Put Gratitude into Action: Volunteer Opportunities for Families
If you’re feeling thankful for everything you have this season, consider sharing the gift of your time with others. Whether feeding the hungry, cleaning San Diego beaches, helping at a charitable fun run or volunteering at a local organization—people (and pets) need your compassion and support. Here are family volunteer opportunities throughout San Diego County.
Read 41 Random Acts of Kindness to get ideas on how to make the world a better place anywhere, anytime!
Pacific Southwest Railway Museum
Adults Only - Learn new skills and build lifelong friendships as a volunteer with Pacific Southwest Railway Museum. No experience is required to volunteer. Opportunities are available across several departments including but not limited to Operations, Mechanical, Facilities, Museum Services, Special Events and more. To find out more about becoming a volunteer, email
Feeding San Diego, Sorrento Valley
Learn about volunteer opportunities, tour the facility and try several ongoing volunteer projects. Opportunities include gleaning, sorting and packing produce, supporting large-scale drive-thru food distributions, calling to thank donors and more. Register in advance online. For more information, call 858-452-3663 x100 or email
United Way of San Diego County
Visit the United Way website for ongoing volunteer opportunities.
Volunteer at a local Thanksgiving Turkey Trot or 5K event
Find information about the O’side Turkey Trot (Oceanside), Encinitas Turkey Trot, Coronado 5K Turkey Trot, Father Joe's Villages Thanksgiving Day 5K and more, most of which are ON Thanksgiving.
San Diego Food Bank, Sorrento Valley
Families can help sort and bag food donations at the warehouse throughout the year. Morning, afternoon or evening shifts available, Monday–Saturday, except major holidays. Due to safety regulations, volunteers must be 11 or older (ages 11–15 must be accompanied by an adult); teens 16+ can come on their own. Register online.
San Diego County Beach Cleanups
The Six Cleanup Challenge brings together adventure, volunteerism, and citizen science to challenge San Diegans to go beyond the beach cleanup. San Diego County is home to beautiful beaches, striking coastline, diverse neighborhoods, and secluded urban canyons and parks. With the Six Cleanup Challenge, you get to explore them all while collecting important citizen science data on debris types and concentrations throughout our coastal watersheds. To learn more about the challenge and to register your family visit www.sdcoastkeeper.org/beach-cleanups/six-cleanup-challenge.
San Diego Humane Society
Help sheltered animals through the Pawsitive Service program by making enrichment toys (ie: cat hammocks) or post flyers to help animals get adopted. Support a specific program, location or department from the comfort of home by purchasing items from the Humane Society’s Amazon wish lists: www.sdhumane.org/how-you-can-help/donate/donate-wish-list-items/. Items will be shipped directly to San Diego Humane Society. Contact
The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Donations, Countywide
Ring the bell while collecting Red Kettle donations with your family during this iconic holiday fundraising drive. Collections pay for holiday meals for those in need and related year-long programs. Feel free to dress up like elves or sing Christmas carols while volunteering! Sign up online or contact
Solutions for Change, Vista
Visit website for list of volunteer opportunties.
Third Avenue Charitable Organization (TACO), Downtown
Volunteers help prepare and serve meals twice a week, year-round, including Thanksgiving week. Teen youth groups are invited to provide special event entertainment during meal times. TACO needs help during the Christmas season to prepare food baskets and personal hygiene kits for the homeless. Kids 5+ welcome; must be accompanied by an adult. Register online. Contact volunteer coordinator Brad Young at
Other organizations that allow families (and supervised kids) to volunteer:
Father Joe’s Villages
Kids ages 10 & up can volunteer.
Feeding San Diego
Ages 6 & up can volunteer. Kids ages 6-16 require adult supervision.
San Diego Rescue Mission
Must be at least 16 to volunteer, but kids under 16 can organize donation drives.
Second Chance Dog Rescue
Must be 16 or older to volunteer at an adoption event or in the office. Must be 18 to foster.