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Kids Can Volunteer

Big help from little ones

Angie
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Turner Chiles, Maggie Chiles, Parker Chiles, Laura Chiles, Brett Chiles

Brett and Laura Chiles and children Turner, Maggie and Parker (from left) volunteer together to deliver lunches to kids in need. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

With paper sacks in hand, Turner, Maggie and Parker Chiles walk with their parents from their family’s car to a stranger’s home and knock on the door. Inside the sacks are lunches with a sandwich, snack and milk that the Chiles children and their parents, Laura and Brett, helped put together.

When the door opens, a preschool child accepts the lunch with a smile, and the Chiles kids learn, firsthand, what it means to give back to their community. Laura and Brett wanted to introduce their children to hands-on volunteering, hopefully kick-starting a lifelong commitment to giving. They’re starting with Kids’ Meals Houston.

“I credit my kids’ schools for introducing us to Kids’ Meals,” Laura said. Turner, 11, and Parker, 8, attend The Kinkaid School, where each year the kindergarteners set up a sandwich-making station and turn out about 1,000 sandwiches on a single day. Parker’s twin, Maggie, attends St. Francis Episcopal School, which also commits to making sandwiches for Kids’ Meals.

Kids’ Meals is like Meals on Wheels, except it’s geared toward hungry children under the age of 5, who are not eligible for school-lunch programs. Every weekday morning, volunteers prepare about 2,500 lunches and deliver them to children in need.

When the kids are out of school for break, the entire Chiles family drives a Kids’ Meals delivery route with the lunches they prepared. “When the kids actually see the families they are helping, it hammers in just how blessed we are,” said Laura.

Kids’ Meals Houston allows young children to volunteer, but because of safety concerns and legal guidelines, many nonprofit organizations don’t. Here are some local groups that welcome child volunteers.

Turner Chiles, Maggie Chiles, Parker Chiles, Laura Chiles

LEARNING TO GIVE Laura Chiles and her lunchbag-masked children Maggie, Parker and Turner (from left) attend the 2015 grand opening of the current Kids’ Meals location.

Little Lights Houston

Coordinates volunteer opportunities for young children and their parents. Little Lights works with several local nonprofit organizations, and families can choose among volunteer events that work best for their children’s ages and schedules. 

Minimum age to volunteer: none

Contact: littlelightshouston.org

Houston Food Bank

Feeds more than 800,000 people each year by providing meals to soup kitchens, senior centers and other agencies. Volunteers are needed to inspect and sort food, repack dry food into family-sized bags, and stock and clean the Emergency Food Pantry.

Minimum age to volunteer: 6

Contact: houstonfoodbank.org, 713-547-8604

Bayou City Blessings in a Backpack

Provides weekend meals to elementary school-aged children who  are eligible for school-lunch programs during the week, but need meals on Saturdays and Sundays. Volunteers help by buying, assembling and delivering easy-to-prepare weekend meals.

Minimum age to volunteer: 2

Contact: holyspirithouston.org/bcb, blessingsinabackpack.org, 281-468-1227

Star of Hope

Provides Houston’s homeless a temporary place to live and support programs like counseling, parenting classes and substance-abuse recovery. Young children, as part of a family volunteer group, can assist with the Snacks and Goodnight program, which provides evening snacks to people in the mission.

Minimum age to volunteer: none

Contact: sohmission.org, 713-748-0700

Books Between Kids

Collects gently used books from community donations and delivers them to children in select HISD schools who don’t have books at home. Volunteers can help count, sort and pack books into boxes, prepare books to send to schools, and clean and reorganize the warehouse.

Minimum age to volunteer: 5

Contact: booksbetweenkids.org, 832-831-1402

Hermann Park Conservancy

Helps maintain the grounds at Hermann Park to keep it clean and beautiful for visitors. Family and group volunteers weed and mulch plant beds, restore picnic tables and benches, plant and water trees, and clean and repair trails.

Minimum age to volunteer: none

Contact: hermannpark.org, 713-524-5876

Kids’ Meals Houston

Kids’ Meals makes and delivers lunches to hungry preschool-aged children, age 5 and younger. Volunteers make sandwiches, assemble lunch bags and deliver meals.

Minimum age to volunteer: 4

Contact: kidsmealshouston.org, 713-695-7544

Editor’s note: Know of more volunteer opportunities for children? Let us know by commenting below. Also, see volunteerhouston.org for links to additional ways for everyone to volunteer.

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