7 Community Thanksgiving Meals & Volunteer Opportunities in Western MA

Thanksgiving Community Meals Promote Community Engagement Through Service-Based Learning

Taking place across western Massachusetts, community meals held around Thanksgiving offer opportunities for communities to connect through food and for families to give back to their communities. Families can donate food (like homemade pies made with your kids!), volunteer at events, or attend community meals in order to help build community!

Healthy living begins not with healthy food, but with access to food in general. For many families in western Massachusetts, access to food is made possible by community organizations that run food pantries and serve meals. These organizations – vital to our communities – depend on community support, and rely on donations and volunteers in order to provide the essential services that they offer. This Thanksgiving, families can participate in community service and spread kindness by helping out with a holiday community meal. Community Thanksgiving meals help to offer a holiday celebration to those who may not be able to prepare one on their own or who might not have anyone to share Thanksgiving dinner with, and also offer families an opportunity to engage in an intergenerational holiday celebration with a diverse group of people.  Read the rest of this entry »

Community Service: Horizons for Homeless Children

Volunteer Training for Teens with Horizons for Homeless Children

Horizons for Homeless ChildrenDid you know that one in every fifty children in the United States lives without a permanent home?  Horizons for Homeless Children helps children living in shelters across Western Massachusetts by providing play spaces in shelters (places often not child-friendly and devoid of home-like aspects) and offering volunteers to spend time with kids, playing, reading, etc., in the play areas.

Due to the unpredictable nature of life in shelters, the organization asks that volunteers be over the age of 18, or younger teens between 16-18yo to be accompanied by a parent/adult.  However, community members of all ages are invited to attend a volunteer training, which will take place in Springfield, MA from 6-8:30pm on June 5th and 6th, 2012.

For those interested in volunteering, the training will provide the necessary information for beginning work in a shelter.  For those not yet old enough to volunteer, the training offers a unique opportunity to learn about the reality of homelessness in local communities, early childhood development and the emotional and educational needs of young children, and skills for playing with kids.  Information learned at the training can help to put homelessness (and issues causing and/or surrounding it) into perspective for families, and can help attendees understand how such issues affect their community.  Those interested in volunteering are asked to make a commitment of at least two hours per week.  To register for the training or for more information, call 413-532-0467 or e-mail aditmer@horizonsforhomelesschildren.org.


Horizons for Homeless Children is a non-profit agency dedicated to providing programs and services for homeless children in MA. The West Region office installs kid friendly playspaces inside of homeless shelters throughout Western MA, including the Berkshires, Greenfield, Northampton, Amherst, Holyoke, and Springfield. They actively recruit and train volunteers from the community to go into the Playspaces to play with the homeless children.

Great interview on WGBY’s Connecting Point:

Connecting Point writes, “Joanna Carrington, Playspace Programs West Regional Director at Horizons for Homeless Children; Nicole Lussier, Program Director for “Open Pantry” Teen Living Program in Springfield; and Playspace Activity Leader Denise Donnelly discuss the efforts to assist homeless kids through creation of playspaces at shelters –so homeless kids still get a chance to be kids despite the difficult circumstances they and their families are facing.”

Community Service: Mass Audubon Statewide Volunteer Day

Work for Wildlife
Mass Audubon 6th Annual Statewide Volunteer Day
Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Spending the day helping with spring clean-up efforts is a way for families to contribute to the preservation of community resources, and can help kids learn about environmental stewardship.

Spend a day volunteering with Mass Audubon! The organization’s annual Statewide Volunteer Day will take place on Saturday, April 28th from 9am-12noon in locations across the state.

In Western MA, families can volunteer at one of three sanctuaries: Canoe Meadows in Pittsfield; Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton; or Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Hampden. Volunteers can help to clean up trails, gardens, and nature centers – there are activities for all ages and abilities, everything from preparing garden beds for planting to restoring trails.

In Pittsfield and Easthampton, families with children of all ages can choose to help set up compost sites, expand herb beds, repair scarecrows, or pick up trash from spring floods.  And at all three locations families with teens can choose to help stake gardens, rake pathways, clear and expand turtle nesting sites, remove invasive plant species, loading canoes & row boats, install a new children’s garden area, along with cleaning up winter debris. For more information check their page, Work for Wildlife, or call 781-259-2185.  Each sanctuary has a limited number of volunteer slots, so be sure to sign up soon!

Do you know of a community service opportunity for families in Western MA?  Tell us so we can share with families interested in volunteering with their kids in our community: hilltownfamilies@gmail.com.

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