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Make the World a Better Place: Volunteer Ideas & Opportunities for Families

When we're feeling anxious or down about the state of the world, one of the best things we can do is invest some energy and time in helping those less fortunate than ourselves. Volunteering in service of others is good for the people we help, it's good for our communities - it truly helps make the world a better place. It helps us stay focused on the positive, reminds us to be grateful for what we have, and helps our children develop empathy and understanding.

We've researched the popular volunteer site, to find opportunities for your family across the state of California. We've looked for in-person as well as virtual volunteer opportunities, and we've focused on ways the whole family can volunteer together.

We have to be honest - there are limited volunteer opportunities in person for families with children at the moment, and things could continue to get canceled. So, please be sure and contact any organizations listed here directly to confirm volunteer opportunities and clarify any limitations and/or requirements.

Let's get started with what you can do on your own, as a family unit together, and we'll follow that up with what you can do on-site with others.




Donation drives and fundraising are great ways to get involved at a pace that works for you on your family's schedule. It does require some social media communication and marketing. If this is not your forte, pause for a moment to consider that using social media in this way has a real benefit of helping to teach your kids how to run a volunteer campaign on their own. This valuable skill can be extended to teaching them how to run crowd-funding campaigns for themselves, using these same marketing tactics. Who knows, maybe they end up finding some business interest through this process? It's worth the efforts, for the teachable moments, and the good work that is its main aim. Donation drives also help you maintain social distance if that's what you need, or what you feel most comfortable doing.

To be successful with a donation or fundraising drive, reach out to your friends, family, and trusted neighbors via social media channels, email, and even by phone, to let them know you want their help organizing something for a non-profit this fall and winter. Get your kids involved in the process. If they're good with digital media, ask them to help make flyers with info and instructions that you can post on social media and easily send out to everyone. If your kids are younger, ask them to create a drawing, a doodle, or even some printed words to be part of the background. Take a picture of their hand-drawn contribution and upload it to a flyer-making site like to use as the background for a flyer that you can easily make on Canva. Next, arrange for your friends, family, and neighbors to get the donations to you (they drop off, or you pick up, and you can, of course, remain socially distant during this process, too). Then, coordinate with the non-profit to get the donations to them. Bring the kids along and make it a family field trip to drop off the donation together - even if they stay in the car and watch you drop off the donation.

Do a drive-by Starbucks stop on your way back to get hot chocolate, apple cider, or tea to celebrate this occasion and honor volunteering as part of a new fall/winter family tradition.

There are more organizations advertising their donation drives in Southern California, and we have included several of those organizations below. We have also included a shortlist of statewide charitable organizations that often work with families to accept donations. We recommend that families in Central, Northern, and other areas of California contact these organizations to see about hosting a local donation drive for them. We have also included a shortlist of links that can help you find your local charitable organization to contact and set up donations for. We hope this helps and we wish you all a very happy volunteering!


Donation drives in Southern California


Anaheim & Brea - Organize a Pet Food & Supplies Drive for Cats in Tow (all ages).

Please visit Cats in Tow's post on for more information, or send an email to Judith Serafini at


Los Angeles - Bakers needed for Pre-Thanksgiving Brunch to serve the homeless at Acts of Compassion

Bakers are needed for Acts of Compassion's Thanksgiving Brunch, for their homeless community in Los Angeles. They are looking for volunteers to bake cakes or cupcakes for their event benefitting the homeless. Visit their volunteer entry on Volunteer Match to learn more about this opportunity, and determine if baking can be done virtually.


Los Angeles - Host a Fall Food Drive, a Holiday Handbag Drive, a Jingle Bags Drive, or a Toys for Teens Drive for PATH LA

PATH (People Assisting The Homeless) in Los Angeles is hosting a Thanksgiving food & supplies drive through December 11, 2020. Please visit their VolunteerMatch.Org post with more details about other holiday supplies drives they are hosting, as well as donation drop-off details.


Orange - Host fight homelessness by hosting a donation drive for the Illumination Foundation (all ages).

Help the Illumination Foundation disrupt the cycle of homeless and poverty! Find out more about the different donation drives you can host on their Donation Drives page.


Please visit their post for more information and donation drop-off details.


San Diego - Host a holiday blanket drive for PATH San Diego

PATH (People Assisting The Homeless) in San Diego is hosting a holiday blanket drive through December 11, 2020. Please visit their VolunteerMatch.Org post with more details and donation drop-off details.


Statewide organizations to contact for starting your own DIY donation & fundraising drives


Contact your local chapter of Big Brothers, Big Sisters to see if you can organize a supply drive for them.


Fundraise for the Make-A-Wish Foundation

Visit the Make-A-Wish Fundraising link to explore the different ways you can fundraise for them. Their Kids for Wish Kids is a fundraising program for kids by kids.


Send care packages and letters (or baked goods!) to deployed service members through the Soldiers' Angels program

Soldiers' Angels is a Deployed Adoptions Team (DAT) that supports male and female service members deployed overseas in support of combat or humanitarian missions. The goal is to ensure that no service member feels alone throughout their deployment. If you commit to this program you will be required to send at least one letter per week and one care package per month until the service member returns home. You can support up to three service members at a time. Please read the Team Angel information page before you submit a request. Sign-up for the Team Angel email list to get more information.

Do your kids like to bake? Become a member of the Soldiers' Angels Baker Team! Visit the Soldiers' Angels Baker Team page for more information.

Also consider adopting a military family, through Soldiers' Angels. Visit their Adopt-a-Family page for more information.


Host your own toy drive for Toys for Tots

Toys for Tots' local campaign page is the first place to start. Locate the local campaign for your county to learn the deadlines, requirements, and contact info for each region's program.


Participate in The Salvation Army's Walmart Angel Tree

Visit the link above and find your local Walmart Angel Tree location. Many locations offer a virtual registry. Share this info on your social media channels and encourage your friends and family to donate this way. You can also opt to privately arrange your own toy drive amongst your friends and family and deliver them in-person to a local Walmart location that is accepting Angel Tree donations.


Links to help you find local organizations to host your own DIY donation & fundraising drives





In-person volunteering is a great way to get connected with a non-profit organization that is doing important work you can support. You get to be part of a community that is committed to doing good and develop relationships for you and your children. It's also just nice to be able to set up consistent volunteer opportunities that you simply put on your calendar while you go about your life until it's time to show up and help.

Due to the pandemic, however, many organizations have limited in-person volunteering and many of the opportunities available are not open to young children. Here are a few that we have found around the state. We encourage you to call your local organizations and inquire about in-person volunteering. We contacted a few of these organizations personally and found that they had opportunities they didn't advertise online. So it's very possible your local animal shelter, food bank, or homeless center has opportunities they don't advertise and that you can only really find out about if you make that call or send that email to them.


Central California


Fresno - Attend a Saturday Sort Day, Nov 7th or Dec 5th at the Central California Food Bank (ages 5+ w/an adult)

The Central California Food Bank needs help sorting, bagging, and labeling food donations. Visit their Volunteer page for more information (scroll down to the list of events, follow the link to the Saturday Sort Day to sign-up).


San Luis Obispo - Become a Friend of Seniors with Porch Visits, hosted by Wilshire Community Services (all ages w/an adult)

Volunteer to give home-bound seniors some much-needed company this winter by visiting with them on their porches. Read a poem or short story aloud while you visit, socially distanced from one another. Get to know the person you're visiting, spend time asking them questions about their life and active listening, build a lasting relationship. Wilshire Community Services coordinator of this program, Kristen Grasso confirmed with our team that families with children of all ages are able to volunteer for this position together. Training for this position is done virtually, for the participating adult, and has been simplified due to the pandemic. Porch visits with seniors require families to stay socially distant from the seniors they are visiting but allow the seniors to get the benefit of social visits. Please email or call Ms. Grasso at (805)547-7025 register for this program.


Northern California


Sacramento - Charter Pointe Park Clean-up Volunteer Day

The park clean-up will take place from 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM and tools will be provided. All they require is that you wear a mask and bring your own hand sanitizer and sunscreen. Visit the page for this event for more information.


The City of Sacramento has a list of volunteer opportunities through the City and its partners.

Many volunteer programs have been canceled due to COVID-19 but this list is a good place to start since it lists many organizations with volunteer programs in one place. Two highlights in this long list that have social distancing potential include the Adopt-a-Parks program, and the Water Conservation family volunteering. I would also suggest you consider a homegrown donation drive that you and family raise for organizations like Access Leisure (a program for adults with developmental disabilities), The Front Street Animal Shelter, the Hart Senior Center, or the Sacramento Zoo. Reach out to those organizations and see what kind of items they need and then have fun organizing this drive with your friends, family, and trusted neighbors.


Southern California


Palos Verdes: Outdoor Volunteer Day at Abalone Cove

Pick a 2-hour shift to help the Palos Verdes Land Conservancy restore native plants on Saturday, November 21st. Choose the 9:00 am - 11:00 am shift or the 11:00 am - 1:00 pm shift. Visit their post for more information and to sign up for this event.


San Diego: Auntie Helen's Community Thrift Store (Ages 13+ w/Adult)

Auntie Helen's Community Thrift Store serves low-income individuals or those with underlying health conditions. Volunteers are needed to sort, fold and hang donations, disbursing them between various designated areas. During the months of November and December, Auntie Helen's offers a 25% discount on their sidewalk sale items to volunteers before or after their shift as a thank you.




Calling all young artists - ages 5-9! Draw pictures for an app the American Youth Literacy Foundation is launching this month.

The American Youth Literacy Foundation is looking for some very special 5-9-year-old kids who like to draw pictures of superheroes. Some of these drawings will be included in later versions of the app. Some of them will get special placement in their "Scrolling Credits" section and will be used on the website.

If your kids wish to be considered for this opportunity, please send their high-quality photos of hand-drawn or hand-painted superheroes specifically*. Please view the post on for more info about the requirements. Send your photos to by Thanksgiving (they will not be in the first release of the app since that deadline passed on 10/6/2020)


Neighborhood cleanups are needed now more than ever!

The Pacific Beach Foundation based in Pacifica, California is encouraging families and groups who are sheltering in place to work together to become Earth Heroes for street-to-beach cleanups. Visit their profile for a list of all their Earth Heroes posts with ideas to help you get started adopting and cleaning up a portion of your street, or your beach.


Youth reviewers are needed by the Coalition for Quality Children's Media/Kids First

The Coalition for Quality Children's Media/Kids First is looking for youth under age 18 who can become a reviewer of various types of media, including films, for their website to help kids find media reviews from other kids. Please visit their post for more info and to contact them about this opportunity.


Please feel free to share a volunteer opportunity with us!

Do you have a volunteer opportunity you and your kids are enjoying, or plan to start soon? Please share those details with us in the comments section. The more volunteer opportunities we can share with each other, the better! So many organizations need our help and there's enough of us to go around.


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