Whether you’re a club advisor, a guidance counselor or a classroom teacher looking for a way to connect your lessons to life in the Garden State, there are countless community service opportunities in a variety of settings right in your own back yard. And there’s nothing like a hands-on service experience to transform a student into an engaged learner, and perhaps even launch a lifelong passion. We’ve taken some time to tee up some resources that can help you connect your students and schools to community service. Check out these seven, and be sure to drop us a note about opportunities that you would like us to recommend to NJ educators.
If you’re looking to set up hurricane relief drives at your school, please refer to this guide.
America’s Grow a Row
Join over 7,000 volunteers who annually plant, pick, rescue, and donate over 12 million pounds of produce to hunger relief agencies throughout NJ. There are a variety of ways in which students can help. From mid-April to mid-November, Grow-a-Row is looking for volunteers to help plant and harvest crops such as string beans, tomatoes, and corn. As a teacher, you can set up a group ranging in size from 10 to over 200 volunteers through an online form. Individual volunteers are also welcome. In Autumn, at Riamede in Chester, NJ and Longmeadow in Hope, NJ, volunteers can help glean fallen apples for donation. Volunteer hours are usually weekdays from 9am-12pm.
Community Food Bank of New Jersey
Groups and individuals can give their time to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey or any of it’s partner organizations at locations throughout the state. Some opportunities include organizing food drives, packing and sorting donations, and helping with office work. Register as an individual or group today and start helping out; volunteer hours are flexible, with options on both weekends and weekdays.
HomeFront’s mission is to “end homelessness in Central Jersey by harnessing the caring, resources and expertise of the community.” Kids under 15 can organize drives or fundraisers and collect items like snack bags for after school programs, activity bags, and diapers. There are a variety of group opportunities around Lawrenceville, NJ. Prepare food donations, teach sewing, provide birthday cakes for monthly group parties, or cook a meal in HomeFront’s kitchen for a local family.
New Jersey locals know how important it is to protect our precious environment. Debris on our beaches can harm animals who mistake litter for food, and plastic trash can take hundreds of years to break down. Students can make a direct impact on in their community by taking part in organized beach cleanups. Clean Ocean Act has been organizing biannual Beach Sweeps all over New Jersey since 1985. Volunteers will clean and collect valuable data about litter which the COA presents in an annual report. Beach Sweeps are typically held in late October. Groups of ten or more are asked to register beforehand.
Jersey Cares matches volunteers to local organizations in need. They work closely with Earth Keepers, Plant it Forward, Hunger Helpers and more. There are many different ways to get involved, whether students want to organize drives for supplies or get their hands dirty planting trees. Register online to get matched with nearby opportunities.
TryCAN After School Tutor
Throughout the school year, volunteers are needed for after school tutoring through the Share the Fun Club. Students can help kids in grades 3-8 with homework, test prep, and more. Kids 13 and older can become Peer Mentors with TryCAN, an organization in Summit, NJ that trains and pairs volunteers with special needs children. Mentors will “gain a better understanding of developmental disabilities while teaching and mentoring TryCAN youth.”
Teens interesting in volunteering on a regular basis should check out Quixote Quest, a group that bonds volunteers together through monthly meetings and weekly commitments. Students can work for a cause close to their heart, whether it be working with urban children, animals in need, senior citizens, or those with disabilities. More than half of the members participate in larger Group Service Projects that benefit a large local, state, or international cause.
Know of any other great Community Service organizations? Let us know!
Written by Megan West