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Getting started

November 1, 2016
By Kristy MacKaben - For Mirror Moms , Mirror Moms

Listed are just a handful of local organizations that welcome children to volunteer or help out in some way; however, there are many more in the community worth considering.

Central Pennsylvania Humane Society

This might just be a kid's dream volunteering gig. Read to kittens, play with puppies, create handmade pet toys or snuggle with big dogs. The Central Pennsylvania Humane Society is always looking for volunteers to help socialize animals. Parents, however, must be committed to volunteering alongside their child, for safety reasons.

"We have a lot of great input from volunteers. Kids have great ideas," says Megan Sanchez, volunteer coordinator at the Central Pennsylvania Humane Society. "At least in our organization, we feel like there's more than just standard care we want to give to the animals: clean cages, clean food. To us, there's more to it than that. Enrichment is huge. If you have a volunteer interested in enrichment, dogs and cats get more outings, more socialization. It's a win win."

Sanchez also said children learn a lot and gain a different perspective by volunteering. Her two daughters, Sophia, 11, and Ava, 9, volunteer at the humane society. As the future generation of pet owners, children who volunteer learn responsibility, and also about the importance of giving back to the community.

"It's important kids learn by doing. You'll never be really good at something unless you actually do it," Sanchez said. "You can tell them what to do or actually show them how to do it. That was really important for my girls to actually get down there and see what's actually happening."

Gloria Gates Memorial Foundation


If your teens love to work with kids, they might be a good fit for the after-school program run by the Gloria Gates Memorial Foundation. High school juniors and seniors can help children with homework, play learning games, and read and socialize with them after school. The after-school programs are for children in low-income neighborhoods. When teens volunteer at the program, they often learn more about themselves and the world, said Toni Bilik, executive director of the Gloria Gates Foundation.

"I think it just opens their world because that way they get to know more people. They get to see challenges that organizations face, and they get some problem solving opportunities in there. I think it makes them more mature," Bilik said.

Family Services Incorporated


The renovation of Altoona's new teen center has brought an entourage of volunteers - many whom are kids or teens. From cleaning and organizing to painting and building, volunteers have done it all to create the new teen center.

Not only do these young volunteers help the community, but they also become better citizens in the process.

"It's important to help our kids become more well-rounded, in regards to what's happening around them," said Cheryl Gonsman, community liaison for Family Services Incorporated. "Some kids are never exposed to kids in crisis. It's good to see there are other kids out there, that there are problems out there, but it doesn't mean you have to succumb to that. It's good for kids to step outside their comfort zone, reach out and help others."

St. Francis University Dorothy Day Center


Plan a food drive like Lauren Lehman, or donate clothing, furniture or money. The Dorothy Day Center at St. Francis University is always seeking donations. The center helps about 350 families financially each year, and about 100 families a month are given food donations.

"It really helps us out," said Mary Adams, assistant director of the Dorothy Day Center. "We help a lot of individuals and their families."

Adams also said kids, like Lauren, who help the community, learn to look at the world around them in a different way. "Basically it helps them to help others," Adams said. "It shows them that you don't always think about yourself. There's a lot of people going without. When you're helping these folks, it gives you a good feeling. It teaches children to look beyond themselves and their own needs."



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