group of volunteers holding tree plants in hands

group of volunteers holding tree plants in hands ()

The world of volunteering can be overwhelming, even more so if you have children. We, as responsible parents, want to teach our kids to be generous with our time and resources, but we are sometimes turned away from serving if we have young children.

Volunteering isn’t just for the holidays. There are plenty of volunteer needs year-round. Many volunteer opportunities exist in Europe — in local communities and on military installations. You just might have to look harder to find the right fit for you and your family. Many organizations require registration and/or training before volunteer opportunities are offered. Age requirements vary with location, so don’t hesitate to ask for clarification (or even exceptions on a trial basis). There are certainly more openings than there are able and willing bodies.

Get creative.

Do you have a talent or passion you can offer to other spouses or families? My friend, Sugin Musgrave (, offers free coupon and shopping classes through the Airman & Family Readiness Center. I know spouses who volunteer at quarterly airman birthday dinners, deployed family events and lemonade stands for their squadron booster club. Others enjoy participating in sporting activities that help others, such as 5Ks or cycling events.

Many parents offer their knowledge in homeschool co-op classes, extra-curricular lessons or field trip planning. Parents can volunteer as classroom helpers, Parent Teacher Association members, field trip chaperones and more. Also, Scouts love volunteers! Spouses host get-togethers for book clubs, dinner clubs, crafty make and takes, and more. Don’t think a social event is volunteering? Just ask newcomers or spouses of deployed service members who are dying for friends and social interaction. It’s a blessing to get an invitation!

Join volun-tourism opportunities or short-term mission trips to show your kids how they can impact the world.

Start at home.

Look to the local community to help those in need. Start small and love your neighbor. Is there a new mother you can bring a meal or pampering basket? Is there an elderly person who would just love a companion? Is there a deployed spouse who needs a break?

Ask at local homeless shelters and vets or animal shelters if they need help. Many libraries have volunteer opportunities for adults and teens. I know some mothers who work to help other moms as breastfeeding consultants, with preschool meetups, and toddler playgroups. Do random acts of kindness for strangers.

Look to places of worship.

Many local charities, churches and base chapels have organized and individual volunteer opportunities. Stuff holiday shoeboxes for Samaritan’s Purse. Create shoes for Sole Hope. Sew simple clothing or collect gently used items for donations. Donate nonperishable food items or help organize shelves at food banks. Our local homeschoolers in co-op classes do service projects at the church in return for classroom use. Win-win.

Protestant Women of the Chapel, Military Council of Catholic Women, Protestant Youth of the Chapel and other organizations volunteer together locally and on short-term mission trips. Club 7 is a service for single airmen. Volunteer with organizations. USO centers, thrift stores, airman’s attics and post offices on base usually need volunteers. Army Child and Youth Services and Air Force Youth Sports are always looking for volunteer coaches for kids’ recreational sports and activities. Local hospitals and clinics need caring helpers in many areas. Ask if your well-behaved children can tag along to help or watch as you volunteer. Some places have age restrictions or require applications and training, but just ask. Many of these organizations have programs especially for kids and teens.

For a plethora of opportunities, sign up with Army Community Service or Air Force Volunteer Service. Also look into getting information from spouse leadership — or become a leader yourself! In the Army, it is the Family Readiness Group (FRG). The Air Force has a Key Spouse Program and the Navy an Ombudsman Program. The Marine Corps also has a Family Readiness Program, and those in the Coast Guard call it the Work-Life Program. Spouses in these programs are trained to help other spouses during deployment and in assimilating to everyday military life.

It’s good to start local — where you can physically meet with someone and get placed on personal merit and relationships. With so many organizations and volunteer opportunities, there are bound to be a few that suit your family’s talents and interests.

Start simple and be willing to serve when and where needed. We can be great role models for our kids as we attend to the needs of others. Check with these organizations and others for volunteer opportunities worldwide:

  • 4-H

  • America’s Promise Alliance

  • American Red Cross

  • Armed Services YMCA

  • Army Family Action Plan

  • Army Family Team Building

  • Army Teen Panel

  • Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America

  • Boy Scouts

  • Boys and Girls Clubs of America

  • Citizen Corps

  • Civil Air Patrol

  • Corporation for National and Community Service

  • Do Something

  • Enlisted and Officers Spouses' Clubs

  • Family Readiness Group

  • Fisher House

  • Girl Scouts

  • Habitat for Humanity International

  • HandsOn Network

  • Make a Wish Foundation

  • National Guard Youth Challenge

  • National Military Family Association

  • Peace Corps

  • Project Rudolph

  • Special Olympics

  • Youth Serve America

  • USO

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