May 30, 2014 05:03PM
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Marshall Medical Center’s Junior Volunteers
by Linda Holderness
In fiction, teenage summers are one long beach party. In real life, they’re usually a lot duller. The perfect antidote? Volunteering!
Opportunities to help others in this region are plentiful, and the rewards can be great. Beyond fulfilling a high school graduation requirement and dressing up college apps, volunteering enhances students’ own personal qualities, such as confidence, leadership skills, civic responsibility and respect for others.
Young people can approach volunteering in two ways: by contacting an agency with a mission that appeals to them or by initiating their own benevolent projects.
When coming up with ideas, get creative. With TerraCycle (terracycle.com), for example, kids can turn their trash—traditionally non-recycled waste like drink pouches, chip bags and toothbrushes—into treasures (think recycled park benches and upcycled backpacks). Young ones who sing, play a musical instrument or do magic tricks are warmly welcomed to perform for seniors in retirement homes. The residents love to be entertained, especially by youths. Or, have your child summon their friends together to pick up trash from a neighborhood park. Web-savvy teens could offer an invaluable service—and beef up their own resumes, too—by setting up a small charity’s website.
Agencies that frequently use young volunteers include hospitals (check out Marshall Medical Center’s Junior Volunteer program), Habitat for Humanity, United Way, the American Red Cross, Ronald McDonald House, animal shelters (such as Animal Outreach of the Mother Lode), food banks (try the Food Bank of El Dorado County), libraries, Special Olympics, Goodwill Industries (their GoodGuide Youth program accepts volunteers ages 12-17) and other local nonprofits (Snowline Hospice). Kids who want to “encourage healthy living, nurture the environment and grow a sustainable community,” can get their hands dirty at the 55-acre Soil Born Farms in Rancho Cordova.
Cat-loving kids should check out Fat Kitty City, an El Dorado Hills-based animal sanctuary operated by the parent company Agee Memorial Wildlife Fund. The all-volunteer nonprofit rescues and provides shelter and medical aid to abandoned or abused cats. Kids under 11-and-a-half must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Volunteers will assist with feedings; clean, sweep and mop the cats’ outdoor houses and cabins; make fliers; and assist at adoption events at local pet stores. Those who don’t want to work on-site can collect blankets for kitty bedding or donate supplies (scoopable kitty litter is at the top of the wish list). “We truly do rely on community support, especially the youth,” says Youth Volunteer Coordinator Pam Smit. “Young people work hard,” she adds, “but there’s always time to stop and nuzzle a cat.”