Family-Friendly Volunteering in Austin

Summertime. Kids are out of school and at home more, which has many advantages – they get a breather from their hard work during the school year, and there are more opportunities for unstructured play and quality family time.

That’s all well and good, until the allure of all that freedom wears off and boredom sets in. Throw 100-degree temperatures into the mix, and soon everyone’s feeling a little cranky.

Not to mention sweaty.

Parents often come up with all sorts of activities for staving off boredom during the summer – camps, summer sports leagues, trips out of town, stays at Grandma’s house, and so on. Whatever your preference, if you’re looking for ways for the whole family (or perhaps just your teens) to stay occupied this summer, considering volunteering.

Why? Here’s a few good reasons:

  1. It’s something to do
  2. It’s free
  3. It’s fun
  4. It helps those in need
  5. It develops empathy and gratitude in children and teens

If that’s not enough to convince you, let’s look at what the research tells us about the benefits of volunteering. People who donate their time and energy for free often experience:

  1. Improved mental health
  2. Better physical health
  3. Increased life-satisfaction
  4. Increased self-esteem

…compared with their non-volunteer friends. (Musick & Wilson, 2003; Borgonovi, 2008).

Basically, it feels good to do good.

Fortunately, there are so many ways to get involved with helping others in the Austin area, whether you want to make a hot meal, spend time with seniors, or play with shelter animals.

I’ve compiled a list of different organizations in the local community who are typically in need of volunteers – by no means is this an exhaustive list! All the agencies listed allow children under 18 to volunteer, but each has its own restriction on minimum age (some have no minimum at all!), and whether an adult chaperone must accompany the youth.

Additionally, some may expect a longer commitment, while others may be fine with temporary or irregular help. Visit the websites for more information.

Family-Friendly Volunteering Sites in the Austin area:

Austin Animal Center
Location: 7201 Levander Loop, Bldg A, Austin 78702
Possible duties: greet visitors, help adopters find the right pets, play with and exercise animals
Ages allowed: 13 and up
Chaperone required? Adult must accompany 13 & 14-year-olds; 15 and up can volunteer independently, though an adult must attend orientation with them

Austin Humanists at Work
Location: Downtown Austin
Possible duties: sorting donations, working tables at giveaways
Ages allowed: Children of all ages welcome, but note that there are no restrooms on giveaway sites
Chaperone required? Yes

Austin Pets Alive
Location: 1156 West Cesar Chavez, Austin 78703
Possible Duties: Feeding and walking cats or dogs; helping adopters find pets
Ages Allowed: 12 and up
Chaperone required? For kids 12-15, one adult must be present; 16 and up can volunteer independently

Austin Public Library 
Location: sites spread throughout the city
Possible duties: facilitating activities, program set-up and take-down, reshelving books
Ages allowed: 13 and up
Chaperone required? No

Big Hearted Families (Doing Good Together) 
Location: the site lists LOTS of different ideas for giving back – could be done from home, or in various areas
Possible duties: making cards for hospital patients, putting together hygiene baskets for shelters, making homemade dog treats, etc
Ages allowed: No age minimum
Chaperone required? Depends on activity

Central Texas Food Bank
Location: 6500 Metropolis Drive, Austin, TX 78744
Possible duties: Sort donations, prepare or deliver meals, gardening, administrative
Ages allowed: 8 and up
Chaperone required? Yes, one adult (21+) must be present for every 5 minors

The Christi Center
Location: 2306 Hancock Drive, Austin 78756
Possible duties: light gardening, clean up, purchasing or preparing meals for kids’ programs
Ages allowed: No specified minimum
Chaperone required? Yes

The Dog Alliance 
Location: 1321 W New Hope Dr, Cedar Park 78613
Possible duties: duties not listed; will have to call or email to find out about opportunities
Ages allowed: 8 and up
Chaperone required? 8 to 14  need parent, 15 and up can volunteer independently

Drive a Senior
Location: Serves most of the Austin area
Possible duties: driving seniors to appointments or activities, doing simple home maintenance, making friendly visits
Ages allowed: Children of all ages are welcome
Chaperone required? Yes, for anyone under 18

Foundation Communities 
Location: Done from home
Possible duties: Purchasing supplies and putting together “welcome home baskets” for new residents
Ages allowed: No age minimum
Chaperone required? Yes

Generation Serve (formerly Little Helping Hands)
Location: volunteer sites area spread throughout the area
Possible duties: beautification projects, making arts & crafts for hospital patients, sorting donations, etc – see website for LOTS of options on calendar
Ages allowed: 3 and up
Chaperone required? One adult must be present for each minor, EXCEPT for events aimed specifically at teens (website calendar will indicate)

Habitat for Humanity
Location: sites throughout the area
Possible duties: construction work, landscaping, delivering lunch/water to construction sites
Ages allowed: 16 and up are allowed on construction site with an adult; 15 and younger are not allowed on active construction sites, but can help with painting, landscaping (etc) with an adult
Chaperone required? Yes

Keep Austin Beautiful
Location: sites throughout the area
Possible duties: picking up trash or performing light cleaning /gardening at various sites
Ages allowed: No specific age minimum, but parents should consider whether duties are within their children’s abilities
Chaperone required? Yes, for anyone under 18

Meals on Wheels 
Location: Multiple sites throughout Travis and Williamson counties
Possible duties: deliver hot meals to seniors, facilitate activities at respite home, take seniors grocery shopping
Ages allowed: No age minimum
Chaperone required? Yes, for anyone under 18

Ride on Center for Kids 
Location: 2050 Rockride Ln, Georgetown 78626
Possible duties: grooming and handling horses, helping with special events
Ages allowed: 14 and up
Chaperone required: No

Ronald McDonald House of Central Texas 
Location: 1315 Barbara Jordan Blvd, Austin 78723
Possible duties: greeting visitors, organizing donations, light cleaning, etc
Ages allowed: 16 and up
Chaperone required? No

Location: opportunities can be done from home or different sites
Possible duties: put together craft projects, sort donations, shop for wish list items
Ages allowed: Depends on activity – some are open for children of all ages
Chaperone required? Yes

The Thinkery
Location: 1830 Simond Ave, Austin 78723
Possible duties: facilitate activities
Ages allowed: 13 and up
Chaperone required? No

Location: Various assisted living facilities throughout Austin
Possible duties: Youth create art or participate in other activities with seniors
Ages allowed: Age minimum is not specified
Chaperone required? Yes

Youth Opportunities to Unite
Location: opportunities can be done from home or at various Williamson county sites
Possible duties: making no-sew blankets or scarves, park clean up, making cards
Ages allowed: Was not specified
Chaperone required? Was not specified, but likely required

ZACH Theater 
Location: can choose between north or south campus
Possible duties: assist main teacher with theater camps
Ages allowed: 14-19
Chaperone required? No




Borgonovi, F. (2008). Doing well by doing good: The relationship between formal
volunteering and self-reported health and happiness. Social Science and Medicine, 66(11), 2321-2334.

Musick, M.A., & Wilson, J. (2003). Volunteering and depression: The role of psychological
and social resources in different age groups. Social Science and Medicine, 56(2), 259-69.

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