limited to the holidays, however. There are lots of terrific kids out there who are working all year round at helping others, caring for the environment, and making their communities better places to live. This page features some of those special children, along with a list of charitable ideas. I hope they will inspire you!

    Shawn Simard

    Shawn Simard of New River, AZ just turned 7 years old on September 16, 2000. He is a homeschooler in the first grade, and he is also a Tiger Cub with Boy Scout Troop 431. Shawn's older brother attends Stepping Stones Academy, a charter school in Desert Hills. Shawn sorted out all of his educational toys, puzzles, books, games, posters, etc., and decided which ones he did not need anymore. This was the first time that Shawn had ever parted with any of his belongings. He chose to give these items to his brother's school, because Stepping Stones Academy was in need of donations for their new preschool program. On October 17, Mrs. Diana Campbell accepted the donated items on behalf of Stepping Stones Academy's preschool class. Since this was a community service project, Shawn also earned a Tiger Cub patch. Shawn's generosity as a homeschooler donating to a local charter school for his community service patch was a nice bridging of the homeschool and public school communities in connection with the scouting community.

    Makenzie Snyder

    Since 1998, this fourth grader has delivered more than 10,000 duffel bags, suitcases, and backpacks to foster kids. Mackenzie got her idea when she learned that many foster kids being moved to new homes carried their belongings in plastic garbage bags. Mackenzie founded a nonprofit organization called Children to Children ( She began collecting all sorts of bags as well as stuffed animals to give to foster children, and she even made personalized notes to go with them. A personalized note reads, "God told me you could use a duffle bag and a cuddly friend. So I send this with love to you." Mackenzie has met some of the children who received her bags. "One girl told me she was so glad because she never had her own stuffed animal before," said Mackenzie. "I've given away thousands of bags, but with over a half million kids in foster care, there's still much more to do."

    Taylor Crabtree

    The heaps of teddy bears in 10-year-old Taylor Crabtree's family room are not hers. Each bear is there to be hugged ("to make sure it has lots of love to give," Taylor explains) and then shipped to a hospital, where it will end up in the arms of a child with cancer. In the past three years, this California fifth grader has given away 7,000 of the specially made stuffed toys. She raises money to buy the bears by selling hairclips, handpainted by a growing corps of volunteers. She sells the clips outside local stores, at speaking engagements, and from her Web site, On the business side of her venture, Taylor keeps meticulous computer records, makes deposits, writes checks and balances her bank statement. "I started doing this because both my grandmothers had cancer, and one of them died from it," says Taylor. "It's a hard disease for anyone, especially kids. Bears help them feel better when they're scared or lonely." Taylor adds, "Every year, about 12,000 kids are diagnosed with cancer and chronic blood diseases. I'd like to be able to give every one of them a bear to love."

    Caitlin McGee

    Happy chaos ensues when Caitlin McGee walks in the door of her local Headstart program. "Miss Cait! Miss Cait!," the gleeful preschoolers shout. "What will you read to us today?" It's obvious these children love books - and the 11-year-old girl who comes each week to share her favorite stories. In the four years Caitlin has been a volunteer reader, more than 130 children have enjoyed her story hours. "At first I didn't think what I'm doing was very important," says the Delaware seventh grader. "But one day, the mom of a boy in my reading group came up and thanked me for helping her son. She wanted me to know he was a great reader and doing really well in school. It felt great to know that I can help kids to love reading as much as I do."

    Sagen Woolery

    Ask Sagen Woolery what she did on her summer vacation, and the 12-year-old will bubble over with stories about Kids' Kitchen, a soup kitchen that she runs every Wednesday at a local church. During the past two summers, the Georgia sixth grader and her staff of 8- to 12-year-old volunteers fed more than 3,600 hungry people, mostly children. "A lot of kids use the free lunch program at my school, and I wondered how they got enough food during the summer," says Sagen. Sagen's mom introduced her to the retired director of a local soup kitchen, who helped Sagen gain the support of a local food bank and church, plan menus, round up volunteers and find donations of food and money. Making 600 sandwiches every week sounds like a lot of work, but Sagen doesn't seem to think so. "It's fun and the work goes fast because a lot of kids help, but the best thing is knowing that - at least one day a week - kids in my community get enough to eat."

    Clint Kelley

    Clint Kelley's approach to getting kids interested in school is getting them off to a good start. Clint is an eighth grader at Poston Junior High School in Mesa, Arizona. At age 13, Clint recognizes the importance of self-esteem for disadvantaged students. This year, 75 students at Stevenson Elementary School in Mesa received backpacks filled with goods ranging from rulers and notebooks to glue sticks, pens and crayons--all free, thanks to Clint. He solicited school supplies and cash donations from national and local suppliers. Friends and family members joined him in an assembly line around the kitchen table to fill the packs. Clint delivered them to the nearby school whose principal graciously welcomed his benevolence. Clint believes that a fresh start, beginning with a sharp-looking bag full of brand new school supplies, can create pride for students who don't have the benefits other students take for granted. What began as a project for his Eagle Scout Merit Badge has now become an on-going mission. Clint is already scouting out another lucky recipient for next year's backpack bonus program.

    Kate Widland and Valerie Kaye

    These two girls in Albuquerque, New Mexico, initiated a "Two Individual Girls' Environmental Remedy (TIGER) Project." The goal of TIGER's founders was to perform worthwhile projects to improve environmental conditions in their community and state. The girls started their school's Environmental Club, became members of the Environmental Business Award Committee, served as directors of the Earth Day Coalition of New Mexico, and implemented a Youth Conference on the Environment. Kate and Valerie also helped establish the Environment Youth Network (EYN), a leadership body that coordinates efforts of high school Environmental Clubs throughout New Mexico. Through EYN, TIGER promoted environmental issues on local radio, conducted a youth education campaign, held a fund raising dance, participated in Earth Day events and worked with schools, businesses, organizations, government groups and the media to further their causes.

    What Can You Do to Help? Here are some ideas!

  • Participate in food and clothing drives for the poor.
  • Hold a community clean-up day.
  • Go Christmas caroling at a children's hospital or nursing home.
  • Collect school supplies for poor students.
  • Visit residents at an assisted living facility, children's orphanage, or hospice.
  • Adopt a trail with the Forest Service.
  • Hold a holiday toy drive for children in low-income families.
  • Collect blankets and clothing for the homeless.
  • Provide yard maintenance/housecleaning services for elderly or disabled neighbors.
  • Launch a mentoring or tutoring program at a nearby school.
  • Take pets to visit nursing home residents or terminally ill children.
  • Adopt a family at Christmas (provide toys, clothes, and practical gifts).
  • Hold a car wash to raise money for a cause you care about.
  • Volunteer at an animal shelter, food bank, etc.
  • Collect leftover restaurant/cafeteria food for a local homeless shelter.
  • Deliver meals to homebound patients or to the elderly.
  • Organize a neighborhood block watch.
  • Deliver handmade cards to nursing homes during the holidays.
  • Participate in a Christmas Angel, Angel Tree, or similar program.
  • Start a flower or tree-planting project in a park or on roadsides in your neighborhood.
  • Adopt a charity and raise money for it. (Call the local BBB for info on local charities.)
  • Take Christmas gifts to a nursing home or children's hospital.
  • Have a scavenger hunt to collect food for the needy.
  • Help families in need by having a "pounding" (an 1800's tradition in which everyone brings a pound of flour, sugar, beans, rice, etc.)
  • Send "thinking of you" cards to a homebound sick child or elderly person.
  • Match children up with "adopted" grandparents they can spend time with.
  • Record books on tapes for the blind.
  • Start a community service club.
  • Set up a recycling program in your neighborhood or school.
  • Make a list of community needs to share with local schools.
  • Organize a volunteer challenge for the clubs at your local school.
  • Get local civic/corporate groups to sponsor a community improvement project.
  • Organize a volunteer fair at which the community can get to know local charitable organizations and learn how their volunteer efforts make a difference.
    Look at project planning guides (for students, teachers, and employers), an idea generator, and examples of what others have done.
    Check out this Better Business Bureau site that has advice on giving to charities and lists hundreds of national charitable organizations.
    In the Parent Search box, type in "volunteering" and click on Go to get ten great volunteer ideas, tips, and related topics.
    Find out how individuals, families, and corporations can get involved in volunteer community service.
    Volunteer opportunities, tips, personal stories, and resources.


    These pages are a continuous work in progress.
    Copyright © 2000- by Teri Ann Berg Olsen
    All rights reserved.


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