Let's be honest. Homeless shelters and community food banks can be intimidating places for young children -- even for some adults. As a parent, you want to educate your children to the plight of the less fortunate, but you don't want to scare them in the process. Thankfully, there are some "behind-the-scenes" ways for you and your kids to contribute to your local shelter and food bank.
You can start by asking the kids to collect some old clothes that don't fit them anymore. Or you can open up the pantry and have them choose some canned goods and other non-perishable items. Call the local shelter or food bank and ask about drop-off times for donations. The kids can some along for the ride, but they don't have to actually go inside if they're not ready. For older kids, there are usually opportunities at the food banks and shelters to sort and organize donations.
Many shelters have separate facilities for women and children. There are also shelters specifically for battered women and their kids. Talk to your kids about why these places exist. Ask your kids what they might want if they were staying at a shelter. What would make it less scary? One creative idea is to have your kids pack up nighttime snacks for the kids at the shelter. They can put juice boxes, granola bars and even a little toy in decorated paper bags and deliver them to the shelter [source: Clark].
Now let's look at a fun way for the whole family to get outside, get some exercise and contribute to a good cause.