This year I’m doing a pre-emptive strike against the teenage summer doldrums and finding the kids places to volunteer. It’ll do them some good.
YANA, a group that sends care packages of items designed by cancer survivors to provide comfort to current cancer patients, is attempting to set the Guinness world record for “Most people making no-sew fleece blankets simultaneously.” The event is open to all ages; all you need to be able to do is tie a knot. The event will be held on April 30 at two locations: Santa Sophia Catholic Church in Spring Valley and United Way San Diego in Clairemont Mesa. Cost is $10 for kids 18 and under, $20–$25 general admission; 100 percent of the registration fee that goes to YANA is spent on the care package.
Hugs and Bags, which holds monthly events, serves “homeless children or any child in need, veterans, survivors of human trafficking, and anyone who needs a hand up,” says founder Jacqueline Penhos (619-200-2708). Besides love and compassion, the group seeks to provide necessities — bagged and otherwise. “Each bag is filled with toiletries, water, snacks, socks, underwear, and in the winter, mittens. We have separate bags for women, which include feminine-hygiene products. At our April 30 event, we will also have a mobile health unit, community resources, and warm meals. We will provide haircuts and manicures. Normally, we have one barber/stylist, but sometimes we’re lucky enough to have three or four.”
Volunteers’ duties range from greeting patrons to distributing clothes, shoes, and gift bags to running security and crowd control to managing the children’s area to handling sign-ins to offering official hugs. “It’s simple,” says Penhos. “We offer hugs to every person who attends. It is not mandatory to give or receive a hug, but we have not had any recipients deny one yet. The experience is priceless for volunteers.” Donations are always welcome — things like shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, razors, interview-quality clothes, and shoes. Minimum volunteer age is 16, or 12 with adult accompaniment.
The San Diego Food Bank (858-527-1419) is always in need of volunteers to sort, package, and distribute food to the homeless, homebound seniors, and others. It’s a chance to be part of a team that feeds, on average, 320,000 people a month. Wear clothes that can take getting dirty and close-toed shoes are a must. Most shifts are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, 6–8 p.m. Minimum volunteer age is 16, or 6 with adult accompaniment, and an orientation session is required. Sign up on website.
Ibarra Elementary Refugee Tutoring is in need of volunteers to work one-on-one with K–5 refugee students, helping with basic English and foundational math skills. Most of the students have lived in the U.S. for one month to four years and come from places such as Ethiopia and Iraq. No formal training is required aside from fluent English speech. New tutors receive a short orientation prior to their first session; sessions involve reading to students and playing educational games. Returning tutors are encouraged to work with the same students repeatedly. Sessions run Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5–6:30 p.m. Minimum volunteer age is 15, or 9 with adult accompaniment.
Chihuahua Rescue of San Diego (858-277-3557) cares for homeless, abandoned, and injured chihuahuas. They provide medical attention, foster homes, and adoption counseling. Volunteers are needed to help at adoption events throughout San Diego and to transport dogs to foster homes. On the feline side, Friends of Cats is a no-kill shelter for abandoned cats or those cats whose owners can no longer care for them. Volunteers are needed to help with cat socializing, bathing, or grooming, and with building and grounds maintenance — cleaning up, pulling weeds, and housekeeping. Daily tasks include folding bedding blankets and keeping kennels and litter boxes clean. Other tasks include helping at adoption events, giving tours to visitors looking for a new kitty, and assisting with cat relinquishment. Minimum volunteer age is 14, or 12 with adult accompaniment.
The Surfrider Foundation of San Diego (858-622-9661) offers beach cleanups throughout the year. Volunteers are encouraged to bring their own supplies, but reusable bags, buckets, gloves, and grabbers are available for those who don’t have their own. Wear comfortable clothes and close-toed shoes. Upcoming cleanups include Encinitas and Oceanside Pier. Minimum volunteer age is 15, or 5 with adult accompaniment.