Year Round Volunteering For Families

HiRes-350x337In this season of giving, schedules and budgets are often stretched to the limit. We want to give back to our communities and teach our children about social responsibility but so often we find ourselves unable to contribute. The good intentions may fall to the wayside with a promise to get involved later. With fewer reminders popping up during the rest of the year, later may not come. If you find yourself feeling guilty that another year has gone by without contributing how you had intended, now is the time to start planning.

During the time between Thanksgiving and the New Year, food drives are abundant. Donation bins are set up in our schools and at local supermarkets. Mike Bruno, the executive director of the Human Needs Food Pantry said this in a recent editorial in the Montclair Times: “Hunger endangers a person’s physical and emotional well-being. It negatively impacts everyone it touches; affecting the proper development of children and taking a heavy toll on the health of the elderly.” On any given day when the pantry is open for food service, approximately 100 people come for meals and 200 food deliveries are made each week to the homebound. These numbers are on the rise.

Human Needs Food Pantry is working to help those who are hungry or otherwise in need. The facility is located on Label Street in Montclair. They suggest the best way to get kids involved with their program is to run a collection drive of non-perishable foods (healthy and shelf stable including pantry supplies) and non-food items such as diapers and wipes, personal care items and cleaning supplies.

Toni’s Kitchen, located at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Montclair, offers a variety of programs ranging from healthy meals to skills training and mentoring to providing a warm place to gather and receive support. In addition, Toni’s Kitchen maintains a garden space which is always looking for volunteers. Toni’s Kitchen also accepts donations of homemade food, which is a great way to work in your own home with your family to create a meal or treat others can enjoy.

For more information on how you can volunteer at Toni’s Kitchen or the Human Needs Food Pantry, please visit their respective websites and visit their volunteer sections.

If you’re pressed for time and want to find a way to encourage little ones to spread cheer year round, consider Color A Smile. Based in Morristown, NJ, Color A Smile is a nonprofit organization that distributes drawings to senior citizens, military troops overeas and other individuals and nursing home residents in need of a smile. Coloring pages are available to print from the website for children and adults who love to color. Once completed, they can be mailed to the organization for distribution. Thousands of cheerful drawings are sent out monthly with over a million pages distributed since Color A Smile was founded in 1986. While there are seasonal and holiday pictures available to color, there are also a variety of non-themed and free-art pages to choose from. Pictures should include the artists first name and age, but should not be dated so they may be distributed at any time. Children can give of themselves in an age appropriate manner any time a quiet activity is needed. The organization also accepts monetary donations to defray mailing costs, though no financial contribution is required.

For animal lovers, the Montclair Township Animal Shelter is seeking volunteers ages 10 and up. After attending an orientation, volunteers can select the team they’d like to be a part of and train to assist with the specific goals of each teams. Needs vary from day to day, but volunteers may be able to assist with animal socialization, playtime and dog walking, grooming, and maintaining the laundry, dishes and pet areas. To learn more about the shelter’s volunteer opportunities, visit their blog at

Homeless and domestic violence shelters, community gardens, hospitals, nursing homes and many more organizations operate year round in an effort to serve those in our community who need assistance. Making a point to look for local volunteering opportunities can make a difference. As you prepare your calendar for the upcoming year, take a moment to schedule a reminder to find ways that you can help at a time that may be better suited to your schedule and that of your children. There’s never a wrong time to reach out to those in need.

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  1. Teach or help coordinate a class at the Adult School. Now that after the start of the New Year it will be a part of the Public Library, the times and locations to offer your knowledge or ideas are greatly expanded. By sharing your skills, you help build community and connect others who share the same passions. Get started by visiting the ASM volunteer web page: and mark your calendar for our Open House at the Public Library at 50 S Fullerton Ave on Sunday, January 25, from 2-5pm. Thanks!

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