Volunteer Opportunities Around Grand Rapids: Ideas for Kids, Tweens, Teens & Families

Kid Volunteer planting a tree

Volunteer Opportunities in West Michigan

What better way is there to spend time together as a family than to volunteer together? It is worth considering if you’re looking for things to do with kids in Grand Rapids.

My husband and I first got involved with volunteering when we began serving in the children’s ministry at our church. Our son was only 1 year old at the time. At 6 years old now, he finds pure joy out of serving and helping others.

Volunteering with your children is a great way to teach them about giving while instilling skills and values to last a lifetime.

Children will develop empathy and see that the world doesn’t actually revolve around them,  which can be a tough concept to learn for many kids. (The popularity of our Manners to Teach Kids article likely is related to this truth.)

This extensive list of volunteering opportunities is designed to help your West Michigan family find a great place to plug in. Take a look and browse through the categories below, keeping in mind your child’s interests and age.

If you are unable to find something from the list below, visit United Way’s online Volunteer Center or Volunteer Match to find additional opportunities.

You can also visit your local retirement community, church, or school for additional West Michigan volunteer opportunities for kids.

Kids’ Food Basket

At Kids’ Food Basket, we provide barrier-free access to healthy evening meals that nourish children to reach their full potential.

We can’t do this critical work without the help of our West Michigan community! Anyone age five and older can volunteer at Kids’ Food Basket because we believe everyone can make a difference.

Kids Food Basket girl and fruit

Family Volunteering in Grand Rapids –  All Ages

Volunteering and giving back to the community is our wheelhouse, Grand Rapids.

Pick a spot or two from this list and watch as your children grow into more thoughtful, caring people.

Access of West Michigan

1700 28th St SE Grand Rapids, MI 49508
PROVIDES: Food programs & food pantry, poverty simulations, poverty education
All ages welcome

How volunteers help:
▸ Participate in the annual Access Walk for Good Food in May
▸ Host your own community food drive to collect nutritious food donations. View drop-off locations by clicking here.
▸ Donate items for the Holiday Giving Network (holiday food and toys) to your local food pantry. Learn more here.

Adopt a Forest

Public Forest land in west Michigan
PROVIDES: Forest clean up & education
All ages welcome

How volunteers help:
The program encourages volunteers–the program’s backbone–to clean up existing trash and to function as an “army” of educators. 

Adopt-a-Forest enjoys a large network of volunteers throughout the state. Participating group affiliations range from Cub Scouts to Homeowner Associations to Hunt Clubs.

Individuals and many families participate in the program as well. Forest cleanups are often multi-generational activities with ages ranging from pre-school to retirees. In the end, public land cleanups offer something for everyone.

Family Futures

678 Front Ave NW #210, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
PROVIDES: a community in which all children can reach their full potential

How volunteers help:
There are a wide-range of volunteer opportunities available at Family Futures. Contact them and they can work together to develop an opportunity. Note that volunteers are free to set their own schedule or volunteer during normal business hours. Occasional weekend and evening hours are also available. There are often even projects that you can take home.

MAILING SUPPORT (2 to 6 hours/week): Come in on your own or with your family/friends/coworkers and help with a weekly mailing, providing important developmental information to local families.

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

parks in grand rapids
PROVIDES: Park beautification projects
All ages welcome, when supervised by an adult volunteer

How volunteers help:
Many seasonal opportunities with their tree planting program. Check out their events here for a list of upcoming opportunities.

In the Image

4255 Kalamazoo Avenue SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49508
PROVIDES: Clothing and household necessities for free
All ages welcome, when supervised by an adult volunteer

How volunteers help:
SHOES:
Host a “Fill a Shoe Box” Drive – they provide the Shoe Box, your school, company, church, or neighborhood fill it with spare change, checks, or cash to help purchase new shoes for Shoes Help Our Elementary Students!Host a Sock Drive
Host a School Supplies and New Books Drive
Volunteer at events or schools to promote SHOES
Help find a manufacturer or distributor to help with the purchase of 6,000 pairs of shoes and continue to grow the program!

FREE STORE:
Sorting, hanging and stocking
Host a Furniture Drive and clean all furniture
Host a Clothing Drive – new and gently-used clothing
Update Signage and Resource Area in Free Store

FACILITIES:
Assist with building maintenance and repairs, painting, etc.

BASIC NEEDS:​
We look to provide a great shopping experience, just like any other store and we need help finding the basic items and having them stocked for emergency situations. ​Collect items from their project wish list.

ICCF (Inner City Christian Federation)

415 Martin Luther King Jr. St. SE, Suite 100, Grand Rapids, MI 49507
PROVIDES: Equitable Opportunity, Affordable Homes, Thriving Neighborhoods
All ages welcome, when supervised by an adult volunteer

How volunteers help:
ADMINISTRATION: Assist with mailings, database entry, filing, organization and event preparation.

CLASSROOM HOST: Welcome participants of ICCF education classes, help at the registration table, prepare and serve snacks and coffee, and create certificates of completion at the end of class.

CONSTRUCTION: Help renovate ICCF homes through demolition, painting, carpentry work, landscaping, and clean up.

FAMILY HAVEN, Emergency Shelter: Sort and organize incoming donations, make and serve a meal, lead a craft or game night for kids, or help with outdoor projects.

JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT (JA of the Michigan Great Lakes)

4090 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546
PROVIDES: Teach kids money management skills, foster work-readiness, and give an opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship

How volunteers help:
Junior Achievement of Michigan Great Lakes provides volunteers with training that is simple and relatable; programs that are engaging and fun; and a classroom full of eager kids ready to learn from you!

As a Junior Achievement volunteer, you will inspire kids to achieve a more fulfilling career and life by contributing your professional insights and personal experiences to the programs you teach.

Kent County Parks Department

1700 Butterworth Dr SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49534
PROVIDES: Park and trails clean up, habitat restoration, trail building, etc.
All ages welcome, when supervised by an adult volunteer

How volunteers help:
With opportunities available at more than 30 parks throughout Kent County, we have projects for individuals of all ages and for groups from 2 to 200! Whatever your interests and whatever motivates you, you too can help our community protect and improve our valuable trails and green spaces.

Mel Trotter Ministries

225 Commerce Avenue SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
PROVIDES: Rescue and restoration for anyone experiencing hunger and homelessness
All ages for some activities, 14 and up for other activities

How volunteers help:
Outreach Team Volunteer:
Provide basic needs and meals to unsheltered people in the community.

Donation Room Volunteer:
Help to sort and organize donation items that come in to the mission from the community.

Medical Services Volunteer:
Support our clinical team in serving our guests utilizing clinical services or PI.

Kitchen Volunteer:
Support our culinary services team in preparing a meal.

Administration:
Be a vital part of daily tasks and special projects in any department based on your passion and experience.

Outreach Team:
Join the outreach team in building relationships, providing basic needs and meals to those who are unsheltered in our community.

Kids Korner:
Children (accompanied by an approved parent or guardian) may volunteer in Kids Korner.

United Way

118 Commerce Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
PROVIDES: Unite community resources to invest in solutions that reduce poverty in West Michigan.
All ages welcome

How volunteers help:
Multiple volunteer opportunities. Use their volunteer finder to discover a good fit for you.

Adopt a Trail – White Pine Trail

Fred Meijer White Pine Trail
PROVIDES: Trail maintenance
All ages welcome

How volunteers help:
Volunteers can adopt a section of the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail. These sections are typically one mile in length, between the existing mile markers. The adoption of these sections means that you will do some light maintenance such as:
Trimming of vegetation
Litter removal
Sign maintenance
Culvert inspection – keep them clear
Report major problems to us so we can give it the necessary attention

Women at Risk

PROVIDES: Safe places to heal from abuse, trafficking, exploitation
All ages welcome, when supervised by an adult volunteer

How volunteers help:
Join our community of WARriors at our headquarters or events in your area. In our comfortable, on-site volunteer center, you can prepare donations, tag products, organize inventory, or even become a volunteer staff member! Families, children, and large groups are always welcome. Our team of volunteers makes it possible to continue our mission of rescue, restoration, and empowerment!

HELP FROM HOME: Collect items for their wishlist.

Elementary Kids and Older Volunteer Opportunities

Feeding America West Michigan

864 West River Center Drive NE, Comstock Park, MI 49321
PROVIDES: Distributes food to neighbors in need
Ages 7+

How volunteers help:
The majority of our volunteers are needed at the food bank itself. About 15% of the food we receive (over 5 million pounds) has special handling requirements. Typically, this involves processing food by sorting, labeling, or repacking it.

With a relatively small staff, Feeding America West Michigan is often looking for help with data entry and other tasks in the office. If you have a background in bookkeeping or guest reception, we could use your help.

Kids Food Basket

1300 Plymouth NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
PROVIDES: Prepare sack suppers for kids in need
Ages 5+

How volunteers help:
SACK SUPPER PREP: Prepare fruits and veggies into serving sizes, make and bag trail mix, make sandwiches, or break down boxes of pudding, granola bars, etc. The possibilities are endless! This shift helps prepare any and all food that goes into our Sack Suppers.

SACK SUPPER PACKING: Help assemble the Sack Supper! In each one you will see a protein, fresh fruit, fresh veggie and healthy snack. This is put together using an assembly line system.

HELP FROM HOME: We need your help, and not always at our facility. Here are a few off-site projects:
Supper Packs: Supper Packs represent the non-perishable items that are put into each Sack Supper. In addition to a Supper Pack, a fresh fruit, vegetable, and protein source are included in each Sack Supper at Kids’ Food Basket. This is an easy project for groups of all ages and you can make any quantity you like!

Trail Mix: We have a recipe for some of the best trail mix in West Michigan! This is a great project for a large group. Your group will collect the ingredients, mix them, and then go to work scooping individual portions for Sack Suppers. A great project for all ages! Please Note: All trail mix MUST be assembled in a facility licensed for food preparation.

Decorate Sack Supper Bags: Not only do Sack Suppers provide a well-rounded nutritious meal critical to the development of the brain and body, they also help brighten each child’s day! Each sack is decorated with positive messages, holiday themes or cheerful illustrations. If you are looking for a creative volunteer opportunity, especially for kids, this could be a great fit! 

Volunteering Opportunities for Middle School Kids and Older

Adopt A Highway

PROVIDES: Keep the state’s highway roadsides clean and attractive
Ages 12+ (Children between the ages of 12 to 17 must have adult supervision)

How volunteers help:
Participants are asked to pick up litter three times a year from the highway roadsides in their designated area.

Calvin College Eco Preserve

PROVIDES: Preservation and education at the Calvin Ecosystem Preserve & Native Gardens
Ages 12 to 17

How volunteers help:
If you are 12-17 years old, like to have fun and learn about nature at the same time, and are looking for a rewarding experience this summer, join our team of Volunteer Camp Assistants! Camp Assistants enjoy working with younger children (ages 4-8), like to be creative, and want to enrich their leadership skills. These teens choose one or two weeks from Wetlands & Woodlands camp sessions 1A through 4B during June and July in which to volunteer.

Catholic Charities West Michigan

PROVIDES: Prevention, education and crisis intervention to vulnerable populations
Ages 13 and up

How volunteers help:
GOD’S KITCHEN: Preparing, serving, cleaning a lunch meal daily 11 AM – 3 PM. (ALL DAYS are in need of additional assistance!)

FOOD PANTRY (MUSKEGON):  Tuesday, Thursday and/or Fridays from 9:30 AM-12 PM. We are in need of additional volunteer shoppers to assist guests as they make selections from our food pantry, assist with administrative tasks, and greet incoming clients to the pantry.

HELP FROM HOME: Host a Bowl Painting Party. We are in need of volunteers to paint bowls that are given to guests at our benefit events that support God’s Kitchen Food and Pantry Programming. We provide all materials (brushes, paints, bowls, etc). This is our most flexible opportunity – do it on your own time! Bowl painting can take place in our facility, or at a location of your choice – you’d just have to pick up the kit from our location.

Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding

PROVIDES: Improve quality of life through equine-based therapy to physically, mentally and socially/emotionally challenged individuals
Ages 12 and up

How volunteers help:
Have a passion for horses? Volunteers who are at least 12 may help in the barn when accompanied by a parent until they are able to demonstrate the willingness and ability to follow directions effectively. Volunteers 14 years and up have the potential to work in the riding arena.

Gilda’s Club

PROVIDES: Provides free emotional healthcare to children, adults, families, and friends on any kind of cancer journey
Ages 16 and up

How volunteers help:
Garden and Grounds: planting, weeding, raking, spreading mulch, and sweeping.
Clubhouse Cleaning: A continual need, includes dusting, window washing, sanitizing of surfaces, vacuuming and mopping, and polishing furniture.
Supper Together: Volunteers are responsible for setting up, preparing, serving and cleaning up meals for members. You can choose to donate your own ingredients or use food provided to Gilda’s Club.
Volunteer at special events.

HELP FROM HOME
Collect wish list items
Baking & Desserts: You may choose to bake cookies, cakes, cupcakes or brownies to provide along with our weekly meals. Bake at home or schedule a time to come and bake in the kitchen at Gilda’s.
Making Cards for Members: We send out many cards every day to our members and their families for a variety of reasons (thank you, sympathy, thinking of you, get well). You may schedule a time to come in and use the many supplies available in our craft room or make the cards on your own.

Grand Rapids Public Library

Ages 11 to 18

How volunteers help:
TEENS STEP UP: Teen volunteers help with a variety of projects, including signing kids up for summer reading, helping with library events, and advising staff on what types of materials and programs their peers would be interested in. There is even a flash mob they can participate in.

 

Volunteering Opportunities for High School Kids

ArtPrize (through GRAM)

Ages 16 and up

How volunteers help:
Guest Services (greeting/assisting/directing guests, and helping with item check – available all days of ArtPrize).
Voter Registration. Simple data entry skills are needed.
Elevator Attendant. Greeting and running the passenger elevator for guests to ensure it runs smoothly.
Member Terrace. Greeting and helping members check in through the Member Terrace outside.
Group Tour Greeter. Greeting group tours as they arrive, giving a brief introduction to the GRAM.

Degage Ministries

PROVIDES: Provide food and shelter to those in need
Ages 16 and up

How volunteers help:
Host an activity such as Bingo, Family Feud, Card Tournament, Game Night, Special Snack and more in their dining room.
Help sort and organize donations.
Create decorations for holidays and schedule a time to come and decorate.

HELP FROM HOME: Collect items for their wishlist.

Flat River Outreach Ministries

PROVIDES: Community hub where hope, resources, and gifts are shared
Ages 14 and up with adult supervision

How volunteers help:
Sorting and pricing Treasures Thrift Shop items
Stocking, organizing, and staffing the Food Pantry
Helping in the office
Stuffing envelopes, sending out mailers
Planning or facilitating events and activities
Coaching people on their goals
Teaching classes, such as financial management and basic computer skills
Keeping the buildings and grounds clean
Giving IT assistance

HELP FROM HOME: Collect food, paper products or health/beauty items for their food pantry. Collect clothing for their thrift shop. Collect new toys and books/educational items for their Christmas distribution. Collect new backpacks and school supplies for their backpack distribution in August.

Grand Rapids Art Museum

Ages 16 and up

How volunteers help:
COMMUNICATION AND PR: Work with GRAM’s staff from that department. Duties may include data entry, distributing Communications/PR materials or other general office duties. 16 Years of age, 14 years old if working with a parent.

FACILITIES: Assisting with various building projects around GRAM. Some volunteers help maintain the outdoor flower and plants, some work with Facilities staff for set-up on various projects as needed throughout the year. 16 years of age.

FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS: Help GRAM during Festival of the Arts in the first weekend of June of each year. Based on your shift, you will work with the Guest Services desk in the Lobby, children’s art-making activities, and with Festival’s Student Art Show that GRAM hosts. 16 Years of age, 14 years old if working with a parent.

GRAMBASSADOR: This Guest Services volunteer will maintain a presence in the galleries, greeting and assisting guests, helping to enrich the guests gallery experience. 16 Years of age, 14 years old if working with a parent.

GOSITE: The location of the Grand Rapids Art Museum, at the heart of downtown with the beautiful urban park Ecliptic at Rosa Parks Circle by the renowned artist Maya Lin at its doorstep, provides the opportunity to truly fulfill GRAMs mission of being a welcome and inclusive gathering space. 16 Years of age, 14 years old if working with a parent.

GUEST SERVICES: Assisting the Guest Service staff. Duties may include greeting guests, handing out attendance stickers, and assisting with item check. 16 Years of age, 14 years old if working with a parent.

LIBRARY: Assisting visitors with finding books and research materials. Volunteers will also assist library staff with the organizational needs of the library such as shelving books and cataloging. 16 years of age.

MUSEUM STORE: Museum Store volunteers provide friendly, competent assistance to store customers. They help maintain and create merchandise displays as well as refill inventory levels on the floor and maintain back stock. 16 years of age.

SPECIAL EVENTS: Events volunteers will help during special events (exhibition openings, member events, special programs, Festival, ArtPrize). Duties include checking in visitors, handing out nametags, helping with coat check, handing out programs, and answering general visitor questions. 16 Years of age, 14 years old if working with a parent.

YOUTH AND FAMILY EVENTS: The Family and Youth Programs Volunteer may engage family and youth visitors with a number of activities including gallery activities, and art-making workshops. Volunteers may also assist with visitor way-finding questions and respond to inquiries about visual art or the current exhibition. 16 Years of age, 14 years old if working with a parent.

Grand Rapids Children’s Museum

Ages 14 and up

How volunteers help:
Youth Volunteers typically spend their time interacting directly with museum visitors.

Grand Rapids Public Museum

How volunteers help:
DISCOVERY GUIDES: Volunteers will have the opportunity to engage with our visitors through exhibit interpretation, hands on activities through the use of the discovery carts and assisting visitors as they experience exhibitions. Ages 12 and up.

EVENT SPECIALIST: Volunteers have the opportunity to assist in the museum’s special events that can include, but are not limited to: scout programs, overnights, evening events and more. The roles will vary based on the event, and in the end though, will create the ultimate experience to our guests. Ages 16-17.

SCIENCE TUESDAYS: We are looking for volunteers that would be interested in assisting with presenting artifacts to the general public. There will be multiple science stations set up at the Museum and volunteers will help interpret and guide the public through the meaning and origin of the artifacts. No prior knowledge is necessary as all stations will have instructions but an interest in science and interacting with the public is a benefit. Ages 16-17.

Grand Rapids Symphony

Ages 15 and up

How volunteers help:
PICNIC POPS: The D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops summer concerts offer the best opportunities for family volunteering. Teens age 13 years to 15 may volunteer with an adult family member. Children age 15 years and up may volunteer on their own. Volunteering in the Family Fun Area (with face painting, crafts and an Instrument Petting Zoo) has been the best fit for families who wish to be in the same location. Other families are comfortable with splitting between various assignments while at Picnic Pops (i.e. Family Fun Area, Ticket Taker, Program Book Attendant, etc.).

Habitat for Humanity Kent County

PROVIDES: Build homes for those in need
Ages 14 and up

How volunteers help:
Youth aged 14-16 are allowed to participate in landscaping and painting projects.
Those 16 and over are allowed on most construction sites, except for deconstruction activities but cannot use power tools or get on a ladder over six feet tall.

HELP FROM HOME: While youth under 14 cannot volunteer on site, Habitat Kent offers a variety of ways for these youth to get involved:
ReStore Drive – Help fill our ReStores through a community drive
Caring Kids – Fundraise to help build a child’s bed room; items range from a doorknob to carpeting
Tool-a-Thon – Help raise tools for Habitat at a local hardware store
Cookie Club – Help say thanks to our volunteers by making snacks or lunches
Assembling Kits for Kids – Make cookie or pizza kits to help kids feel at home when they move in
Volunteer Appreciation Items – Help us appreciate our regular volunteers by making fun seasonal gifts. Great for big groups!
Volunteering Options! Partner Family Scrapbook – Help create a scrapbook of photos commemorating different steps in the homeownership process
Hands-On Building – Practice building skills and provide families with personalized home accessories, or use your projects as a fund-raising resource.

John Ball Zoo

Ages 9th through 12th graders

How volunteers help:
Volunteers ages 14 – 17 can join our Youth Volunteer Team and help in a variety of ways throughout the zoo. The volunteer training happens early in the summer, with flexibility of assignments and commitment days and times. 
As a Youth Team member, you could help with wayfinding, greeting, and summer camp. With additional training you can be stationed at the Wallabies, Hobby Farm, and Koalas. Volunteers also have the opportunity to become Ambassador Animal Handlers! If you are interested in Animal or Zoo Kitchen assignments a weekly commitment is required for the summer.

HELP FROM HOME: Purchase items on their wish list that are sent directly to the zoo.

Michigan Blood

Ages 16 and up

How volunteers help:
Greeting donors
Monitoring donor rest/serving refreshments
Technical support (prepare blood bags)
Clerical support
Donate blood (for those weighing 110 pounds or more, with parental consent)

Revive & Thrive – Grand Rapids

PROVIDES: Providing meals to those facing a health crisis while providing teens with healthy eating and job skills
Ages 14 to 19

How volunteers help:
The Revive & Thrive Project provides teens with the opportunity to work under adult mentor chefs to learn how to prep, cook, and package meals for people fighting and recovering from severe illnesses.

The Salvation Army – Kent County

Ages 16 and up

How volunteers help:
RED KETTLE CAMPAIGN: The Salvation Army is in need of volunteers between November and December to help ring bells at one of several locations in the Kent County area to raise funds for our Red Kettle Campaign. The proceeds that are raised during this Kettle Campaign are used to fund local programs throughout the year. It is a wonderful opportunity to teach children about philanthropy, and can show them how just a little change can make a big difference.

KROC CENTER SWIM INSTRUCTOR: If you are a Red Cross Water Safety Instruction candidate looking for volunteer hours to obtain your certification, we can assist you with that. Volunteer opportunities are ongoing and can be set up individually with the Aquatic Manager. Various ages, levels, days and times are available.

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8 thoughts on “Volunteer Opportunities Around Grand Rapids: Ideas for Kids, Tweens, Teens & Families”

  1. My 12 year old daughter would love to volunteer somewhere in the city, she has done some hours at In The Image, loves animals.

    Thanks

  2. I am a CLS worker for Arbor Circle and would love to get my teen I work with involved with volunteering, not only for his service hours for school, but also to show how important it is to give back. There aren’t a ton of things going on during the time that I work with him and would love to do some of the “work from home” options, but feel that if we were to go around asking for donations, they’ll want proof that we aren’t trying to scam them. Is there something we can get from various places to show we are working to help them?

  3. I’d like to have my 9/8/6 year old participation in the kids food basket. After school. I think this can help build good character.

  4. Looking for volunteer work for my 7, 3 year old, and myself. Want to show them the importance of giving back to our community!

  5. Michelle Muscato

    My son needs to volunteer he is 18 years old and a senior in High School this is for his government hours. We would need something that we can do together that would be in the evening or weekends. Although this is for school credit I would like to show him importance of volunteering so that he will hopefully continue to sign up to help in the community. Please let me know of any opportunities we can get started as early as tonight. 3/20/14

  6. Hello, I have a 15 year old daughter who wants very much to volunteer somewhere in the city and we will find something for her…. I would love email updates for any new opportunities 🙂

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