9. Visit a hospital.
Long-term hospital patients need all the hope and cheer they can get. Let students dress up as super heroes or popular characters and visit a pediatric unit. Or go as yourselves and bring treats or small gifts. Stuffed animals, fun pillow cases, games, craft kits and toys work well. Or plan to visit adult units to serve the patients in other ways. For example, bring manicure sets and let the girls serve female patients.
You’ll have to call ahead to organize a good day and time to come, of course. When you do, ask what you can bring. The staff will know what kinds of treats and toys the patients can have, as well as what they’d appreciate most. (Speaking of the staff: Surprise them too! Bring a basket of treats for nurses as well.)
10. Adopt a homeless shelter.
Many local homeless shelters can’t have volunteers under the age of 18, and many don’t have capacity for a group of teens. If you call, though, directors are more than happy to tell you what they can use.
Some shelters close to residents during the day, so you may be able to come in and clean. If not, they almost definitely need supplies. This might be a loose-change collection opportunity or a donation drive that students organize. For example, most shelters often need socks. Have students organize a sock drive at church, in their schools and at local businesses.
11. Feed the homeless.
Your community may already have a program that provides meals to local people, but it probably needs volunteers. Take your group of teenagers to help with cooking, serving and cleaning up.
12. Volunteer at an animal shelter.
Call a local animal shelter and see if your group members can assist. Shelters frequently need volunteers to walk and play with the animals. And they probably wouldn’t turn down some help with cleaning up. If age requirements are a factor, have kids collect pet food and supplies to donate.
13. Visit a senior center.
Senior centers love when young people come visit. Any excuse to visit is a good one! Bring valentines, honor veterans, deliver small Easter baskets and so on. Cards or treats work well for a wide variety of occasions, including Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Call first to ask the event coordinator what works best. They’ll know how to accommodate your group and what kinds of treats the residents can have. Some centers have a community time when many residents are together. It might be nice to sit and eat lunch with them too.
14. Make blankets.
No-sew fleece blankets require no special skills, and Project Linus puts them to good use. You’ll need to invest in some material or ask congregants to donate it. But then just pick a date and ask everyone to bring a good pair of scissors. Put on a movie and make a bunch of blankets!
15. Host a Sole Hope shoe party.
Sole Hope supports the people of Uganda by providing shoes to prevent jiggers from embedding in their feet. Jiggers cause crippling pain, keeping kids out of school and people out of work. They can also lead to worsening illness and social ostracizing.
At a Sole Hope shoe party, students use a pile of old denim to prep material for shoes. You need to order a kit, and Sole Hope asks for a donation per each pair you prep (so they can finish the shoes). But if you’re looking for practical, hands-on service project ideas, this one’s unique!
16. Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.
Habitat for Humanity offers special youth programs for student involvement. In addition to service opportunities, these also are quite instructive for teens.
17. Volunteer with Love Packages!
This is our favorite option, of course! Your group can join us in the warehouse for a day, a weekend, or a whole week. Our Butler, Illinois, location has beds and showers for groups of up to about 30, plus a communal kitchen you’re welcome to use. Your group can also organize a Bible drive to collect literature. We have tips and resources you can use!
Service Project Ideas Unite Group Members
In addition to cultivating a generous spirit in students, most of these service project ideas help your group members form stronger ties. Serving together—like worshiping together—has a way of uniting people.
Tell us about your favorite youth service project ideas in the comments below!
This article originally appeared here.