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Community Service

Community Service

65 Community Service Ideas for Every Type of Volunteer


Community service is not a one-size-fits-all arena. There’s room for everybody to serve in an area that both interests them and utilizes their talents and education. From toddlers to high school students, to the elderly, we all have something we can give back! Here is our list of some of the best community service ideas for every kind of volunteer.

Giving back is a great adventure!

Thinking of getting involved with your local volunteer service project? Or maybe you think it’s time your teen learned how to give something back to their community? Either way, we’re on board. Volunteering in the community is a proven way to encourage kindness and empathy for both you and your kids. Plus, it’s a fun way to meet people and get out of the house! While you’re at it, why not pick up our Adventures From Scratch: Family Edition? This puzzle book has dozens of brilliant, quizzes, games, and activities that will bring your family together and could be great practice for the challenges of community service.

Find Your Place to Serve

When looking for a service opportunity, remember to choose an organization you trust, that aligns with your values, and that can use your talents. This might take some research before you commit to a place, and that is ok. You’ll also need to consider how much time you’re prepared to offer. Do you want something to do on an occasional weekend, or are you willing to sign on for a longer-term commitment? There is no right or wrong answer, it’s just something to ponder before you make any promises.

Some of these service projects can be organized in minutes, performed in a day, and are a one-time deal. Others will take months to plan, you’ll need a good team, and it might take a great deal more thought. You choose your level of responsibility and involvement, just remember every little act helps!

The Best Service Projects for Every Kind of Volunteer

Community Service Ideas for Animal Lovers

Let’s not overlook some of our most vulnerable community members. We all know that humans don’t deserve dogs, but due to rising prices and the hard times that the pandemic produced in many families, a large number of pets have been discarded. Plus, our human activity has changed the ecosystems of animals all over the globe, and now we have some repairing to do! See how you can get involved below.

1. Volunteer at your local animal shelter.

Animal shelters are full to the brim after the pandemic, and they are always looking for responsible animal lovers to feed, walk, and bathe the residents. This is a great service project idea for the whole family.

2. Take a service trip to Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center has been working with lost and injured animals, in one of the most biodiverse places on earth, since 2005. Living in a communal area with other volunteers, you’ll get the chance to help animals in need and meet like-minded individuals too!

3. Foster a pet.

As stated, animal shelters are currently overflowing, and food prices are increasing by the day. Help out your local shelter by volunteering to foster a pet until they find it a home. Most local shelters have a foster program or can lead you to one in your area.

4. Organize a food drive for your local shelter.

Food prices are outrageous at the moment, and that includes dog and cat food. Get with your local animal shelter to assess needs, and organize a food drive to collect those specific items. Volunteer to stock the food pantry as an added service project.

5. Adopt an exotic animal.

Hop over to World Wildlife Fund and symbolically adopt an exotic animal. Your funding will provide necessary food, habitat maintenance, and healthcare for an endangered species. Adopt a Blue-Footed Booby, a Bactrian Camel, or a Duck-Billed platypus.

Community Service Ideas for Environmental Warriors

Our earth is in a pretty desperate state at this point. We all had a part in it, and we can all have a part in the solution too. Here are a few ways you can help!

6. Host a community cleanup.

One quick look around your neighborhood, and you’ll probably realize, that like most places on earth at this point, it could use some picking up. Organize a group of friends to clean up your Townsquare or a specific area of your town. Even better, offer to adopt the area and keep it clean for some time.

7. Maintain a strip of the highway.

Whether you’re a business or community organization, you can adopt a stretch of road through Adopt A Highway Maintenance Corporation.

8. Plant a community garden.

Community gardens are popping up all over the world where citizens can plant, maintain, and reap the harvest of a garden in an open area. These gardens provide increased physical activity, mental health, and access to healthy foods for the community.

9. Raise awareness for your favorite charity.

Most nonprofit organizations fight the battle for fundraising every year. They are constantly striving for new and different ideas, and you can help! Partner with something you’re passionate about, and use your voice, friend network, and social media to spread the word. People can’t help if they don’t know!

10. Host a recycling drive.

Give the recycling center in your area a boost. Organize a recycling drive to spread awareness, educate the public on what is and isn’t recyclable, and collect items.

11. Take a service trip to Malaysia.

Since China cleaned up its emissions process in 2018, scrappers have moved their operations to small Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and the Philippines, which are not equipped the handle the situation. These nations are now swimming in the garbage, and their governments are fighting back. Help out in the fight by volunteering with an organization like Trash Hero Malaysia

Community Service Ideas for Healthcare Workers

Healthcare workers spend every day caring for others, and we thank you for that. Your immense skills and wisdom are useful in the community too! Check out these five ways you can spread your knowledge to the masses.

12. Organize a blood drive.

When partnering with the American Red Cross, you provide the location, the volunteers, and the donors, and they will handle the rest!

13. Produce a pamphlet for public awareness.

Every neighborhood has its problems to deal with from health issues to crimes. Work with community leaders to produce a public awareness newsletter or social media page to keep your community up-to-date and safe.

14. Do a public health seminar at a local school.

Join up with the local school nurse and organize a few seminars for students to educate on health issues and your community. Children are often overlooked when it comes to community health, but they are an integral part of keeping the community safe.

15. Organize an outreach to an underserved community.

Use your imagination on this one. You could organize a play day with children of an underserved neighborhood, focusing on healthcare careers, with booths to play dress-up, experiment with medical equipment, and learn about opportunities.

16. Take a public health service trip with Mercy Ships.

Mercy Ships are floating hospitals, and “vessels of hope.” A reported 50% of the world’s population lives within 100 miles of the coast, and Mercy Ships provide surgical procedures and medical training to the most underserved communities in the world!

Community Service Ideas for Educators

Educators are invaluable to our system. Here are a few ways you can continue your passion outside of your work hours!

17. Join a summer program at your public local library.

Public libraries often host reading clubs during the summer and after-school programs too! They are always looking for volunteers, especially those who are certified to work with children.

18. Coach a little league team.

Coaching a community sports team is an awesome way to instill confidence, a love for physical activity, and the importance of teamwork in the kids of your city. Plus, it’s tons of fun!

19. Volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is a time-honored community organization that helps set up “littles” with an adult mentor, or “big.” Make a one-on-one connection that could last a lifetime and mentor a child in need.

20. Volunteer with Translators Without Borders.

Use your language skills to translate medical material, important notices, or natural disaster materials for community projects all over the world by signing up for Translators Without Borders.

21. Archive Documents for the Smithsonian Institute.

With probably millions of documents and photos in their archives, you can imagine that the Smithsonian Institute need a little help getting them all online in a format that is easy to search through. Their website gives detailed instructions on how you can help!

Community Service Ideas for Techies

It’s a virtual world now, and many organizations are struggling to keep up without the ability to hire high-priced technologists. If you have a passion for all things tech, then volunteer in one of these areas to help out your favorite nonprofit.

22. Organize a crowdfunding campaign for a nonprofit.

Fundraising is one of the most difficult aspects of running a nonprofit. Use your tech genius by joining a cause you care about and helping to set up a virtual crowdfunding account.

23. Manage the social media for a campaign.

Successfully managing social media platforms is not something that everyone has the skill, or the desire to do. However, it is almost a must in today’s world if you want your organization’s name to be known to the community. Find an organization you love, and volunteer your skills!

24. Set up or maintain the website of a nonprofit.

If you have some spare couch time, volunteer to upload photos and keep web pages up to date with new information. It’s a giant relief for small organizations to know they have someone they can trust to handle web info while they run the day-to-day details.

25. Teach computer skills at an assisted living.

If you have ever had to change your grandparent’s password or set up their printer, you know that senior citizens and technology aren’t always friends. However, many older community members would love to learn! Spend a few hours a month teaching basic computer skills at your local senior citizen’s center.

Community Service Ideas for Athletes

Who says community service can’t be fun and active? Find a way to use your love of the sport to increase the well-being of your community! Here are a few ideas.

26. Coach an athlete at the Special Olympics.

The Special Olympics is one of the most rewarding opportunities to participate in. Athletes with disabilities compete in several adapted sports, and they are always looking for coaches, referees, judges, and more.

27. Organize a youth sports day.

If your community doesn’t have any little league opportunities, or if you’re in-between seasons, organize a community event based on sporting activity. Bring out the soccer balls. Teach a skill, or just set up some fun, seasonal obstacle courses for community kids!

28. Maintain a hiking trail in your area.

You’re out there running anyway, right? You might as well volunteer to keep the trail clean, walkable, and welcoming!

29. Compete in a charity challenge.

Charity challenges are a fun way to raise money for your favorite cause. You could host a slip ‘n’ slide competition, join a polar plunge, or gather a team for a city scavenger hunt! For a full list of fundraising challenges, check out “Put The Fun In Fundraising With These 80 Charity Challenge Ideas”

30. Join a marathon.

Marathons are one of the most common and successful fundraising activities, but you don’t have to be a distance runner to join a “thon.” The marathon idea has branched out over the years, to include obstacle courses, mud runs, and fun runs of all sorts.

Community Service Projects for Artists

You’re an individual and a creative, and your community could use a little individuality and creativity! Choose one of these service projects or use your imagination to come up with something even better!

31. Design a mural for the city center.

Beautify your community by working with city leaders to fill your public areas with art! People have likely graffitied them anyway, so you might as well embrace it and make it something beautiful!

32. Design holiday sculptures for the town.

Use your skill to decorate your city for the Holidays. Volunteer to create masterpieces for city parks, roundabouts, and squares. Spruce the place up with a bit of holiday spirit.

33. Paint Windows for a nonprofit or local business.

Splash your talent all over the city’s windows by volunteering to paint a holiday scene at Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or another local charity.

34. Build sets for a community theater.

Does your city or community college has a theater group? We bet they could use some help designing and crafting this year’s set. Volunteer your talents and have the opportunity to teach student volunteers a skill at the same time.

35. Make flower arrangements for the nursing home.

According to Affinity Health, multiple studies show that having live plants around can increase serotonin levels, decrease anxiety and depression, and boost creativity. They also help to improve air quality. That’s more than enough reason to bring some life into your local elderly home.

Community Service Ideas for Teens

If you’re a teen looking to help out in your community, then this is your section! Remember, the opportunities are endless, and if you have an idea and the passion to do it, then go for it! You’re never too young to do something awesome.

36. Tutor a younger student.

Use your brilliant brain to help out a younger neighbor with special needs, or one who might just be struggling in a particular subject that your excel in. Tutoring is a great way to teach a skill, instill confidence, and be a mentor to a younger person. Plus, it looks great on college applications.

37. Beautify your high school.

Your school could probably use a bit of flair! Join up with your school board or student council and plants new flower beds, powerwash the sidewalks, or paint some classrooms.

38. Collect school supplies for an elementary school.

Elementary schools need a ton of supplies! Crayons, glue, pencils, paints, hand sanitizer, extra changes of clothes for little ones… the list goes on. Check with your local school officials and see what the most neglected supplies are, then start collecting.

39. Babysit for a low-income family.

There are lots of single moms and dads out there who could use all the extra childcare help they can get. You probably have some in your neighborhood. You might be surprised how much fun you can have when volunteering to care for younger children!

40. Do manual labor for a neighbor.

It’s a fact of nature, as we age, maintaining a property becomes more and more difficult. Help out an elderly neighbor by offering to rake leaves, take out the trash, or weed the flower beds. It will allow you to spend time with wise, older community members, and they often show their thankfulness with baked goods. It’s a win-win situation.

Community Service Ideas for Kids

This section takes a bit more planning. Not all events are appropriate for children, and not all non-profits allow them to participate. When looking for volunteer opportunities for children, always check with the organization first. Get a rundown of the day, and make sure you and they are comfortable with the plan.

41. Make care packages for the local hospital.

Being in the hospital can be extraordinarily boring and lead to anxiety and depression. You can brighten up someone’s day by delivering a care package and spending some time with a patient. Elderly patients love to get young visitors, and if you live near a children’s hospital, you can organize a play day. You’ll need to approve your visit and package contents with hospital staff, but that is usually easy to do through the front desk or the hospital website.

42. Collect and donate toys for a toy drive.

Whether you go shopping for new ones or go through your delicately-used collection, donating toys is a wonderful way for little ones to participate in community charity. It’s also a great teaching opportunity about caring for those less fortunate than themselves.

43. Adopt an elderly person as a pen pal.

Elderly people truly do love the company of youngsters. It gives them vitality! Have your little one create their letters or drawings and send them to a friend in the local nursing home. Better yet, deliver them yourself and spend some time visiting with the residents.

44. Pick up trash in your local park.

Make it a game. See who can pick up the most pieces of trash before the buzzer goes off! You can end your day with a trip to the local recycling center.

45. Pass out cookies at a soup kitchen.

While you’ll have to check with the administrators, most soup kitchens will allow young volunteers to pass out fruit or have a cookie stand at events, as long as they are accompanied by a parent.

Community Service Ideas for the Workplace

Serving with your work crew is a wonderful opportunity to better your community and bond with your coworkers. Your larger coordinated teams can also accomplish tasks that are harder for individual volunteers to accomplish!

46. Organize a team-building project with Let’s Roam

Serve the community closest to you by organizing a teambuilding event for your coworkers. You spend every day together anyway, might as well make it more tolerable by learning to work with your team members most efficiently and productively as possible. We can help!

47. Collect goods for the local food bank.

If you run a public business or work for a large company, then you have the perfect opportunity to set up a food drive. Set out boxes and spread the word, collecting items. Then, set up a day for your team to go and deliver the goods. Just make sure to get a list of needed items from the food bank first.

48. Teach your trade at the community center.

If your workgroup has a specific skill, volunteer as a group to teach the community! Schedule a room in the community center. Get the word out over social media. Who knows? Maybe, you’ll recruit some new talent to the company.

49. Organize a golf tournament.

It’s no secret in the fundraising world that golf tournaments equal big bucks. However, they take a lot to organize, so they are perfect for companies to do as a service project. Utilize your workforce into teams, and make it happen!

50. Volunteer as poll workers.

During election season, poll points need tons of workers to keep things in line! It’s a great opportunity for a work team to serve together. Just umm, probably keep your politics out of it.

Community Service Ideas for Elders

51. Knit scarves for the homeless shelter.

Put your skills to good use and make some warm winter wear for the local homeless shelter. Think hats, gloves, or scarves.

52. Make quilts for the local children’s hospital.

Many local children’s units like to give each child a distinct blankie that feels like home. If you’re a quilter, make a few miniature ones for the sick kiddos in your community.

53. Teach a skill at the community center.

You have probably noticed a severe lack of life skills in the younger generation. Most of us can’t quilt. We can’t knit or sew anything. We need your wisdom!

54. Volunteer at your church’s children’s program.

If you attend a local church, volunteer your time to help with a children’s summer camp or Sunday school class.

55. Write letters to heroes.

Healthcare workers, firemen, policemen, and community service members, could all use a little extra encouragement. If you have time and want to brighten the day for a local hero, send them a letter of gratitude.

Community Service Ideas for the Holiday Season

56. Send a soldier a care package.

Soldiers often spend their holidays thousands of miles from home. Plus, they are often surrounded by unfamiliar customs and miss home. A pack sent through Hero Care Package is the way to go. You can donate funds, and pick your package, and they will ensure it gets to your hero!

57. Organize a winter clothing drive.

Winter is the hardest season for the homeless and low-income in your community. Winter clothes are often expensive too. Gather gently used clothing, or go on a shopping spree, to fill the supply closets of your local homeless shelter.

58. Volunteer to deliver Thanksgiving meals.

Many churches and community organizations prepare meals for the local community. Delivering these meals to those who cannot get out is a great volunteer opportunity for anyone with a driver’s license.

59. Decorate a tree for the senior citizen’s center.

Spread the holiday cheer by picking out a tree at your local tree farm and bringing decorations to the nursing home or senior citizen’s center. Spend your afternoon with carols, cookies, and tree decorating!

60. Volunteer to listen with 7Cups.

The holiday season isn’t happy for many. It is a time that reminds them of loss. With 7Cups, you can volunteer to be a listening ear. They will train you in active listening, and you’ll become part of their team, offering 24/7 emotional support for those who just need someone to listen.

Community Service Ideas for DIY-ers

If you have skills, whether professional or DIY, to build, remodel, or fix, then your skills are always in need!

61. Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.

It’s a staple in the volunteer world, and it’s still a fabulous program. Habitat for Humanity provides homes or helps remodel homes for those in need.

62. Volunteer with Crisis Response International.

CRI offers volunteers the opportunity to not only train in multiple areas of crisis response but to respond to natural disasters and political turmoil all around the world. Find out how you can help!

63. Form a community repair team.

If you live in a small town, you have likely noticed that the ones who serve on all your community, charity, and church boards are the older generation. While their wisdom is invaluable, they don’t always have the physical ability to keep buildings in repair. Grab a few skilled friends and volunteer one weekend a month to help an organization in your community.

64. Teach a skill.

Work with the school shop or FACS teacher to do a special presentation of your skill in the local high school. Spread the wisdom!

65. Host a community skills day.

Set up in a public area and get the word out through social media that you’ll have a team of skilled person teaching. You could set up stations for community members to learn to change a tire, build a birdhouse, or properly install wallpaper. The options are endless. Just use your talents!

Closing Thoughts

Hopefully, you found an idea perfect for your personality here! If not, don’t give up, there are hosts of opportunities out there, in any area for which you have a passion. Keep looking, or get creative and come up with your plan to give back. We all have a part to play, and none is too big or too small!

Got a great community service idea? Drop it in the comments!

You have to get a bit creative for service opportunities for children, but they are out there! For a few ideas, check out “The Best Community Service Projects for Kids.”

Volunteering in your local community is paramount, but there are also multiple opportunities for teens to serve in the international community, ranging from wildlife conservation projects to teaching English as a second language. We have gathered “12 Top Service Trips for Teens” to help you find the perfect opportunity this year.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some volunteer opportunities for children?

Get creative when teaching children about community service! Some service ideas include helping an elderly neighbor with chores, picking up trash at the park, or visiting a nursing home.

What are some community service ideas for teens?

Teens can participate in service trips, tutor younger students, or work to improve community grounds with service projects.

What are some good volunteering ideas?

Organize a scavenger hunt to raise funds, give baths are the local animal shelter, or set up a food drive at your local homeless shelter.

Community Service

The Best Community Service Projects for Kids


Childhood is the optimal time in a person’s life to learn the value of community, empathy for the downtrodden, and the confidence to make a difference. And volunteer opportunities abound in most communities, but they aren’t always kid-friendly. Some organizations don’t allow children to participate due to insurance liabilities, and some opportunities just aren’t appropriate or fun for kids. However, there are community service projects for kids out there, and we have gathered all the best ones to help you get your child involved.

Kindness is a cool adventure!

Thinking of sending your kid off on a safe and fun community service project? Great idea. Volunteering in the community is a proven way to encourage kindness and empathy in your child. Plus, it’s a great adventure! While you’re at it, why not pick up our Adventures From Scratch: Family Edition? This family puzzle book has oodles of clever games and creative challenges for you and your children that will bring your family together and could be great practice for the problem-solving of community service.

The Benefits of Community Service for Kids

Truthfully, when your schedule is filled to the brim with soccer practices, homework, and birthday parties, piled on top of work responsibilities and keeping everyone alive, adding good works to the pile just feels impossible. However, volunteering in the community doesn’t have to be anything overly time-consuming or difficult. It can be easy and fun, and it may have a greater impact on your child and your family than any of those other activities. The benefits of serving others and building community relationships are numerous, especially for kids!

1. Community Service Breeds Compassion

Children are inherently a bit selfish. It’s not their fault. That is just the stage of development that they are in, and it’s the responsibility of adults to broaden their outlook on the situation. The old adage says something like “there is always someone worse off than yourself.” – Aesop. While that sounds gloomy, it’s usually true, and that means there is someone whose life you could help improve in some small way.

All parents try to teach their children compassion, but sometimes it’s more effective to show them. Introducing your children to the idea that we are all connected, and that our actions can have a positive impact on the lives of others is a huge life lesson. While you need to protect their hearts in some ways, exposing them to age-appropriate volunteer projects produces compassion and empathy for those around them.

2. Community Service Teaches Teamwork

Working together with other children and adults teaches a plethora of life lessons. Like participating in sports, volunteering helps children develop problem-solving skills, learn to deal with difficult personalities, and operate within an authority hierarchy. All of these skills are essential for functioning in an adult working world, and it’s never too soon to learn them.

3. Community Service Creates Confidence

The problems of our world are often overwhelming, even for well-rounded adults. The truth is we cannot fix the world, but we can each do a small part for the people around us to improve it. Children participating in service projects can see the change happening before them. This builds confidence within them, affirming that they can do small things to improve the lives of people in their community. It teaches them that actions matter.

4. Community Service Broadens Identity

Children generally see themselves as just that, your child. They may identify as a student or a brother or sister, but their actual identity is so much more than that. Charity work allows your child to broaden their circle of influence. Through charity work, kids realize that they are also valued members of society, good neighbors, and an integral cog in the wheel to keep society operating at its best. For our communities to flourish, we all have to do our part, and service projects show young children that they have a valuable part to play.

The Best Service Project Ideas for Children

Remember, community service doesn’t have to be difficult. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming, and it doesn’t even have to be through any kind of organization or event. You can serve your neighbors through random acts of kindness, building a life of good deeds, without ever attending a charity marathon.

There will be times in your life when you have a full Saturday to volunteer at a children’s hospital, there will be other times when all you can spare is a quick run by the food bank. That’s why we have included activities for kids of all ages and personality types and at every stage of life. The best community service idea for your family is the one that you’ll do!

1. Visit a nursing home.

Many of our senior citizens are living out their final days in nursing homes, assisted living, and senior centers, and they can be terribly lonely. The vitality of young children has a strong effect on their mental health. Take your children to visit a “Grandfriend” occasionally. Let them play games, tell a story, or make an art piece for an elderly friend. You’ll be surprised how much they appreciate this little act of kindness. It’s the perfect service idea for young children.

2. Shop for a local food bank.

We guarantee your local food pantry is probably running low on something! Find out what it is. Take your children shopping, and volunteer to physically stock the pantry with your purchased items. This can also be done with your local homeless shelter.

3. Perform a chore for a neighbor.

Performing seasonal chores for elderly or disabled neighbors is a great way to serve the local community. You could rake leaves in the fall, plant flowers in the spring, water the flowerbeds in the summer, or shovel snow in the winter. It could be as small as taking out their trash on Tuesdays or bringing their mail to the porch.

4. Compete in a charity sporting event.

Most larger communities have marathons, triathlons, and fun runs. Many of these events allow children to participate. Some are solely for children. Check your city website and the websites of larger communities near you. If there isn’t one in your area, then organize one. Have your children help. Including their ideas in your event planning will ensure that the service is something that children will enjoy!

5. Volunteer with your church.

Local churches usually have community service projects going on. They may involve cleaning up a park, planting flowers, building a ramp for a disabled community member, a Christmas mall for those in financial need, or delivering Thanksgiving meals. If you attend a church, keep a watch out for opportunities to serve.

6. Clean up the neighborhood.

Some communities have an annual clean-up day on Earth Day or at an appointed time, but you don’t need to wait for that. Spend a few hours during your week cleaning up your neighborhood park, the riverside, or your neighborhood streets. Have your children gather their cleaning crew from among their friends, teaching them not only to serve but to mobilize!

7. Bake cookies for the homeless.

Many of our most downtrodden citizens are scraping by to get the basics, and they rarely get to partake in something that is just for pleasure. Bake cookies or a luscious dessert for the homeless in your community. Hand them out in the community or drop them off at your local homeless shelter. You could even ask the local shelter to create a wish list for its habitants and fulfill a wish on the list.

8. Plant trees or flowers in the community.

Beautification of your community is a quick way to brighten the day for everyone in town! A clean and colorful city produces a sense of pride in most. Offer to plant new trees in the city park or create a flower bed at the local library or high school. You may need to get permission from the mayor or a committee, and you’ll need to be prepared to maintain the area in the future.

9. Host a canned food drive.

One of the easiest ways to make a big impact is to collect non-perishable food items. Children can have a role in every part of this. From donating a percent of their chore money to purchase items to setting up collection boxes at the local hospital, businesses, and school, to stocking them in the local food pantry.

10. Make Holiday cards for the elderly.

Surprising your local nursing home or even elderly neighbors with a cheery Christmas or birthday card is a simple way for children to give back. Let them design and decorate the cards and choose who they would like to give them to. Allow the children to deliver their masterpieces in person.

11. Make gift baskets during the holiday season.

Gift baskets are a great way to show appreciation. You could make them for local service workers like the police or local fire department. You could bring them to the ancillary staff at the local school, like the janitor or the bus drivers. Think about people often overlooked and surprise them with a custom-made holiday gift.

12. Donate school supplies.

Most school districts have a program to collect school supplies for lower-income children. Have your children pick up crayons, notebooks, and their favorite pencils to donate to the school for children in need.

13. Write letters to service workers.

Service workers keep our society flowing smoothly, and they are often overlooked. Letters of gratitude to the city council members, firemen, policemen, soldiers, and pastors might be just the encouragement they need to make it through another day.

14. Set out snacks for the mailman.

Put your child in charge of keeping a snack bucket for the Fed Ex man. Have them make a nice note for mailmen to take a snack or drink if they need it. Sometimes a bottle of water and a Cosmic Brownie is just what they need to make it to the end of a shift.

15. Send care packages to soldiers.

Men and women serving our country in the armed forces often miss major holidays and family events in the line of duty. Send them a big thank you with a custom care package via Holidays for Heroes through the American Red Cross.

16. Take a meal to a children’s home.

You may be surprised to know that our foster care system is so overloaded with children that many communities have gone back to having children’s homes where volunteer staff “parent” several children living in a facility together. Bless one of these homes with a huge meal. Let your children serve the other children and hang out for a while.

17. Build a little free library.

Popular in parts of Europe, a “little free library” is a great way to give to the community. Set up one in your front yard where neighbors can borrow and return books. It’s an act of trust for sure, and some of your books will certainly not return as they should, but that is a lesson in itself too.

18. Become a tutor.

Older kids can serve their community by tutoring younger children in a subject in which they excel. If your child is a math genius, encourage them to help a neighbor that is struggling. It is a sacrifice of their time and a personal way to give back on a one-to-one level, and it can be very rewarding for both parties. Teens can even tutor virtually through organizations like Learn to Be.

19. Organize your own fundraising campaign.

Every single nonprofit out there has to raise funds, and they need help! It’s an ongoing and ever-changing job to come up with inventive ways to raise funds. Find a charity that you love and sign on to help. Your child could do a speech in their class at school to raise awareness. They could sell lemonade or a homemade recipe, do chores for money, or organize a fun run to raise money for the selected nonprofit. Every penny helps!

20. Volunteer at the local animal shelter.

Animal shelters need people to walk and play with the animals. They need baths and feeding, as well as people to help raise awareness. Many accept high school students to take on these tasks or younger children with adult supervision.

21. Gather art supplies for your local children’s hospital.

Children’s hospitals go through lots of crayons and stickers! Make boxes for individual children, and ask if you can deliver them to a specific unit. You may need to call ahead and make an appointment for delivery, but most hospitals will allow it with proper registration.

22. Use your voice for good.

Everyone has a part to play. Some of us are great at getting our hands dirty with service jobs. Others have a talent for raising funds, and some are experts at mobilization. If your child is one of those that everybody wants to follow, encourage them to use their natural magnetism to get others involved in their passion. They could write a newsletter for their school, give a speech about a local charity, run for student council, or use their social media platform to raise awareness.

23. Volunteer with the Special Olympics.

The Special Olympics is one of the major nonprofit organizations that allows children of all ages to volunteer. They have volunteer opportunities ranging from playing alongside the athletes to helping with fundraising.

24. Gift cards for homeless people.

Giving gifts to the homeless population has some drawbacks, and most choose not to give cash gifts. Gift cards are a way around this. A gift to the local pharmacy can help them get necessary medicines. A gift card to a local restaurant will allow them a rare meal out, and a gift to the grocery store allows them to shop for their preferred food items.

25. Put on a Veteran’s Day show.

Show the veterans in your community that you appreciate their sacrifice. Let your young children make up a skit or poem expressing their gratitude. Let them make costumes. Invite your local veterans, and provide them with a small gift and a big smile for Veteran’s Day this year.

26. Organize a project for National Youth Service Day.

National Youth Service Day is in April. It’s a great time to organize a spring clean-up for your neighborhood. Have your teen and their friends take on a few projects in the neighborhood. Paint the local playground. Volunteer to spruce up a business or community building. Organize a recycling campaign. Get creative!

27. Donate a Christmas tree.

Head to your local Christmas tree farm and pick out the perfect tree for your local homeless shelter, children’s home, or nursing home. Make some hot chocolate and snacks and spend some time with the population decorating the tree.

28. Set up a coin jar.

Small children love to collect things. Send your child on a change-collecting campaign. When their jar is full, they can donate the money to a charity of their choice, or they can use it to buy a gift for someone in need.

29. Read books to younger children.

Older children can volunteer to read to younger children at the local library or in a local shelter. Even gathering children from the neighborhood for weekly reading time is an effective way to give back!

30. Volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters School-Based Program.

Big Brothers Big Sisters normally requires volunteers to be 18 and older. However, their school-based program allows children ages 16-17 to volunteer with parental permission.

31. Sponsor a child during the holidays.

Almost all communities have an Angel Tree or some sort of sponsorship for children in need. Like many things on this list, you’ll probably have to foot the bill, but you can let younger children pick out the gifts, wrap the present, and make the card. Children of all ages are can donate their own money to help buy the gifts as well.

32. Sponsor and international child for school.

There are countless school and meal sponsorship the world over. Unfortunately, unequal education opportunities and famine are still major problems in parts of the globe. By sponsoring a child, you not only get to provide a life-giving opportunity to that child, but you also give the child the ability to form a friendship. Your sponsored child is the perfect pen pal for your child. Let them be a part of each other’s lives by writing simple letters to one another. Mission of Hope Haiti is a fabulous organization with a top school for orphans and the underserved in Haitian society.

33. Check with your local soup kitchen.

Many local soup kitchens will allow children to help serve fruits or snacks. Ask if you can set up a table to volunteer.

34. Pet-sit for a neighbor.

Giving your neighbor peace of mind while they travel is an invaluable gift. Older children can provide that gift with the simple act of feeding and playing with a neighbor’s pets while they are away.

35. Foster a pet.

Many animal shelters had to close due to the pandemic, and most others are overrun. Volunteer to foster an animal until they are adopted. It’s a good opportunity to teach responsibility, allowing your child to be in charge of the animal’s welfare.

36. Join a community service group.

Youth groups like 4-H and the Boys and Girls Scouts are wonderful opportunities for kids to get involved in organized community service projects. These are nice too because it takes some of the pressure off the parents.

37. Take a service trip with GoEco.

GoEco is a wonderful travel organization that allows families or teens to volunteer abroad. They specialize in organizing service trips that are safe and focus on giving back in the form of public health, education, community improvement, or wildlife conservation.

Make Your Move

Remember, the best community service idea for your children is the one that they will do! Start small or go big. Take your child’s passions into consideration, and make your move! You won’t regret it. Any community service is a learning opportunity and worth the investment.

For more volunteer opportunities for teens, check out our guide to “The Top 12 Service Trips for Teens.” Form a deeper connection with your kiddos with a few tips from “A Parent’s Guide to Connecting With Kids of Any Age.”

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I introduce my child to community service?

Children of all ages can get involved in the community. Think about your child’s and your family’s passions. Choose a charity that lines up with your interests and ask them how you can help!

What are some small community service projects for kids?

Children can start making an impact in their community with small acts of kindness like raking the neighbor’s leaves, starting a free library, or collecting canned goods for a local shelter.

What can kids do to volunteer?

Help your child organize a scavenger hunt fundraising event for your favorite nonprofit, pick up trash in your community, or make holiday cards for your local nursing home.

Community ServiceTravel

The Top 12 Service Trips for Teens


Travel is the ultimate education, and believe it or not, striking out “on your own” as a teenager offers some incredible benefits emotionally, mentally, and socially for teens. However, international travel, under the age of 18, poses some serious questions about safety and logistics. Aspects of maturity and legality cloud the waters, and any parent would rightly be concerned about the security of their child so far from home. Thankfully, some time-honored teen travel programs specialize in under-18 travel, and they can handle all those hard-to-navigate waters. Most of the trips provided by these programs are service trips of some sort, focusing on community development, volunteer projects, or environmental sustainability. Let’s take a closer look at what benefits student travel offers young adults, and find the absolute best service trips for teens!

Treat your teens to an adventure of a lifetime!

From feeding the poor to helping elephants and hiking across volcanos, service trips are the perfect way to help teens see the world and develop their character and skills. But before they go, consider investing in some gold-quality family time with our Adventures From Scratch: Family Edition! This scatch adventure book has heaps of creative challenges for you and your teens that will bring your family together and might even help prepare them for the big beautiful world that awaits them.

Benefits of Travel as a Teen

1. Encourages Global Citizenship

Travel, in general, offers humans the chance for cultural immersion, the ability to jump full-in into someone else’s world, learn new perspectives, and gather a greater understanding of our fellow man. Teens are beginning to form their worldviews and prepare for a life outside the umbrella of their parents. This stage of their development allows them to fully engage with a new culture and ways of doing things. Travel during the teenage years often ignites a love for learning about the people and traditions that make our world so interesting and produces global citizens that are aware of and interact with world events.

2. Teaches the Value of Hard Work

Volunteer opportunities are often tough days, but the hands-on aspect is a great teaching element. It provides a realization of how difficult life is for the working class, all over the world, and often breeds respect for those who toil to make ends meet. It sounds a bit cliche, but a summer program in a Vietnam rice field can certainly change your perspective and produce sincere gratitude.

3. Allow Teens to Give Back

Most of our teenagers would probably serve and give more than adults if they had the opportunity to do so regularly. They aren’t as jaded as we become in our older years, and their motives are pure. They see a problem, and they want to fix it, and they have the strength and energy to do so! That makes it the perfect time in their lives to introduce them, conservatively, to the earth’s ailments, and what we as global citizens can do about them.

4. Personal Growth

Going out on their own for the first time is a monumental step for teens. If they pull it off and can do some good in the process, it can produce immense feelings of pride in their abilities to make the right decisions and take care of themselves and others. Don’t be surprised if your teen comes back from a summer service project more confident, capable, and ready to take on adulthood.

5. Expands Their Friend Group

Living and traveling with someone is the fastest way to create deep bonds. Eating, sleeping, working, and solving problems together can create more intimate relationships in a week than years of going to school together. A volunteer experience away from home allows them to meet like-minded people who may go on to become some of their lifelong friends.

6. Language Learning

The fastest way to learn a new tongue is language immersion. When you’re living in an environment where you must speak the language, you learn it. These opportunities are diminishing by the day, as the world turns to English as the international language of education and business. It’s hard to go anywhere where people don’t speak a bit of English at this point, but immersing oneself in the culture is still the best way to pick up new language skills.

7. Brownie Points

Along with test scores and grades, volunteer work is probably the single most important brownie point for college applications. Community service hours at home are great, but adding to that, knowledge of international economics, language, and cultural sensitivity singles out your teen when it comes to the application process. Plus, it gives them something worth discussing in an entrance interview.

What Options Are Out There for Teens?

From short mission trips to summer internships, the opportunities for teens to volunteer abroad are immense. As you might imagine, travel for those under the voting age can be a bit tricky. That is why most parents and teens choose to arrange their experience through an organization that specializes in teen travel.

These programs know all the ins and out of their destination. They handle the research for documentation and vaccinations and provide all the logistics once your teen is on the ground, which makes the whole process much easier for parents. The itinerary, transportation, health and safety, etc will be managed by the group. They will help you arrange travel insurance for your teenager and answer all questions you have before travel.

The Best Service Trips for Teens

In this section, we have found all the best options for teen travel. Each company varies, specializing in certain destinations, and has different age requirements. Some will allow for middle schoolers, others only for older teens. You and your teen need to read all the reviews, call and ask questions, and diligently research which organization lines up with your goals for the trip.

1. Go with someone you know.

Many parents and high school students feel better about their first trip away from home if they are going with someone or some group that feels familiar. For instance, many local churches send students on mission trips in the summer. While these trips certainly have a spiritual aspect that may or may not appeal to you, if your belief system lines up with that of the group, they can be a wonderful first experience for teens, especially middle school-age students.

These trips allow them to travel with like-minded friends, in a group that feels comfortable. They generally have a service project within a host community. The host helps manage safety, food, and transportation, and supplies the workload for the group. Traveling with a local group gives you the ability for in-person meetings before the trip and generally helps families feel more comfortable. Latin America and the Caribbean are the most popular destination for these groups, with volunteer trips taking place in Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, and Peru.

2. Island Health Expedition—Global Leadership Adventures

Global Leadership Adventures is one of the leaders in the teen travel world. They provide travel with a purpose exclusively for teens aged 14-18. GLA focuses on teaching student travelers leadership skills while on the service trip that they can take home and incorporate into their local communities. Their program list is massive, and families can choose a service learning trip by destination or by theme. They have programs specializing in wildlife conservation, teaching English, environmental stewardship, public health, and social justice. Choose something that your teen is passionate about, and you can’t go wrong! Popular

Community Health in Bali

If your teen is thinking about nursing or medical school, then pad their application with a community health service adventure. GLA’s Island Health Expedition focuses on integrating proper healthcare into indigenous areas. It’s an education in the blending of conventional Western medicine and indigenous eastern wisdom. Teen volunteers will experience a natural birth clinic, design and present health education to local youth, and spend their off time exploring the paradise of Bali. The trip includes learning to scuba dive in Bali’s incredible coral reef, surfing lessons, and white water rafting. It’s part service, part adventure, part cultural immersion, and 100% amazing!

This trip is available in 14-day and 21-day options for teenagers 14-18 years old.

3. Costa Rica Adventure & Volunteer—Travel for Teens

Travel for Teens is a wonderful organization that focuses on hands-on community service programs to encourage teens to “be a traveler, not a tourist.” Travel for Teens is about to celebrate its 20th year of producing award-winning trips for teens. Their program has expanded from a small family-owned company running tours in Paris to offering over 100 experiences in 46 different countries. Their philosophy is total culture immersion, encouraging teens to eat, travel, and live like a local.

The Costa Rica Adventure & Volunteer Trip

This trip is a Travel for Teens favorite! Student travelers will rack up 20 hours of community service in two Costa Rican communities. The work focuses on supplemental education for children in rural beach communities. The program varies by trip but often included teaching English, art and recreation projects with local children and maintenance work on the school property. Travelers will also get the Pura Vida experience with opportunities to zipline through the jungle, white water raft, sea kayak, and explore the stunning jungles and volcanoes of Costa Rica.

This is an 11-day trip for students who have just completed the 9th or 10th grade.

4. Plight of the Elephants—GoBeyond Travel

GoBeyond is the high school service learning branch of the highly acclaimed Global Expeditions Group. It’s one of the leaders in teen travel programs and boasts over forty years of experience. Like most teen service projects, they combine community service projects with a little adventure! Some of their projects are heavy on adventure. Others provide up to 50 hours of community service!

Plight of the Elephants

Sri Lanka is a magnificent wonder and a world hub for elephant research and conservation. Wasgamuwa National Park is leading the way, and teens have the opportunity to work alongside the experts to conserve and improve the lives of our largest land mammals. Explore ancient ruins, modern cities, and gorgeous landscapes while earning 50 hours of community service.

Plight of the Elephants is a small group trip, accepting only 10 students. It’s for ages 14-18 and is a 15-day trip.

5. Volunteer Shark Conservation High School Special—Projects Abroad

Formed in 1992, Projects Abroad is well-versed in teen service travel. They send over 10,000 students a year into service projects in developing countries! Their projects focus on important aspects like childcare, sports coaching, healthcare, human rights, and wildlife conservation.

What could be more of an adventure than diving with sharks in the remote paradise of Fiji? The Shark Conservation High School Special combines working closely with leading shark researchers on population surveys of endangered animals and training with PADI diving specialists to earn your Advanced Open Water Scuba Certification.

The 2-week trip occurs during summer and winter break. It’s specifically for teens aged 15-18.

6. Plastic Education and Recycling—Projects Abroad

Another thing we love about Projects Abroad is their unique “Ethical Consumerism Trips.” The Plastic Education and Recycling volunteer program takes us back to beautiful Sri Lanka to take in the uglier side of our vast global consumption. Dealing with plastics is probably the number one environmental aspect that our world is dealing with at this point, and education is so important!

The trip takes place in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo. Teens will work hand-in-hand with devoted environmentalists and live with a local host family, affording them the most authentic experience. The trip focuses on learning the global statistics for recycling, educating local communities on proper plastic use, and practical ways to combat the problem.

The trip runs throughout the year with varying lengths. It’s only for teens above the age of 18.

7. Kilimanjaro Expedition—Overland Summers

Overland Summers has a strong drive to develop teens. Their missions focus on teamwork, student ownership, and putting the group first. Their trips are small group trips led by intensely devoted counselors that are focused on your teen’s personal growth, and with almost forty summers under their belt, they must be doing something right!

The Kilimanjaro Expedition is a combination of hiking and service expeditions in the wildlife mecca of Tanzania. This combo trip includes a hiking expedition to the Ngorongoro Crater, viewing the wildlife of the Serengeti, and off-the-beaten-path camping, all led by a local Maasai guide. Travelers will then volunteer at an orphanage in Arusha, teaching English and recreation to young children. They will study Swahili with a native instructor and learn the culture and history of Tanzania. Then, they will take on the weeklong summit of Mount Kilimanjaro!

The Kilimanjaro Expedition is a three-week trip for teens in the 9-12th grades.

8. Nepal Children’s Education—Shoulder-to-Shoulder

We love the concept of Shoulder-to-Shoulder. They provide teens with the opportunity to serve side by side with successful NGO leaders all over the world. Their purpose is to better the world by creating “ethical leaders.”

The Nepal Children’s Education trip is an intense one to several remote Himalayan villages. Students will be working with The Small World, a local NGO determined to improve rural education through community development projects. Teens will spend most of the trip in the SOlukhumbu region working with community members to improve girls’ education. Students will trek through Sherpa villages and experience the traditional guesthouses along the routes. There is an online curriculum that must be completed before traveling.

The trip is a 19-day journey with 2023 details still to come!

9. Wildlife Rehabilitation—GoEco

GoEco specializes in eco-tourism with a host of affordable and environmentally ethical volunteer trips. They are facilitators that connect teens with over 150 local environmental service organizations that are well-vetted and trustworthy.

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Trip to South Africa is a life-changing opportunity! Teens will gain valuable experience in endangered animal care. Eagles, vultures, hyenas, and leopards will be their company as they provide care to orphaned babies, rehabilitate injured animals, and participate in the release of recovered subjects.

The trip ranges from 2-8 weeks and is focused in Hoedspruit, Limpopo Province. Students must be 18 to participate.

 10. Montana Blackfeet—VISIONS Service Adventures

VISIONS Service Adventures specializes in meaningful service projects for teens, and they have over 30 years of experience. Teen volunteers are immersed in a host community, living alongside residents and working within the community to produce visible change through social service and construction projects.

For a stateside trip, you can’t get more immersive than this adventure with the Montana Blackfeet. The local partners are Yellow Bird Woman Sanctuary and the Blackfeet Nation. You’ll be serving on a sanctuary ranch helping to repair fences, renovate buildings, and do general maintenance. The American Indian tribes have the highest rates of poverty in the United States. Many lack adequate housing, and this trip aims to tackle some of those difficulties and provide resources to the population. Teens will get out in the community working in the homes of disadvantaged locals and serving meals to local children.

Travelers also learn about the history and culture of the Blackfeet, the importance of sacred land conservation, and able to experience a traditional ceremony. There is also plenty of time to enjoy the nature of Montana with a trail ride or wild swimming.

Trips range from 9-21 days, providing between 30-80 community service hours.

11. The Galapagos—Walking Tree Travel

The mission of Walking Tree is to create global citizens that have a passion for the world around them. Their trips are safe, authentic, and engaging, focusing on sustainable change. They partner with schools around the world to provide small group trips, revolving around long-term relationships. Walking Tree specializes in trips for teachers and their students. They can help you plan a trip itinerary for your group of students and pair you with a trusted community host.

The Galapagos is a stunning destination where students get an education in wildlife that few other destinations can offer. Off the West Coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos are home to several unique species of flora and fauna such as giant tortoises, sea turtles, Blue-footed Boobies, etc. Students are their adult escorts will partner with local leaders in wildlife conservation and learn what they can do to contribute to the sustainable travel and preservation of our delicate ecosystem.

12. Childcare Volunteering—Love Volunteers

Love Volunteers was formed by a brother and sister from New Zealand who wanted to volunteer abroad, but were shocked at the high price tags on these trips. They set out in 2009 to create a better way. Their trips generally cost between $40-100/ day, which is strikingly lower than some other organizations. Although, their overall price does not include airfare. While they have excellent trips all over the world, one of the best is their childcare service trip to Thailand.

Centered in exotic Chiang Mai, this childcare volunteering trip focuses on at-risk children in ethnic minority villages. The area is flooded with refugees due to the long-standing internal war in neighboring Myanmar. The Childcare Centers work to improve the physical health and education of these vulnerable children. Volunteers help to create educational and recreational activities for the children and expose them to native English speaking.

The trip is for teens 18 and older and requires a minimum commitment of two weeks.

Travel with Purpose

International service trips do offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for teens. Do your research. Thoroughly investigate each trip and make sure it aligns with your intent and trip goals for your teen, and with their passions. Make a list of your goals. Make a list of your must-have parental guidelines and all your questions, and be aggressive about getting them answered. There is no harm in asking!

With all that said, don’t be afraid to bite the bullet on a service trip! They are worth every penny, and these time-tested organizations care about teens and have given their lives to provide opportunities to help them grow, give back, and learn in a safe and educational environment.

Parenting teens isn’t easy. It’s often a battle of conflicting interests. For a few helpful hints, check out “How to Parent Teens Without Conflict and Drama” and “A Parent’s Guide to Connecting With Kids of Any Age.”

Frequently Asked Questions

How can a teenager travel abroad?

The best way for teens to get an international experience is to join a group service trip. These programs are put together by organizations that specialize in all aspects of underage travel.

What is a service trip?

Service trips are organized group programs that provide community service such as improving human habitat, working with underserved areas, or participating in wildlife conservation efforts.

How do you choose a teen service trip?

Start by getting a great travel journal! Make a list of goals and questions for prospective organizations. Research several opportunities until you find the one that aligns with your passion!