Would you love to find a way to give back to your community as a family? Are you wondering where to begin? We have some suggestions of things your family can do to serve a greater cause for our central Indiana community. There are so many opportunities to give and volunteer, from donating groceries or toiletry items to delivering meals to volunteering your time as a family. Here is a list of ways you can serve those around you together.
Local food pantries often need additional assistance for special events during the holidays. But once Thanksgiving and Christmas have passed, consider volunteering with or donating to local food pantries throughout the year. In the spring, plan on growing a garden to donate vegetables, fruit, and herbs to local food banks. This will keep your children involved in the whole process from planting and upkeep of the garden to picking the produce once it’s ripe, and finally bringing the donations to food pantries and banks.
Mozel Sanders Annual Thanksgiving Dinner “Feed the Hungry” event served over 40,000 hot meals on Thanksgiving last year. The Mozel Sanders Foundation (MSF) has been feeding the hungry for over 40 years. Throughout the year, you can donate gift cards for food, canned foods, and nonperishable groceries, cleaning supplies, paper items, and toiletries to the foundation so they can go to those in need. Contact Stephanie Sanders-Young at 317.636.7985 or email@example.com if you have any questions.
Good Samaritan Network
Good Samaritan Network serves Hamilton County families by connecting residents in need with assistance through a variety of community non-profits and agencies. During the holidays, they host Christmas and Thanksgiving-related events which will need volunteer assistance. To volunteer, individuals must be 16 years or older and minors must be accompanied by a responsible adult who will help oversee them. There are also year-round volunteer opportunities to work on projects and in the warehouse.
Around the holidays, Wheeler Mission looks for volunteers to provide prepared dishes to be donated for Thanksgiving dinner. Families can either shop together for the items to be donated or prepare dishes as a group.
After Thanksgiving, families can help by preparing sack lunches for the Center for Women and Children. These sack lunches should include a sandwich (PB+J, lunchmeat, etc.), apple or orange, chips or cookies, granola bar, fruit snack or candy, and a drink (water/Gatorade, etc.) in a brown paper lunch bag with the date listed on the outside of the bag in Sharpie marker.
The Center for Women and Children is located at 3208 E. Michigan St. in Indianapolis. Drop off lunches at the door closest to Dearborn Street in the alley behind the building anytime between 9 am to 5 pm. If no one answers the buzzer, you can call 317-687-3630 to let them know you have arrived.
There are volunteer opportunities for those 10 and older to sort and organize donations of canned goods and other food items in the Mission’s food warehouse.
Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana
Gleaners approximates that they need 300 volunteers per week to meet the demand for their services. Volunteers that are under the age of 18 need to be accompanied by an adult. Many of the volunteer opportunities are for children 13 and up. Some of these opportunities include sorting and organizing donations, helping on-site at the pantry, and being a part of the mobile food distribution. To sign up as a volunteer, visit the Gleaners Food Bank volunteer hub or contact Christina Basey, Director of Volunteer Programs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (317) 829-1766.
Every day, Second Helpings receives perishable food from wholesalers, retailers, and restaurants which is used to create more than 4,500 nutritious meals to be distributed to over 90 social service agencies that feed those in need. Volunteer opportunities are available Monday through Saturday, in the kitchen, warehouse, office, and more. Throughout the year, students and families can help by hosting a collection drive. There is a tool kit online available to host a pasta drive. Teens can also help clean the facilities and equipment. You can find more information regarding these opportunities by visiting the Second Helpings website. To become food donors, visit this webpage or you can contact the Director of Food Rescue & Transportation, Jon Meinert, at (317) 632-2664 ext. 122 or email@example.com for more information.
Donating to Local Shelters
A great way to give back to the community would be to donate toiletry items, cleaning supplies, food, gently used clothes, and household goods to local shelters and organizations. Families can go through their homes in search of items in good condition that are no longer being used. Together, sort closets and dressers and select clothes and shoes that are no longer getting worn to share. Donate toys that have been outgrown and lightly used household items. You can always give to Goodwill, but please also consider donating to clothes drives and homeless and domestic abuse shelters.
Stopover Youth Shelter and Support
Stopover Youth Shelter and Support in Indianapolis offers an emergency youth shelter and a transitional housing program. The Emergency Youth Shelter Program provides temporary shelter, food, clothing, and supportive services for runaway and homeless youth, ages 12 to 17. These young people are provided with 24/7 supervised care. Stopover’s Transitional Housing – Rapid Rehousing Program is for people transitioning to safe, affordable housing from experiencing homelessness. Find Stopover’s Amazon wish list here.
They are often in need of hygiene items, cleaning supplies, paper goods, linens, clothing, food, school supplies, and other various items like bus passes, laptops, printers, and interview and work attire.
Outreach is another organization that works with homeless young adults and teens in Indianapolis. Regular needs include donations of laundry pods, sports bras, hoodies, sweatpants, leggings, canned chicken, tuna packs, toilet paper, and bus passes (one day half fare and single trip full fare). By visiting their website, you can find Outreach’s Amazon wish lists and information regarding dropping off your donations. If you are looking to volunteer, visit this site regarding individual and group opportunities.
The Julian Center
Founded in 1975, The Julian Center is Indiana’s largest domestic violence shelter. Their mission is to help victims of domestic abuse become survivors through supportive services, education, and cooperative partnerships that foster hope, promote self-sufficiency, and rebuild lives. The Julian Center welcomes donations of personal hygiene items, baby care items, household cleaning supplies, linens, clothing, and medication. You can find their complete wish list and donation drop-off information here.
Beacon of Hope
Beacon of Hope Crisis Center is a confidential and safe place for individuals who experience domestic violence or sexual assault. You can help their cause by donating used cell phones and/or chargers, gas or grocery gift cards, bus passes, canvas/reusable bags for crisis bundles, bottled water, and Brother Toner Cartridges. There is always a need for paper products, cleaning supplies, trash bags, personal care items, and office supplies. Beacon of Hope also uses pet supplies and gift cards to care for foster pets.
Wheeler Mission operates the Men’s Shelter and the Center for Women and Children for people who are facing homelessness, poverty, and are in need by offering essential goods and resources. We mentioned them previously as a place to donate food items, but their services and needs go far beyond food! Wheeler Mission commonly accepts clean and good condition donations of clothing, footwear, outerwear, books, records, CDs, DVDs, housewares, furniture, sporting goods, toys, stuffed animals, curtains, linens, and blankets. They also accept new underwear, hygiene items, laundry soap, and food items. Clothing and small household goods that are clean and in good condition can be donated at one of the many donation barns located in parking lots of various churches across Indianapolis.
Youth Volunteer Opportunities
If your student is looking for volunteer experiences, get them involved in their community by connecting them with these organizations.
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful
Everyone is welcome to volunteer at Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. Volunteers under 16 years of age should be accompanied by an adult. Families will work together to create and maintain green spaces by planting trees and through habitat restoration projects. Help make Indianapolis cleaner and more beautiful by participating in events like Great Indy Cleanup, Adopt-A-Block, or GreenSpace workday.
United Way of Central Indiana
The United Way of Central Indiana has a whole database of volunteer opportunities for nonprofits around Central Indiana. Families can find a variety of ways to give back together. For example, Coburn Place assists survivors in moving into freshly furnished and stocked apartments and accepts donations of cleaning kits. Families can shop for items together to create a starter pack for a family at Coburn Place. Pack everything up in a laundry basket, and arrange an in-person donation by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another option for families is to help the HVAF of Indiana, Inc by creating hygiene kits for veterans or snack packs. These are handed out each week to homeless veterans.
These are just some of the volunteer opportunities families can find using the United Way of Central Indiana’s database. Be sure to check out this fantastic resource!
American Red Cross
The American Red Cross has resource materials for students of elementary, middle, and high school to start and maintain a Red Cross Club. Some things a Red Cross Club can do include hosting a blood drive, working to fight measles in Africa, or responding to local or national disasters. If your child is over 16, donating blood together can be a great way to help those in need as a family. To find out more information for teen blood donors visit the Red Cross website.
Library youth volunteers can expect to help organize shelves and put back borrowed books, assist in preparing items for library programs, and help at library events. Find out more how you can help by visiting your local library, or learn how you can get involved at the Indianapolis Public Library here.
For students ages of 10 to 18, Conner Prairie offers volunteer opportunities that include playing historical games and leading hands-on activities in modern-day uniform or costume, portraying a costumed character from the past, working behind the scenes, assisting in special events, and helping care for their heritage animal breeds. 2023 Youth Volunteer Applications are due January 6, 2023.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis has family volunteer opportunities. Youth ages 8-17 can volunteer alongside a parent or legal guardian, or a trusted family member or friend. Families will act as a single volunteer unit and won’t be separated when volunteering. Together, groups will complete tasks throughout the museum. You may help visitors in exhibits by explaining the exhibit material or assist with navigation. Flexible shifts are available, and you can volunteer on a weekly, bi-weekly, or occasional basis, as well as on weekends, evenings, and at special events. To be considered, you must fill out an application form to start the volunteer process.
The Indianapolis Zoo has a Zoo Teen Program presented by Corteva. This opportunity is available to high school students ages 14-18. The Zoo Teen Program will give students the chance to learn about animals and interact with zoo guests. The Indianapolis Zoo would love for students who are interested in the program to complete the form by December 31 to be considered for 2023.
Have some furniture you’re considering replacing? Don’t throw it out on the curb! With a little extra effort, you can arrange a donation for the greater good of our community.
Habitat for Humanity ReStore
The Habitat for Humanity ReStore accepts new and used furniture, appliances, and surplus building materials. In many cases, you can contact your local ReStore to arrange pickup service for large items. All proceeds from the sale of these donated goods help families in need.
The Mustard Seed of Central Indiana
You can also consider donating your gently used couches, love seats, kitchen tables, chairs, nightstands, dressers, and coffee/end tables to the Mustard Seed of Central Indiana. Keep in mind that they do request a donation-based fee for their pickup service due to the rise in gas prices.
Volunteer with Animals
Don’t forget that the animals need our love and support too! Your family can work with local rescues by fostering pets until they find their forever home, volunteering at local shelters, or donating items like old bedding and towels to animal agencies to use to keep the animals comfortable during their stay.
Oinking Acres Farm Rescue and Sanctuary
Oinking Acres is a nonprofit in Brownsburg that is sanctuary for rescued pigs and other animals. Consider donating your own old blankets and bedding. You can also donate produce as feed for the pigs. A visit to the farm would make a great family outing. Your $10/person donation goes towards the care of the animals. You can also reach out to see if there are any volunteer needs on the farm by writing to email@example.com.
Indy Animal Care and Control Center
Get involved at the Indy Animal Care and Control Center, where duties could include hands-on animal care, including dog walking, grooming, bathing, housekeeping, and kennel cleaning. You may also find yourself helping with customer interaction within the shelter, facility support, and more. Volunteers must be at least 12 years old, and youth between the ages of 12 and 15 must be always accompanied by a parent or guardian. Teens between the ages of 16 and 17 require a parent or guardian’s signature. Volunteers are required to complete 8 hours a month and you can fill out the application online.
Indy Humane allows parents to volunteer with their children though their Parent & Me volunteer program. Student must be at least 8 years old and be accompanied one-on-one by an adult at least 21 years old. You must commit to donating 4-8 hours per month and on a set weekly or bi-weekly schedule. A fee of $20 per person is due at Basic Training which covers the cost of volunteer shirts and of the volunteer database which tracks schedules and hours.
Families can also donate items that are needed by the shelter. These items include snacks for the animals, cleaning supplies, foster care supplies, office supplies, linens and bedding, and other pet supplies.
This is just a sampling of all the different agencies that service Indianapolis and the surrounding area. Indy with Kids hopes that you and your family feel inspired by these opportunities and are able to find a personal way to give back to your community. You never know how far a kind gesture will go and the positive effect it will have on someone’s life.