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Teenagers Can Make a Difference: Volunteer Opportunities for Teens in Houston

Jack Avedesian
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Aaron Elfezouaty, Sararose Fox

Aaron Elfezouaty and Sararose Fox, rising seniors at The Emery/Weiner School, harvesting carrots as part of Houston Habitat for Humanity's services.

The freedom of summer days for students is a relief. There are no obligations. You can sit in your room for days on end, binge-watching Netflix or playing video games for countless hours. Your parents, however, might want to see you leave the house sometimes. Community service is an excellent way to spend some of the time allotted during the summer. Teens can serve others and make a positive, lasting impact on society. Plus, it’s a good way to improve your college resume and fulfill necessary service hours to graduate, if need be.

Even during the school year, there is still time on the weekends to participate in community service. Many teens across the Houston area volunteer regularly. Daily Desenberg, a recent graduate at St. John’s School, expressed the benefits she saw in volunteering with the River Performing and Visual Arts Center. “The relationships I formed with the students were so special to me and it felt amazing to provide them with a creative outlet, a chance to escape the stresses of their lives, and to pass on my love of art,” Desenberg said. In a similar fashion, Emery senior Callie Caress also found a volunteer organization that was life-changing. Callie expressed how “through the time [I] spent with my buddy I have grown as an individual and have gained a friend I never thought I could have.”

There are also opportunities that demand physical work. One such volunteer, Aaron Elfezouaty, loves the physical aspects of volunteering with Houston Habitat for Humanity. He said, “I enjoy it because it was a really good way to give back to the community. It houses people who don't have homes and as humans we should all have the opportunity to live in our own home.”

There are many community service opportunities for teens across the Houston area. Here are some:

Aishel House

A Jewish residency that provides a place to live for those visiting the Texas Medical Center. (Read more about this nonprofit in A House of Hope: Patients find a home at Aishel House by Cathy Gordon.)

1955 University Blvd., Houston, TX 77030

Some of the ways that teens can volunteer for Aishel House include transporting patients from the airport or their residence to the hospital, delivering meals to the hospital, and interacting with the patients and their families to provide emotional and physical support. You can also come in with friends to cook meals for patients.

Policy: Volunteers who wish to work without a parent must be at least 16. Volunteers with or without a parent must be at least 9.

Contact: 713-522-2004, info@aishelhouse.org

The Beacon

An organization that targets the end of homelessness in the Houston community.

1212 Prairie St., Houston, TX 77002

The activities that volunteers fulfill at the Beacon include serving meals, cleaning clothes, greeting the homeless who come through the facility, assisting in case management and cleaning the facility.

Policy: All volunteers must be at least 13, and are required to bring a parent with them. To volunteer independently, you must be at least 16. For more information, please visit their website.

Contact: Ronald Marshall, rmarshall@beaconhomeless.org

Books Between Kids

An organization that gives books to underprivileged children across Houston.

9947 Harwin Dr., Houston, TX 77036

Volunteers take count of the books that are brought into the warehouse, sort out the various books and box them by category, and help to clean the warehouse.

Policy: You must be at least 16 to volunteer without a parent. For those under 16, a parent supervisor is needed for every two children under 10, and a parent supervisor is needed for every five children between the ages of 10-15. The minimum age to volunteer with a parent is 5.

Contact Information: volunteer@booksbetweenkids.org

The Center Houston

An organization that serves adults with disabilities in the Houston area.

3550 W Dallas St., Houston, TX 77019

Volunteers can contribute in a variety of different ways to assist the mentally disabled. Some of the activities include a cycling class, arts and crafts, and administrative support. 

Policy: Age ranges with the various activities that are available. Additionally, The Center runs background checks on all of its volunteers. Visit their website for more available activities.

Contact: Eileen Kelly, (713)-525-8484

Children’s Museum Houston: “Discovery Squad”

A group of teen volunteers that provide assistance to the Children’s Museum’s basic functions.

1500 Binz St., Houston, TX 77004

Volunteers can engage in multiple different activities within the museum, including to conduct client experiments, help with tours, and come into the administrative offices and learn more about the museum business.

Policy: You must be in the age range of 14-17 in order to volunteer. Applications for the school year begin on July 1, 2018. Teens can volunteer Thursday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays.

Contact: Hanniyah Boxie, (713)-535-7209

Easter Seals of Houston

An organization that serves the disabled across the Houston area.

4888 Loop Central Dr., Suite 200, Houston, TX 77081

Volunteer opportunities include Saturday Bowling on the first and third Saturdays of the month and a Family Day Out with arts and crafts and performances allowing parents to have a break while kids have fun.

Policy: Volunteers must be at least 15 to volunteer by themselves. People under the age of 15 may volunteer, but must bring a parent with them.

Contact: 713-838-9050

Emergency Aid Coalition

An organization that distributes food and clothing across the Houston area.

5401 Fannin St., Houston, TX 77004

Volunteers are able to do a wide range of activities to help those in need. Some volunteer roles include a client interviewer, grocery stocker, sandwich maker, and more. For more roles, visit their website.

Policy: All volunteers must be at least 16 to volunteer by themselves. Volunteers under the age of 16 have to be able to follow instructions, and must bring a parent chaperone with them. EAC is open from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Contact Information: Marian Bryant, 713-522-0879, mbryant@eachouston.org

Friendship Circle

An organization that helps children and teens with special needs find a friend.

10101 Fondren Rd., Suite #510, Houston, TX 77096

Volunteers at Friendship Circle are paired with special-needs children and two volunteers go to a special-needs child’s house to engage in various activities.

Policy: To volunteer in a group, you must be in middle school. To volunteer individually, you must be in high school.

Contact: Rabbi Zally Lazarus, zally@friendshiphouston.com (832)-724-4684

Houston Habitat for Humanity

An organization that builds affordable housing for low-income citizens. 

3750 N McCarty St., Houston, TX 77029

Volunteers are asked to help construct houses for low-income citizens in an attempt to provide affordable housing options for everybody.

Policy: Volunteers must be at least 16 to help on the building grounds of houses. Volunteer work begins in September. To apply to volunteer, simply press the “sign up” link on their website. There will be an indication of how many slots are left, so you should apply based on how many openings remain.

Contact: (713)-671-9993

Houston Food Bank

An organization that seeks to end hunger in Houston.

535 Portwall St., Houston, TX 77029

Volunteers can help in two different areas of the facility: the Portwall Warehouse and the Keegan Kitchen. The warehouse deals with food sortation, repackaging, and cleaning, whereas the kitchen pertains to making daily meals for the hungry and its distribution at various locations.

Policy: Volunteers for the Portwall Warehouse must be at least 17 to volunteer by themselves. Volunteers for the Keegan Kitchen must be at least 16.

Contact: 713-223-3700, info@houstonfoodbank.org

K-9 Angels Houston

A no-kill dog shelter that provides a home for every dog it takes before the adoption process.

Address: 1215 19th St., Houston, TX 77008

Description: Volunteers at K-9 Angels Houston engage in a multitude of activities which include helping to set up the adoption center, help foster families in the adoption process, walk the dogs, clean crates, occasionally bathe dogs, sweep, wash dishes, do laundry and close the adoption center.

Policy: All volunteers must be at least 16 to volunteer. Parents are not required to oversee volunteers, but are welcome.

Contact: volunteer@k-9angelsrescue.org

Memorial Park Conservancy

An organization that preserves Memorial Park for future generations.

6501 Memorial Dr., Houston, TX 77007

Volunteers for the Memorial Park Conservancy organization work on landscaped areas, clean the park, repair the park's trails, harvest native plants, work in the green house, improve plant health, remove invasive plant species and assist in fundraisers.

Policy: You must be at least 12 to volunteer. Volunteers from ages 12-15 are required to have a parent chaperone with them. A waiver is required for first time volunteers under the age of 16. With groups, age limits may vary.

Contact: volunteer@memorialparkconservancy.org

Nature Discovery Center

An organization that hopes to give participants and park strollers an appreciation and connection with nature.

7112 Newcastle St., Bellaire, TX 77401

Teen volunteers can apply for four different positions year-round. These four positions are: animal care assistants, weekend discovery room interpreters, special event activity guides and school break camp counselors.

Policy: All volunteers must be at least 13. An application is required to begin volunteering, which can be found at the website. It is ideal to hold off volunteer applications until September, when the fully-occupied Summer program will end.

Contact: 713-667-6550

The River Performing Arts and Visual Center

A performing and visual arts program that offers children with disabilities a unique opportunity to engage in the arts.

1475 W Gray St., Houston, TX 77019

Volunteers help students of ages 4-19 on Saturdays with acting, art, dance and music. Activity volunteers are asked to participate in four Saturdays of assisting the kids and the recital for the play.

Policy: You must be at least 12 to volunteer, and all volunteers under the age of 15 are required to bring a chaperone with them. In the regular Saturday program, you must volunteer for three and a half hours from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. There are summer camps with six one-week sessions. Volunteers are required to volunteer for six hours and for one full week. There is an application in the website, with no set date to apply.

Contact: 713-520-1220, tiffany@tuts.com

Comment below to share more volunteer opportunities. See serveforgood.com, a database featuring more than 120 charities that welcome young volunteers, created by St. John’s School graduate Claire Furse; read more about it here. See more ideas of local nonprofits where kids are welcome to volunteer. 

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