FARMINGTON — With Christmas break around the corner, many parents are dreading the post-Christmas "I'm bored" sighs from their out-of-school kids.
To ward off the idle ho-hums, parents might want to consider introducing kids to volunteerism, which is a great way to get them involved in the community while teaching the importance of helping others.
Many non-profits and charitable organizations do accept, and even welcome, youthful volunteers, and below is a sample of some of these opportunities.
--Boys and Girls Club: Teenagers 16 and older can volunteer at the club to work with younger kids on a variety of activities.
"Teens come in and tell us what they're interested in doing, such as sports, art or reading to kids, and we tailor the volunteer activity around their interests," said Office Manager Betty Davis. Volunteers must fill out an application form and pass a background check.
The club, located at 1925 Positive Way, will be open every day during the break except for Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Call 505-327-6396 for more information.
--Catholic Charities: The non-profit operates a transitional housing complex for families called Drexel House, and also has a drop-in center for the homeless, serving coffee, snacks, and some meals.
Debe Betts, Catholic Charities director, said kids and teens can volunteer to serve as "buddies" to children living in Drexel House.
"During the holiday season, many of the parents in the program have to keep going to work and the kids don't have anything to do, so having someone like a big brother or big sister would be great," said Betts.
Volunteers are asked to attend a three-hour child abuse prevention training session offered at the center.
Youth can also volunteer with their families to help serve meals at the drop-in center Monday through Thursday from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Betts asks that families call first to schedule a time to volunteer.
Catholic Charities is located at 119 W. Broadway. Contact Betts at 505-325-3734 for additional information.
--Childhaven: Childhaven serves children and youth who have suffered from abuse, neglect and trauma, and offers 24-hour housing and care to children and infants. Youth 14 or older can do volunteer work at Childhaven on their own, with their parent's permission, but those younger than 14 need to be accompanied by an adult.
Volunteers work with the children by reading to them or helping them with crafts and other activities.
"We've had people who play an instrument come in and teach kids how to play that instrument," said Heather Slim with Childhaven Human Resources. "Another volunteer comes in to teach the kids how to dance."
Donations of clothes, toys and hygiene products are also needed, as many of the children show up at Childhaven with only the clothes they're wearing, Slim said.
Volunteers must fill out an application and provide three references. The application can be picked up at Childhaven at 807 W. Apache Street, or can be downloaded from their website, www.childhavennm.org. Call 505-325-5358 for more information.
--Daily Bread: Run by People Assisting the Homeless or PATH, Daily Bread provides a free lunch to the homeless and the needy.
Cody Sharpe, head cook at Daily Bread, said volunteers are needed to serve as greeters, and to help serve the food and carry it for handicapped visitors. Youth under 16 should be accompanied by an adult.
"We definitely have a need for volunteers, especially over the weekends," said Sharpe.
Daily Bread is located at 405 S. Behrend. Call 505-327-0956 for more information.
--ECHO Food Bank: Teens 17 and over can volunteer individually at ECHO, which collects and distributes food to the needy, but younger children need to be accompanied by an adult.
Catherine Knowlton with ECHO's Agency Donor Programs said most of the volunteer work involves organizing donated food and preparing it to be packed into boxes to be distributed to needy families. Kids and teens can also organize a food drive on their own or with a group. ECHO will provide a list of food items needed, and will provide food barrels to collect the donations. Knowlton asks that those organizing a drive let ECHO know about the drive.
"It's up to the kids' creative minds how they want to do a drive," said Knowlton. "And even after Christmas, we need volunteer help, as we have some food drives starting in January."
ECHO is low on turkeys this year for their Christmas boxes, and are welcoming cash donations to purchase the turkeys.
ECHO is located at 401 S. Commercial Ave., and is open Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Call 505-325-8222 for more information.
--Farmington Animal Shelter: While the shelter wants volunteers who work directly with the animals to be 18 or older, food, blanket and toy drives are ways kids and teens can contribute to the shelter, said shelter consultant Marcy Eckhardt.
"Animals need toys to stimulate them, and unless an animal toy is washable, after the animal has used it, it has to be thrown out," said Eckhardt. "We also really need blankets, extra towels, and pet food."
Donations can be dropped off at the shelter at 1395 S. Lake Street, or call 505-599-1098.
--Northwest New Mexico Hospice: The non-profit provides end-of-life care for patients, caregivers and their families.
"We have volunteers spend time with the patients and families, and kids and teens could provide anything that would help the families during the holidays, such as cookies, treats or cards," said Volunteer Coordinator Lisa Bailey. Adult volunteers will deliver the holiday items to the families and patients.
Items can be dropped off at 608 Reilly Ave. Call Bailey at 505-327-0301 for more information.
--Salvation Army: The organization helps the needy with food, clothing and offers other services and support. Leading up to Christmas, volunteers can help sort toys to deliver to needy families. Volunteers will be working until 9 p.m.
Kids 10 and older can volunteer individually, but younger kids should have an adult with them.
All work is being done at the Salvation Army warehouse, located at 4910 E. Main, across from the Outback Steakhouse. Groups that wish to volunteer after-hours should call 505-327-5117 to schedule a time.
--Tres Rios Habitat for Humanity: Habitat helps build homes for people who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford a home of their own. The organization is currently building a home on Crouch Mesa, and accepts anyone 16 or older at the construction site. During the month of December, Habitat is operating their fundraising gift-wrapping booth in the Animas Valley Mall, and welcomes volunteers ages 10 and up to help wrap gifts for two-hour shifts. Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
Call 505-326-5379 for more information.