Teaching Kids to Care

We all want our kids to be altruistic. It starts with us.


Haben Yohannes (right) and her sister, Brikiti, volunteer with the Arlington County Fair and other county programs.

For younger philanthropists, formal service opportunities can be harder to find. Many nonprofits cannot accept volunteers under age 14 due to safety concerns, regulations or privacy issues with their client populations. But there are plenty of informal ways to broaden kids’ awareness of the world around them.

Wanting to set a good example for their son, Cobi, Waycroft-Woodlawn residents Judy Palmore and her husband, Neil Kromash, both former Peace Corps volunteers, started out simply by modeling little everyday kindnesses—taking in the neighbor’s recycling bin; giving to Toys for Tots.

Soon Cobi was following suit, offering to help out his teachers at Glebe Elementary, shoveling snow for the neighbors, organizing a book drive for the Arlington Pediatric Center and helping out at the Reading Connection in Rosslyn (which closed its doors at the end of July). Now 11, Cobi recently began volunteering with Food for Others, a food pantry in Merrifield.

It’s never too early to demonstrate values to your kids, says Sunstone Counseling’s Walls, even if it’s a simple gesture, like bringing a casserole to a neighbor who is recovering from surgery, donating old towels to the local animal shelter, or spending time with an elderly person who welcomes the company. “We all want respectful, kind, helpful, self-confident children,” she says. “Kids mirror what they’re exposed to.”

Plus, the spirit of giving can be contagious, says Iames, the McLean High School grad.

“We’re kind of stuck on our phones or watching TV,” she says of her generation. “But if we help other people, they might do it too, in a big circle, and things will get better one step at a time, and the world will be a better place.”

Find a Volunteer Opportunity

Looking for a way to give back? See our latest Guide to Giving for a list of local nonprofits in need of support, including those that offer volunteer opportunities to kids and teens. In addition, the following clearinghouses list both one-time and longer-term volunteer positions of all kinds. Type in your location and see what comes up.

Volunteer Arlington

Volunteer Fairfax

And mark your calendar for the Arlington Teen Summer Expo, April 21 at Wakefield High School, which highlights volunteer as well as work opportunities. arlingtonteensummerexpo.com

Ellen Ryan (@ERyanWriter) volunteers for the NIH Children’s Inn, Rockville Little Theatre and Community Ministries of Rockville.

Related Stories

Categories: Parents & Kids