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How You Can Help!

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How You Can Help
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You Can Help People Who Are Hungry or Homeless!

Everybody needs food to eat and a place to sleep. But some people don't have them. How can you help? In lots of ways! Just check out what these ZOOMers are doing:

  • Every week, Annie and her classmates in Washington make sandwiches for people living at homeless shelters. 
  • Chris of Florida volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, a group that builds houses for families who need them. He built a bench and gave drinks to other volunteers. 
  • Ben of Iowa baked a ZOOM Butterfly Cake and gave it to a homeless shelter. 
  • Julia of Massachusetts asked her friends to bring food instead of presents to her birthday party. Then she gave the food to a food pantry. 
  • Christian of Arizona collected 14 old coats from friends and family members and donated them to a homeless shelter. 
  • Students from four elementary schools in California hold a canned food drive every April to keep the food banks filled for the summer.

More inZpiration!

  • Bake cookies or sandwiches from CafeZOOM and give them to a shelter. Remember to call first to ask what they need. 
  • Give away clothes that you don't wear anymore. Make sure the clothes are clean and in good condition. 
  • Collect cans and bottles and donate the money to a shelter. 
  • Donate gently used books to a family shelter. 
  • Collect unused shampoo, soap, and sample-size toiletries for shelters.

Project Spotlight: Food Drive

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Sixth graders at the Saint Rene Goupil School in Illinois held a food drive. Then they donated the food to a local food bank, a place that gives food to people who need it.

Here's how to start your own food drive:

  1. Get some people to help you. You can work with friends, an after-school group, or your class at school. Remember to ask permission from a parent, leader, or teacher first. 
  2. Find a food bank. Visit Second Harvest, a Web site that lists food banks in each state. (You can also collect food for a shelter.) 
  3. Ask an adult to help you call the food bank. Ask to speak with the Volunteer Coordinator. Explain that you are planning a food drive. Ask lots of questions, like: How many people are hungry in your area? What types of food do they need? When and where you should bring the food after the collection? What happens to the food after you deliver it? 
  4. Make a plan. Decide where you will collect the food. How long will you collect—a day, a week, a month? Set a goal for how much food you want to collect. 
  5. Advertise. Make signs to tell people when the food drive is happening and where the food will go. Help people understand why the food is needed by talking about the number of people who are hungry in your area. Tell people to bring food that won't spoil, like canned vegetables, peanut butter, pasta, powdered milk, and cake mixes. Remind them to bring in healthy food that they would like to eat. Check out these other food ideas. 
  6. Set up. You'll need lots of collection boxes (copy-paper boxes work well). Put signs on the boxes so people know to put the food inside. Then put the boxes in places that are easy to see. 
  7. Start collecting. 
  8. Deliver the food. Ask an adult to help you bring your food to the food bank. Add a note that lists the names of all the people who helped you. 
  9. Think about it:
    • Who did your project help?
    • What did you see and hear during the project?
    • How did this project make you feel?
    • What did you learn that you did not know before?
    • What new questions or ideas do you have?
    • Is there anything you would do differently the next time? 
  10. Celebrate! Thank everyone who helped you. And remember to log your hours and share your story. 
  11. Keep helping. Food banks and shelters can use other things besides food. Start a new collection around a new theme. For example, you could have a "Back to School" theme and collect school supplies, like notebooks, paper, pencils, and book bags. Or try a "Clean" theme and collect things like shampoo, soap, lotion, toothpaste, toilet paper, and tooth brushes. You can even have a "Baby" theme to collect things like diapers, bottles, toys, powdered formula, and socks.

Project Spotlight:
Fun Food Bags

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The Main Line Reform Temple Nursery School of Pennsylvania decorated lunch bags for meals that were being delivered to people who needed them.

Here's how you can make your own Fun Food Bags:

  1. Learn about Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels is a program that delivers meals to older people who cannot leave their homes. A meal usually has an aluminum tray that holds hot food plus a bag filled with cold food, like a drink, bread, and dessert. Many of the people who get these meals live alone. You can add some fun to a meal by decorating the food bag or by putting a special gift inside, like a card or a homemade craft. 
  2. Find a Meals on Wheels near you. Visit Meals on Wheels to find a program in your state. Or look in the Yellow Pages under "Senior Citizens' Service Organizations" for a place that helps seniors. Most senior centers have Meals on Wheels programs. 
  3. Ask an adult to help you call. Ask to speak with the Volunteer Coordinator. Explain that you want to decorate bags or add homemade gifts to the Meals on Wheels food bags. Ask lots of questions, like: Who are the people that they help? Should you decorate bags or make gifts? How many bags or gifts do they need? Will they give you the bags or should you get your own? When and where should you bring them in? 
  4. Decide what you'll make. Visit ZOOMdo for decoration ideas, like Rubber Band Stamps, or gift ideas, like Popsicle Stick Puzzle, Thaumatrope, and Friendship Bracelet. Or use your imagination and think of your own ideas! 
  5. Plan ahead. Collect materials for making your bags or gifts. Then make a schedule so you'll have them ready on the day that you promised. If you need help, ask some friends or family members to join you. 
  6. Make them. Be creative! 
  7. Deliver your bags or gifts. Ask an adult to help you bring the decorated bags or gifts to the Meals on Wheels program. Add a note for the Volunteer Coordinator that lists the friends who helped you. 
  8. Think about it:
    • Who did your project help?
    • What did you see and hear during the project?
    • How did this project make you feel?
    • What did you learn that you did not know before?
    • What new questions or ideas do you have?
    • Is there anything you would do differently the next time? 
  9. Celebrate! Thank everyone who helped you. And don't forget to log your hours and share your story. 
  10. Keep helping. Find out if the Meals on Wheels program has a site where seniors come to eat their meals (most do). Ask if you can volunteer at the site. You can do things like decorate place mats or sit and talk with seniors as they eat. You can also ask if you can help deliver the meals. Remember that if you're under the age of 14, you will probably need an adult to come with you.

Find Out More

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Help the Homeless
Learn about people who are homeless and ways to help.

Kids Can Make a Difference
Get the facts about hunger and how you can help.

Second Harvest
Find a food bank near you.


The Can-Do Thanksgiving
By Marion Hess Pomerac
Albert Whitman

A young girl wonders what happens to her can of peas after she brings them to a food drive. Her questioning leads to a class project to make and serve food to people in need at Thanksgiving.

Fly Away Home
By Eve Bunting

A boy who lives in an airport with his father gains hope when he watches a trapped bird find freedom.

Home Is Where We Live: Life at a shelter through a young girl's eyes
By Jane Hertensten
Cornerstone Press

A ten-year-old girl shares her feelings about living at a shelter where many other families also stay.

Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen
By DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan

When Uncle Willie's nephew works at the neighborhood soup kitchen, he learns to admire people who lend a hand.


Find places that help people who are hungry or homeless by looking in the Yellow Pages under these headings:

  • Senior Citizens Service Organizations
  • Shelters
  • Social & Human Services, Food Assistance
  • Social & Human Services, Homeless Persons Services

Call your Volunteer Center. This is a place that can help you find volunteer projects. To find a Volunteer Center near you, visit this Web site or call 1-800-VOLUNTEER. Then ask an adult to help you call. Tell them your age and ask if there are ways that you can help people who are homeless or hungry.

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