Looking for ways to volunteer with your kids in Greenville? It such a wonderful opportunity to teach children kindness, compassion, generosity and so much more. To help you out KAG Contributor Kristina Hernandez created this list of ways to volunteer with your family. You’ll find ideas from food preparation to toy donations and meal deliveries. Thank you for serving your community!
Volunteering at the Soup Kitchen
I was barely a teenager when my mom brought my brothers and myself to a local soup kitchen to volunteer. I helped with prep work, set up and clean up and ultimately looked into the faces of the people who came and learned compassion, gratefulness and humility. I really could not have asked for a better lesson and it is one I hope to give my own children when they get a little older. My mom took us to volunteer during summer and holiday vacations – like this time of year for many kids.
Volunteering is a wonderful thing to do to fill the time with children when they are on a break from school. There are many soup kitchens in the area that would truly appreciate volunteers, donations and other help during this time of year.
What age do kids need to be to volunteer at the soup kitchen?
Having talked to a handful of soup kitchens, the general consensus is that middle school-age kids are about the right age to volunteer in the actual soup kitchens themselves.
Martha O’Neal, the Operations Coordinator at the Greer Soup Kitchen, said that 10 years old is a good age because they are able to grasp what they are seeing – the dirty clothes, bad teeth, and other things that they may not normally see but are able to understand.
But even if your kids aren’t in middle school yet, there are other opportunities for them to help.
Food Rescue Runs
At Project Host in Greenville, which has a variety of programs to help feed those who are hungry, they have a garden and smaller children are able to come and help, preferably in the warmer weather.
A pretty cool thing for families with younger children to do is a “food rescue” run. Who doesn’t want to rescue food, right? Here’s how it works, according to Bill Shell at Loaves & Fishes in Greenville:
We have about 150 or so volunteers who do rescue routes each and every day except Christmas. Last year, they picked up about 600,000 pounds of food that would have been wasted and delivered it to one of our 90+ partner agencies that serve the homeless, the folks barely getting by through emergency food pantries, emergency shelters, disadvantaged seniors and children’s programs and lots more.
The volunteers are sent weekly emails with descriptions and locations of “routes” that are open for assignment. They select a route and communicate their choice back to us and then go and collect the donation which is primarily non-perishable foods from grocery retailers and restaurants. Next, they simply drop off the donation to the agency assigned on the route. Most routes take under 2 hours and involve 40 to 500 pounds.
Different Schedules and Types of Tasks
Some of the volunteer opportunities don’t take too long, like the food rescue run, especially since it’s done on your time, but others are more scheduled. The volunteers at Project Host usually come in around 9 am to start food prep then serve the people, clean up and leave around 1 pm. Other places have shifts you can sign up for like at Harvest Hope Food Bank, which schedules volunteers in three-hour blocks.
There are many ways these soup kitchens utilize their volunteers and make the most of the talents that people have. The Harvest Hope Food Bank is a distribution center so they have people who sort through donations, pack food, or distribute it. Harvest Hope also does events off-site which younger children, ages 6-10, are able to help by doing things like coloring pictures, making cards and putting together packets. Check the website or contact them for events like these.
Others, like at Loaves & Fishes, need people for food rescue missions but also need volunteers to sort and box food. The Greer Soup Kitchen needs volunteers on specific dates to help prep and serve. You can see their needs at their site.
Why Volunteering is Important for Kids
Often we have no idea how good we have it until we see others in distress. Even if our kids are too little to actually volunteer at a soup kitchen, they can be taught these important lessons.
Martha O’Neal at the Greer Soup Kitchen gave me some tips on how to teach this to children: “Sometimes I tell the parents to take the children through the grocery stores and teach them the value of a dollar and show them how much it costs to live or make one meal for the family. We feed over 180 people a day here. This helps the parents understand how much it takes to feed them here and the children catch on quickly that they don’t need the snacks or the chips or that extra toy. They in turn want to help by buying products at the store for others, instead of themselves.”
Places to Donate in Greenville
Contact any of these organizations for details on volunteering and what each group specifically needs. Most of the soup kitchens have opportunities for bigger groups to come and help as well. All of them accept donations, either food itself or monetary. Check out our Food Pantry Wish List for most needed items!
525 S Academy St, Greenville, SC 29601
Harvest Hope Food Bank
2818 White Horse Road
Greenville, SC 29611
Loaves & Fishes
25 Woods Lake Road, Suite 810
Greenville, SC 29607
Greer Soup Kitchen
521 East Poinsett Street
Greer, SC 29651
Other Ways to Volunteer with Children in Greenville
There are so many different ways to get the family involved in volunteering and making good use of the school breaks. Here are some of the suggestions that Kidding Around Greenville readers made on Facebook.
Y on the Fly: Kids ages 8-12 can volunteer at Y on the Fly Food Program stuffing food into bags which will be distributed to local families in needs. Kids 13+ can volunteer without a parent. Volunteers just show up on Thursdays mornings at 9:30 am at St. Matthews UMC (701 Cleveland Street, Greenville) in Greenville and usually stay until around 11 am.
Greer Community Ministries is the hub of Greer Meals on Wheels and a food pantry, clothing closet, and Senior Dining program. Children are welcome to participate in Meals on Wheels routes with their parents, organize food collections, and help in various ways.
738 S. Line Street Extension, Greer
The Cancer Society of Greenville County
113 Mills Ave, Greenville
Greer Relief, which helps people who are experiencing sudden and unexpected problems obtaining life’s basic necessities, has many holiday volunteer opportunities on their website and one of our readers mentioned they need help wrapping gifts.
Sponsor a child through the South Carolina Youth Advocate program. Many of the kids have never experienced a ‘real’ Christmas and come into the foster program with very few belongings. There is a wish list for each child, and you can either buy gifts or send a monetary donation.
Take food to people in need through Meals on Wheels in Greenville. People always love seeing the little ones at their doors!
15 Oregon Street, Greenville, SC 29605
Miracle Hill Ministries has volunteer opportunities for special events during the holidays and gives more information about bringing younger kids on their volunteer page.
Happy Wheels, a program that donates gifts to children suffering in hospitals, needs toys. Their website lists their most needed items.
Shriners Hospital for Children in Greenville accepts donations in various forms. Their website has more info. One of our readers said that they are always in need of preteen/teen-appropriate toys because they give each child a gift before surgery, and many times there isn’t anything for the older children.
950 West Faris Road
Greenville, SC 29605
Thousands of children are assisted by the Salvation Army in Greenville, Pickens, and Oconee Counties. The organization has angel tree giving opportunities as well as other things to volunteer for this holiday season.
ReCraft – Greenville’s only reuse, recycle craft shop and maker space – makes use of an extraordinary number of volunteers. You’ll understand if you go to the store. There is a ton of stuff that needs sorting, weighing, and organizing. Teenagers ages 16+ can volunteer without a parent and kids of any age can volunteer with a parent present. Just contact ReCraft directly and they will put you in touch with their Volunteer Coordinator and get you started.
525 Haywood Road, Greenville
What ways do you like to volunteer in the community?