Who needs the help of 120 7th-graders for a day?
April 12, 2011 9:24 AM   Subscribe

Chicago filter: Where can I take 120 13-year-olds to do a service day in June?

They are well-behaved, but still 13 years old, so no power tools/danger, please. Surely some worthy organization needs something painted, cleaned, organized, etc. They don't all have to go to one site; we will have access to three buses, so there could be three sites each hosting 40 kids or so. Ideas???? I've looked at volunteermatch, etc. with no luck. School is on the south side of Chicago, but we can travel up to about an hour. Thanks!
posted by orangemiles to Education (12 answers total)
Try the Parks District-- see if there's any cleanups/painting/landscaping type things you could do.
posted by geegollygosh at 9:47 AM on April 12, 2011

To be honest, coming from a Chicago-area nonprofit point of view, no one needs the help of 120 7th-graders for a day. Seriously. They won't be able to do the kind of work that a nonprofit needs, and will be more trouble to handle than the work they can do is worth. The mere suggestion of this endeavor raised my hackles and made me worry for the organizations you're looking to reach out to, hearing all their volunteer coordinators let out a collective "oh, god" and cringing.

I think your only realistic hope is to contact Chicago Cares to see who they can match you up with. The answer is likely to be no one, especially on such short notice.

I urge you to consider the impact your "desire to volunteer" has on nonprofits in the city. We are staffed with overworked, underpaid professionals who don't have the time or experience to supervise 120 kids who can't realistically do the work of normal volunteers and will be disruptive at best and outright damaging at worst. YOU want something out of this. You're not looking to help an organization, you're looking for an organization to help you.
posted by juniperesque at 10:02 AM on April 12, 2011

Can these 7th graders perhaps plant flowers or do some upkeep on the grounds of their own school?
posted by phunniemee at 10:04 AM on April 12, 2011

Contact some local alderman and ask if they'd be interested in organizing a clean-up campaign. The kids will need garbage bags, gloves, and sturdy shoes. The aldermen can organize trash pick up and suggest blighted areas, vacant lots, etc. If you're lucky, the kids might get some t-shirts out of it.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:11 AM on April 12, 2011

One caveat: picking up trash is a common community service punishment for misdemeanor offenders, and the kids probably know this. You'd want to frame this carefully.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:15 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Does your state have a program along the lines of Adopt-a-highway? (I have seen this idea adapted for places like parks, beaches, waterways....) A day of cleaning litter in a relatively safe spot could be very positive. Just make sure that appropriate safety precautions are taken against sharp refuse.
posted by Ys at 10:26 AM on April 12, 2011

Wow, juniperesque, that's way harsh, coming from a different Chicago-area nonprofit point of view. Crushing the volunteer spirit at an early age is something that my nonprofit generally discourages.

There are plenty of park clean-ups, IDOT volunteer planting-days, and other things like that around the city, that would be happy to have many smaller hands to help. You may also want to check with an org. like CityFarm, to see if they could use your help for the day. Your alderman or your local park district may have some ideas for you, and you could check in with Chicago Cares and OneBrick, which hooks volunteers up with short-term volunteer opportunities. They may not have a specific task or event, but they may have other resources for you. Also maybe try larger orgs like The Greater Chicago Food Depository.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 10:32 AM on April 12, 2011

Second OneBrick - this is just the sort of thing they like to do. You can also try Habitat for Humanity.
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 11:27 AM on April 12, 2011

Greater Chicago Food Depository
Growing Power
posted by Xalf at 11:50 AM on April 12, 2011

When I was in middle school, we took annual trips to a local state park to pick up trash around a lake. It didn't involve stressing any nonprofits, and it was easy for so many of us to spread out and make a real, visible difference. Afterwards we would have a picnic.
posted by lizjohn at 12:00 PM on April 12, 2011

You said June, but Friends of the Chicago River has their annual volunteer event May 14; if that doesn't work (it's a Saturday), they might be open to help at other times, if you have enough adult supervision coming along to make this feasible. Another great association is the Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, which is very active on the South Side and already sponsors some neighborhood clean up days.
posted by carrienation at 12:34 PM on April 12, 2011

Check with local food banks or Feeding America.
posted by runningwithscissors at 12:53 PM on April 12, 2011

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