The holidays are behind us, and gone are the Red Kettles and coat drives. But worthy causes in your neighborhood need volunteers year-round, so explore the numerous opportunities to give back to families and children across the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Sign your family up for a year-round opportunity to help fellow North Texans who are hungry, vulnerable, sick or homebound. Begin here and find a local cause that tugs on your family’s heartstrings.
HELP VULNERABLE KIDS
More than 1,100 children struggle to find a place to sleep each night in the North Texas area, but Hope Supply Co. and its partner shelters work to provide basic needs for these kids. Your children can help by building a birthday box or hygiene kit. For the birthday box, have your children collect small toys, coloring books, games, knickknacks, etc.—they can add whatever they would want to receive on their birthday (excluding food or candy). Package everything in a shoebox-size container, wrap it or decorate it with stickers and drop it off year-round at the Dallas warehouse. Hygiene kits including shampoo, body soap, lotion, diapers, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other body care items also are accepted year-round.
Hope Supply Co., 10480 Shady Trail, Suite 104, Dallas, 214/630-576
City House in Plano provides shelter to homeless, abused and neglected children, teens and young adults. Your child can show them love and support by writing cards of encouragement to their peers. As a family, you can cook a meal for young adults housed in the Transitional Living Program, collect birthday gifts for children, donate canned goods and loose change, or build welcome boxes for new residents. Bring your donations to the administrative office on 18th Street.
City House, 901 18th St., Plano, 972/424-4626
Kids are part of the local homeless population, and kids can be part of the solution too. Get yours involved at Family Promise of Irving, a local chapter of a national nonprofit that provides homeless families with a place to stay and life skills courses like goal setting and financial planning. The Irving chapter partners with local churches to provide temporary housing. Jump right in and help (kids of all ages are welcome) by cooking meals for families or donating snacks or household goods like toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning products and bath towels.
Family Promise of Irving, 972/313-1500
Family Gateway works to end homelessness for Dallas children, and the organization gives families opportunities to help. Recruit your kids to help plan a game night or cook and serve a meal for kids in the shelter. All ages are invited to volunteer but kids under 14 have to be supervised by an adult. Visit the website to find a full list of needs and to fill out a volunteer application.
Family Gateway, 711 S. St. Paul St., Dallas, 214/823-4500
Each year, Safehaven provides emergency shelter to nearly a thousand women and children fleeing domestic violence. Local families have an opportunity to meet their needs by donating pillows and pillowcases, bath towels, cough drops and pajama pants for adults and medicine syringes, diapers and bottles for infants.
SafeHaven, 1100 Hemphill St., Suite 303, Fort Worth, 817/502-7154
Thanks to the Rainbow Room at Community Partners of Dallas, caseworkers can shop for clothes, school supplies and toiletries for local abused and neglected children without having to pay out of their own pockets. Have your kids help meet the basic needs of these kids by volunteering to stock the room with necessities like Pull-Ups, coloring books, sip cups and birthday party supplies. Find a complete list of needs on their website. To donate, contact Ashley Wenzel at email@example.com.
Community Partners of Dallas, 1215 Skiles St., Dallas, 214/624-7622
If hands-on help is more your calling than just donating goods, Denton County Friends of the Family will put you to work. The organization provides group therapy classes and counseling for victims of abuse and domestic violence and leans on volunteers to simply help provide child care while clients seek their services. Bring your own brood to play games, read books and watch movies with the kids, giving their parents uninterrupted time with counselors. Families also can donate time to the DCFOF food pantry, host a story time for kids or help in the on-site thrift store.
Denton County Friends of the Family, 4845 S. Interstate 35 E., Suite 200, Corinth, 940/387-5131
HELP HUNGRY FAMILIES
With all the canned food drives we encounter year-round, do you ever wonder how people who are hungry or homeless find fresh fruits and vegetables? Thanks to volunteer families who adopt a plot at Coppell Community Gardens, Metrocrest Services’ food pantry has been able to provide 200,000 pounds of fresh, seasonal produce along with non-perishables to its hungry and homeless clients. To get started, fill out a registration form online where you and the kids agree to grow and donate organic crops to the food pantry while also maintaining the garden’s compost, weeding and chores in exchange for access to tools, water, mulch, seeds, transplants (for a nominal price) and 20 percent of the harvest. Visit them online for more requirements and benefits.
Coppell Community Garden, 255 Parkway Blvd., Coppell
Rise and shine to pulling weeds, raking beds and harvesting the fruits of your labor at Tarrant Area Food Bank‘s Learning Garden in Fort Worth. Every week, volunteers age 8 and older learn the different ways to grow food and build raised beds and watering systems. They also help feed hungry families by donating crops to WestAid Food Pantry down the road, and little stewards tend the Kindred Spirits Kitchen Garden, growing food for the Community Kitchen and Cooking Matters cooking program for low-income families. Tours are conducted the first Friday of the month (10am-12pm) or by request.
Tarrant Area Food Bank, 2600 Cullen St., Fort Worth, 817/857-7101
HELP RESCUED ANIMALS
Kids age 6 and up who can pitch in four hours a month can become junior volunteers at Operation Kindness in Carrollton. The gig comes with responsibilities like walking dogs (with a parent’s supervision), cleaning kennels, changing litter boxes, socializing kittens and even taking the family pet to senior living centers. Kids who can’t commit to the junior volunteer program can drop off much-needed items like chew toys, Fancy Feast and paper towels year-round or volunteer to read to dogs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Just bring a book from home or check one out at the shelter. Fill out a volunteer application online and pay the $35 volunteer fee for adults, $25 fee for juniors or call for times to drop off donations.
Operation Kindness, 3201 Earhart Drive, Carrollton, 972/418-7297
Animal Hope Adoptions gives animals that are sick or have behavioral issues a second chance. Before finding these pets a forever home, Animal Hope volunteers help them recuperate from medical treatment and offer therapy they couldn’t get in a regular shelter. As volunteers, you and your animal-loving kiddos can attend two-hour weekday shifts to clean rooms and cat condos, do laundry, wash and refill food and water dishes, scoop the yard, walk the animals and (the best part) cuddle with a free-roaming feline in the cat room. Walk in to submit a volunteer application and sign a release waiver.
Animal Hope Adoptions, 6708 S. Hulen St., Fort Worth, 817/984-1129
Animal lovers age 10 and 11 and their parents assist the SPCA of Texas with facility upkeep such as washing dishes, doing doggy laundry and greeting customers. 12-year-olds and older pitch in by walking, feeding and grooming dogs, cuddling cats, uploading photos to the website and even fostering a pet. To be assigned a two- or three-hour weekday shift (which is when they need the most help), pay the $50 parent-child volunteer registration fee and fill out an application online.
SPCA of Texas, Multiple locations
HELP KIDS IN THE HOSPITAL
The hospital waiting room can be a scary place, so help parents and kids at Children’s Health pass the time with busy books. Assemble coloring pages (you can download free, themed printables online) bound with yarn and drop them off at the Dallas or Plano campuses. Don’t forget to tape a few crayons to them. Children who have long hospital stays appreciate donated board books, Spanish, braille or bestselling children’s literature. Other handcrafted items that Children’s Health needs: Beads of Courage bags, blankets and NICU lovies.
Children’s Health // 1935 Medical District Drive, Dallas, 972/489-5404 // 7601 Preston Road, Plano, 469/303-7000
There are a few ways to brighten a child’s day at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Tarrant County. One is to have kids make sympathy cards for patients. Instead of generic messages like “Get well soon,” encourage kids to find other ways to express sympathy like drawing happy, uplifting pictures or writing knock-knock jokes. You can also drop off Lego sets, Uno decks, plastic animals, travel-size toiletries, light-up toys, Play-Doh and other much-needed items to the volunteer services department (find the wish list online). And when your child’s birthday nears, she can participate in the Peter Pan Birthday Club by asking for new games, dolls, books and even Mr. Potato Head toys for the patients instead of presents for herself.
Cook Children’s, 801 Seventh Ave., Fort Worth, 682/885-4590
Crochet, knit, sew or tie a no-sew fleece blanket for Project Linus, an organization that distributes handmade blankets to ill and traumatized children at local hospitals (like Texas Health Presbyterian, Medical City and Baylor Scott & White facilities) and shelters. Project Linus gives instructions easy enough for elementary kids to make no-sew security blankets using only soft fleece material, scissors and simple knot-tying skills. Visit the local chapter websites for drop-off locations and instructions.
Project Linus (Collin, Dallas, Denton), Multiple drop-off locations
HELP SENIOR CITIZENS
Homebound seniors in Dallas County always are grateful for a meal delivery from Visiting Nurse Association Meals on Wheels, but a delivery by a young volunteer is an especially bright spot. First attend a volunteer training, where you will be assigned a nearby depot to pick up meals and a compact route to drive and deliver meals in three hours or less Monday–Friday. More information online.
Visiting Nurse Association, 1600 Viceroy Drive, Suite 400, Dallas, 214/689-3222
Deliver meals to homebound seniors in Denton County through Span Meals on Wheels. On a weekly or stand-by basis, your family picks up meals between 10:30–11:30am Monday–Friday then delivers them to senior centers in Denton, Lewisville, Little Elm and the Colony by 1pm. Sometimes, the people receiving meals share them with their pets because they don’t have the money, time or ability to purchase pet food. In these cases, volunteers are asked to deliver pet food to seniors once a month on a Saturday or donate unopened bags of pet food and/or bowls to Span’s main office on Malone Street. Call to sign up for volunteer orientation on the second Friday of each month.
Span, Inc., 1800 Malone St., Denton, 940/382-2224
Kids show respect for their elders when they adopt a lawn through the volunteer programs of Mid-Cities Care Corps in Hurst. Children old enough to handle yard equipment (with a parent’s supervision) spend at least three hours a month mowing, weeding, raking and edging. Other service opportunities include driving clients to and from medical appointments on weekdays and to the grocery store, bank, pharmacy and even hair appointments on Saturdays. Or sign up to be a Visiting Friend, and you and the kids will meet with a senior once or twice a month for 1–2 hours to play games, read books, talk or go on a walk. Fill out a volunteer application online.
Mid-Cities Care Corps, 745 W. Pipeline Road, Hurst, 817/282-0531
HELP THE ENVIRONMENT
Learn sustainable gardening practices when you and the kids volunteer as docents in the butterfly house at Texas Discovery Gardens, the first certified organic public garden in the state. Learn how to care for the insects, plants and animals, then pass on the knowledge to visitors. Experiences can be tailored to your child’s interests, whether it’s trimming the tropical foliage or feeding the cockroaches. Then take your knowledge home and build a conservation butterfly garden in your backyard, on your porch or even on a windowsill. A butterfly garden conserves the pollinator population by providing a safe place for them to grow, breed and pollinate plants. To build a garden, you need to plant nectar plants (like zinnia or Mexican sunflower) and host plants (like milkweed). And here’s a perk for your nature lover—volunteers can attend garden walks for free on certain days through the fall.
Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park, 3601 Martin Luther King Junior Blvd., Dallas, 214/428-7476
Kids of all ages can lend a green thumb at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden and Botanical Research Institute of Texas (aka BRIT). The Cowtown destination welcomes families with budding environmental stewards of all ages to help plant seeds, compost, tend the pollinator garden, restore the vegetable plot and learn sustainable gardening practices from master gardeners. “Little sprouts” (ages 18 months to 3 years) are invited to the free Backyard Veggie Garden on the third Tuesday of the month, while “seedlings” (ages 4-6) can swing by on the second Wednesday of the month. Or round up the whole crew every Saturday for free guided nature hikes and educational activities. Visit the botanic garden’s website for more information.
Fort Worth Botanic Garden, 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd., Fort Worth, 817/392-5510
HELP YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD
Budding environmentalists can build character and beautify their favorite outdoor spaces at the same time with a Community Cleanup through the Plano Parks and Recreation Department. Have your children choose a location to clean up like their school, their favorite park or playground, their neighborhood or even a nearby creek. If nothing comes to mind, the city can assign a place in need of TLC. Fill out a registration form online a week in advance so you can receive all the needed tools for your project in a free cleanup supply bag.
City of Plano, 1520 K Ave., Plano, 972/769-4313
What better way to teach your kids community responsibility than keeping their own neighborhood clean? Keep Lewisville Beautiful and Keep Denton Beautiful offer Adopt-A-Spot where volunteers of all ages commit to a year of keeping a designated area clean. Just bring the family—gloves, trash bags, safety vests and litter grabbers are provided. And your hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. The city plants a sign proudly displaying your family’s name along with the KLB/KDB logo. If a year-long commitment doesn’t fit your family’s schedule, sign up for a litter clean up on your own time. It’s a small-scale version of the Adopt-A-Spot program and can take anywhere from one hour to half a day. Fill out an application online and sign up for the e-newsletter with other opportunities to help out at local school community gardens.
Keep Lewisville Beautiful, 113 N. Poydras St., Suite 207, Lewisville, 972/538-5949 // Keep Denton Beautiful, 608 E. Hickory St., Suite 130, Denton, 940/349-8737
HELP PRESERVE HISTORY
For many Collin County families, the Heritage Farmstead Museum is a monthly destination for dress-up and time travel to the turn of the century—maybe you’ve even celebrated a birthday there. To give back to this family favorite and preserve a piece of Plano history, you and the kids can pick up trash and rake the farm on the first and third Saturdays of the month. Garden volunteers pull weeds and plant (when needed) in the kitchen plot, and livestock helpers feed the goats and sheep and clean their pens too. Complete a volunteer application online.
Heritage Farmstead Museum, 1900 West 15th St., Plano, 972/881-0140
Through World Relief Fort Worth, your family can help refugee families from Africa, Iran, Iraq, Burma and other countries assimilate to life in Tarrant County. Sign your bunch up to be a Family Friend and fellowship with refugees for at least one hour a week for three months. Or go on a yard sale scavenger hunt for furniture, decor and small household appliances that will furnish a new apartment for one of these peace-seeking families. To sign up, first fill out a volunteer application online.
World Relief Fort Worth, 4059 Bryan Ave., Fort Worth, 817/924-0748
This article was first published (in a different format) in the March 2018 issues of CollinChild, DallasChild, FortWorthChild and NorthTexasChild. It was updated with additional reporting in January 2019.
Photo by Chris Sagherian; courtesy of VNA Meals on Wheels | Young Mens Service League