Youth service projects still possible, needed even amid pandemic
While the world grapples with a pandemic that forces people to keep their distance from each other, youth community service opportunities may look different but are still an important part of development.
The Michigan 4-H Youth Development Guiding Principles highlights the importance of youth community service. The first step in any service project is to understand the need and how best to address it, then do some research. Think about the organizations already affecting change in your community and ask how to help. Many organizations publish wish lists on their websites or would be happy to discuss youth project ideas.
Michigan State University Extension suggests these ideas in planning a youth community service project during a pandemic:
Projects that can be completed with materials at home are probably the most accessible for all youth —
— Baking homemade dog treats for animal shelters;
— Writing letters to seniors or essential workers;
— Creating artwork for seniors, nursing homes or hospitals;
— Creating and displaying community artwork through sidewalk chalk, murals or yard signs.
Projects requiring special supplies also are possible. Service project organizers could provide a supply list or make arrangements to conduct a non-contact supply drop-off site —
— Assembling no-sew fleece tie blankets for local hospitals, women and children’s shelters or nursing homes;
— Sewing, cutting or ironing homemade masks for local schools or daycares;
— Creating homemade dog or cat toys for shelters;
— Painting garden markers or signs for community gardens;
— Assembling learning or craft kits for youth that may be isolated at home;
— Planting flowers or houseplants in containers for a local nursing facility.
Youth could organize a donation drive to collect items for local service agencies, then determine a non-contact drop-off location —
— Food drive for food banks;
— Hygiene drive for food banks or local service agencies;
— Diaper/wipes drive for local baby closet;
— Pet supplies drive for local animal shelter;
— Children’s clothing/toys/books/diapers drive for local foster closet;
— Hats/gloves/mittens/winter coat drive for local homeless shelters or schools;
— Pop can tab drive for Ronald McDonald House.
Some service projects can be done over the internet, though these require a device and reliable connection–
— Playing virtual card games or board games with seniors isolated in their homes or nursing facilities;
— Assisting a local nonprofit with social media awareness campaign or recording a video or testimonial to support their cause;
— Reading to young people through a local playgroup or library;
— Tutoring younger students utilizing a remote meeting platform;
— Serving as a moderator or tech support for a virtual community meeting.
Some service projects require travel or parental involvement —
— Park or roadside cleanup;
— River/watershed cleanup;
— Adopt-A-Beach cleanup;
— Community garden cleanup;
— Planting trees;
— Raking leaves, cutting grass or shoveling snow for physically challenged neighbors;
— Making phone calls to friends or neighbors who might be lonely.
Be sure to connect with existing service organizations or efforts to check on local needs. Every community is different and may not have the same types of agencies.