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What Is Community Service?

Community service is work done by a person or group of people that benefits

others. It is often done near the area where you live, so your own community reaps the
benefits of your work. You do not get paid to perform community service, but volunteer
your time. Community service can help many different groups of people: children, senior
citizens, people with disabilities, even animals and the environment. Community
service is often organized through a local group, such as a place of worship, school,
or non-profit organization, or you can start your own community service
projects. Community service can even involve raising funds by donating used goods or
selling used good like clothing.

Many people participate in community service because they enjoy helping others and
improving their community. Some students are required to do community service in
order to graduate high school or to receive certain honors. Some adults are also
ordered by a judge to complete a certain number of community service hours.

Why Should You Participate in Community Service?

There are numerous benefits to participating in community service, both for yourself and
others. Below are some of the most important benefits of volunteering:

 Gives you a way to help others

 Helps improve your community
 Can help strengthen your resume and college applications
 Can be a way to meet new friends
 Often results in personal growth
 Gives you a way to gain work experience and learn more about certain jobs

How Should You Use This List?

This list of over one hundred community service examples is organized by category,
so if you're particularly interested in working with, say, children or animals, you can
easily find community service activities more related to your interests.

In order to use this list most effectively, read through it and make note of any community
service ideas that match your interests and that you may want to participate in. Some
considerations to keep in mind are:

 Who would you like to help?

o Is there a specific group of people or cause you are passionate about?
Look for projects that relate to your passion and interests. You may also
just want to perform particular community service activities that allow you
to do hobbies you enjoy, like baking or acting, and that's fine too.

 Do you want a community service activity that is reoccurring or a one-time


o Perhaps you don't have enough time to regularly devote to community

service. In that case, it may be better to look for opportunities that only
occur once or sporadically, such as planning special events or helping
build a house.

 What kind of impact do you want to have?

o Some people prefer to participate in community service activities that have
a quantifiable impact, for example, activities where you know the specific
number of kids you tutored, dollars you raised, or cans of food you
collected. This is in contrast to activities that don't have such clear
numbers, such as creating a garden or serving as a volunteer lifeguard.
Some people prefer quantifiable activities because they feel they look
stronger on college applications, or because they simply enjoy knowing
their exact impact on the community.

 What skills would you like to gain?

o Many community service activities can help you gain skills. These skills
can range from teaching to medicine to construction and more. If there is a
particular skill you'd like to learn for future classes, jobs, or just out of
personal interest, you may want to see if there is a community service
activity that helps you learn that skill.
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List of Community Service Examples
Below I've listed over 100 community service ideas to get you started with

General Ideas

 Donate or raise money for your local Red Cross

 Organize a community blood drive

 Send cards to soldiers serving overseas

 For your next birthday, ask for charitable donations instead of gifts

 Hold a bake sale for your favorite charity

 Read books or letters to a person who is visually impaired

 Organize a wheelchair basketball team

 Participate in a charity race

 Organize an event or parade for Memorial Day

 Volunteer to help at a charity auction

 Participate in National Youth Service Day in April

 Contact a tree farm about donating Christmas trees to nursing homes, hospitals,
or to families who can’t afford to buy their own

 Collect unused makeup and perfume to donate to a center for abused women

 Help register people to vote

 Organize a car wash and donate the profits to charity

 Help deliver meals and gifts to patients at a local hospital

 Write articles / give speeches advocating financial literarcy. First you should
learn about the topics themselves, like calculating housing costs,
or understanding personal loans, and then give presentations on these topics.

Helping Children and Schools

 Tutor children during or after school

 Donate stuffed animals to children in hospitals

 Organize games and activities for children in hospitals or who are visiting
hospitalized relatives

 Knit or crochet baby blankets to be donated to hospitals or homeless shelters

 Collect baby clothes and supplies to donate to new parents

 Organize a Special Olympics event for children and teenagers

 Sponsor a bike-a-thon and give away bike safety gear, like helmets and knee
pads, as prizes

 Collect used sports equipment to donate to families and after-school programs

 Volunteer at a summer camp for children who have lost a parent

 Sponsor a child living in a foreign country, either on your own or as part of a


 Coach a youth sports team

 Put on performances for children in hospitals

 Give free music lessons to schoolchildren

 Become a volunteer teen crisis counselor

 Organize a summer reading program to encourage kids to read

 Organize an Easter egg hunt for neighborhood children

 Create a new game for children to play

 Organize events to help new students make friends

 Babysit children during a PTA meeting

 Organize a reading hour for children at a local school or library

 Donate used children’s books to a school library

 Work with the local health department to set up an immunization day or clinic to
immunize children against childhood diseases

 Volunteer to help with Vacation Bible School or other religious camps

Helping Senior Citizens

 Read to residents at a nursing home

 Deliver groceries and meals to elderly neighbors

 Teach computer skills to the elderly

 Drive seniors to doctor appointments

 Mow an elderly neighbor’s lawn

 Host a bingo night for nursing home residents

 Host a holiday meal for senior citizens

 Make birthday cards for the elderly

 Donate and decorate a Christmas tree at a nursing home

 Organize a family day for residents of a retirement home and relatives to play
games together

 Ask residents of a retirement home to tell you about their lives

 Pick up medicine for an elderly neighbor

 Perform a concert or play at a senior center

 Help elderly neighbors clean their homes and organize their belongings

 Rake leaves, shovel snow, or wash windows for a senior citizen

 Deliver cookies to a homebound senior citizen

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Helping Animals and the Environment

 Take care of cats and dogs at an animal shelter

 Clean up a local park

 Raise money to provide a bulletproof vest for a police dog

 Plant a tree for Arbor Day

 Place a bird feeder and bird fountain in your backyard

 Start a butterfly garden in your community

 Sponsor a recycling contest

 Grow flowers in your backyard then give bouquets to hospital patients or people
who are housebound

 Help create a new walking trail at a nature center or park

 Update the signs along a nature trail

 Adopt an acre of rainforest

 Help train service dogs

 Participate in the cleanup of a local river, pond, or lake

 Foster animals that shelters don’t have space for

 Organize a spay and neuter your pet program

 Care for a neighbor’s pet while they are away

 Sponsor an animal at your local zoo

 Train your pet to be a therapy animal and bring it to hospitals or nursing homes

 Build and set up a bird house

 Organize a carpool to reduce car emissions

 Campaign for more bike lanes in your town

 Volunteer at a nature camp and teach kids about the environment

 Test the water quality of a lake or river near you

 Plant native flowers or plants along highways

Helping the Hungry and/or Homeless

 Build a house with Habitat for Humanity

 Donate your old clothes

 Volunteer at a soup kitchen

 Donate old eyeglasses to an organization that collects that and distributes them
to people in need

 Donate non-perishable food to a food bank

 Donate blankets to a homeless shelter

 Host a Thanksgiving dinner for people who may not be able to afford their own

 Offer to babysit or nanny for a family in need

 Make “care kits” with shampoo, toothbrushes, combs, etc. to donate to homeless

 Prepare a home-cooked meal for the residents of a nearby homeless shelter

 Collect grocery coupons to give to a local food bank

 Help repair or paint a local homeless shelter

 Donate art supplies to kids in a homeless shelter

 Help organize and sort donations at a homeless shelter

 Babysit children while their parents look for jobs

 Become a Big Buddy for children at a homeless shelter

 Take homeless children on outings

 Bake a batch of cookies or loaf of bread and deliver it to a soup kitchen

 Build flower boxes for Habitat for Humanity houses

 Organize a winter clothes drive to collect coats, hats, scarves, and gloves to be

 Make first aid kits for homeless shelters

Reducing Crime and Promoting Safety

 Volunteer at a police station or firehouse

 Become a certified lifeguard and volunteer at a local pool or beach

 Paint over graffiti in your neighborhood

 Organize a self-defense workshop

 Organize a drug-free campaign

 Sponsor a drug-free post-prom event

 Start or join a neighborhood watch program

 Create and distribute a list of hotlines for people who might need help

 Teach a home-alone safety class for children

 Create a TV or radio public service announcement against drug and alcohol use

 Become CPR certified

 Volunteer as a crossing guard for an elementary school

Promoting Community Enhancement

 Paint park benches

 Donate used books to your local library

 Become a tour guide at your local museum

 Repaint community fences

 Plant flowers in bare public areas

 Organize a campaign to raise money to buy and install new playground

equipment for a park

 Participate in or help organize a community parade

 Clean up vacant lot

 Produce a neighborhood newspaper

 Campaign for more lighting along poorly lit streets

 Create a newcomers group in your neighborhood to help welcome new families

 Petition your town leaders to build more drinking fountains and public restrooms

 Volunteer to clean up trash at a community event

 Adopt a local highway or road and clean up trash along it

 Help fix or raise funds to repair a run-down playground

 Clean up after a natural disaster

Next Steps
Now that you know what your options are for community service, you can take the
following steps to start getting involved:

1. Look over your interests: Which activities seem most appealing to you? Were they
mostly in one particular category, like children or the environment? If so, that's a good
starting place for choosing specific organizations to contact.

2. Figure out how much time you can devote to community service: Are you
available for two hours every week? Are you not free on a regular basis but can
volunteer for an entire weekend now and then? Think about transportation as well and
how you'll be able to get to different locations. Knowing this information will help you
choose which community service projects to pursue, and it's helpful information for
volunteer coordinators to know.

3. Do some research to see what projects you can do in your community: Check
at your school, place of worship, or town hall for more information on volunteering. You
can also contact the place where you’d like to perform your community service, such as
a particular animal shelter or nursing home, and ask if they take volunteers.

4. Start volunteering! This list ranges from small projects that you can complete on
your own in a few hours, to much larger projects that will take more time and people. If
you find a project you can start on your own, do it! If you want to do a project where
you’ll need more resources or people, check around your community to see if a similar
program already exists that you can join. If not, don’t be afraid to start your own! Many
organizations welcome new volunteers and community service projects.

Additional Information
Considering doing volunteer work in another country? Read our guide on volunteer
abroad programs and learn whether or not you should participate in one.

Are you in college or will be starting soon? Extracurriculars are one of the best parts
of college! Check out our guide to learn which extracurricular activities you should
consider in college.

Did you know that you can use your community service work to help pay for
college? Check out our step-by-step guide on how to win community service

Struggling to write about extracurriculars on your college application? Check out

our in-depth guide to crafting a compelling narrative about your extracurriculars. Read it
for free now:

Impress Colleges With Your Extracurriculars



The following community engagement models are supported by the Office of
Community Engagement through community-engaged learning courses,
student employment, or volunteer opportunities for groups or individuals.

Community Building

Projects that intentionally bring people together to simply get to know one
another. Examples include the Morris Community Meal.

Community Education

Projects that provide instructional services or curricula, or serve to educate

the public about a social issue (in a non-partisan way). Examples include the
TREC program, Community ESL classes, and Gather in the Park.

Community Organizing
Projects that bring people together with the goal of solving a community issue.
Please note that OCE cannot work on partisan issues, but can contribute to
creating solutions for non-partisan, local issues. An example is assistance in
establishing the Latino Parent Advisory Board for the local school.

Deliberative Dialogue

Projects that intentionally bring people together to build understanding across


Direct Service

Projects that provide a service or product to an individual, group, or the

community as a whole. Examples include filling a volunteer shift at a local
organization, creating social media tools for an organization, or creating a
community mural.

Economic Development

Projects that work on developing the regional economy in a sustainable way.

Note that OCE does not partner with for-profit entities except when doing so
would benefit the community as a whole and not the for-profit only
organization. Examples include feasibility studies for new businesses and
projects that attract people to small town business disricts.

Engaged Research

Research that directly benefits the community by clarifying the causes of a

community challenge, mapping a community's assets, or contributing to
solutions to current challenges and also fits a faculty member's research
agenda. In the best case scenario, faculty with research expertise work
alongside community members and students on such projects. An example
would be the MIEI community needing assessment.

Institutional Engagement

University resources intentionally offered without undue barriers to the

community. OCE can play a role in envisioning institutional engagement
efforts. Examples include making Briggs library cards available for community
members, making campus events accessible, and choosing to use local and
sustainable businesses to supply services or goods.
Pastoral care is not merely a complementary practice; it is policy and
practices fully integrated throughout the teaching and learning and
structural organisation of a school to effectively meet the personal, social
(wellbeing) and academic needs of students and staff.

The health and wellbeing of students is increasingly being attributed to

school conditions, school relationships, means of fulfilment, and health
status (Konu, Alanen, Lintonen & Rimpela, 2002).

Subsequently, pastoral care has taken on a more inclusive function, one

that is inextricably linked with teaching and learning and the structural
organisation of the school - promoting students' personal and social
development and fostering positive attitudes. This is done through the
quality of teaching and learning; through the nature of relationships
amongst students, teachers and adults other than teachers; through
arrangements for monitoring students’ overall progress (academic,
personal and social); through specific pastoral and support systems; and
through extra-curricular activities and the school’s ethos (Her Majesty’s
Inspectors of Schools, 1989).

From this perspective, pastoral care can assist students to develop positive
self-esteem, healthy risk taking, goal setting and negotiation, thus
enhancing their strengths and other protective factors contributing to their
resiliency as well as developing a sense of social cohesion that together can
improve their overall health and wellbeing (Nadge, 2005 and Doll & Lyon,

Quality pastoral care focuses on the whole student (personal, social, and
academic) and it engages all members of the school community as
providers of pastoral care. It actively involves the community in consistent,
comprehensive, multi-level activities which incorporate whole-school
approaches, class or other group approaches, individual programs (early
intervention), and casework.

Regular reviews of a school’s pastoral care policies and practices help the
school community to systematically assess their school’s pastoral care
resources, strengths, needs, threats and opportunities. This information
can help schools map their pastoral care resources, activities and services
against their pastoral care and academic outcomes to objectively
determine where pastoral care activity can be reduced, redirected and

The following 10-point action plan provides a snapshot of a process that

will help schools systematically review their pastoral care program.

Image: Donna Cross and Leanne Lester.

Stage 1: Engage and involve the community

Engaging the whole school community (staff, students and parents) is a

key strategy to promote pastoral care in schools. Clemett and Pearce
(1989) state that pastoral care is effective ‘when everyone in the school
community knows, and feels secure in the knowledge that as valued
members of that community, they can participate in giving and receiving
encouragement, guidance and support’. Policies and programmes need to
provide opportunities for staff, students and parents to be involved in
making decisions, being heard and making a contribution to the
community (Bernard, 1996).

Stage 2: Review staff wellbeing

A review of staff wellbeing will enable the assessment of the

appropriateness and effectiveness of current systems, structures and
services in the school that provide support in this area. Staff wellbeing can
be enhanced through professional learning, celebrating staff strengths and
achievements, policies to prevent and reduce staff stress, encouragement
to collaborate with other staff, and access to professional advice (Cefai &
Cavioni, 2014), (Cross & Lester, 2014), (Howieson & Semple, 2000). If staff
wellbeing is cared for, then staff are more able to care for student

Stage 3: Review student wellbeing outcomes

According to Cross, Lester and Barnes (2014), students present a socially

relevant and accurate depiction of the quality of pastoral care provided in
their school, hence their involvement in the review process is essential to
guide school improvement. The review could assess student wellbeing
using the four critical components of pastoral care: promotion of health
and wellbeing; resilience; academic care; and social capital within the
school community (Nadge, 2005). A variety of standardised reliable and
valid measures can be used by schools to conduct this assessment.

Stage 4: Use data to assess the quality of current practices

Schools have access to many different sources of data: academic,

behavioural and attendance as well as student, parent and staff satisfaction
surveys. These data can be used to measure the predictors of or the
effectiveness of current pastoral care practices. Quantitative and
qualitative data can be collected from all levels in the school - the whole-
school level (senior executive team), from house or year groups, as well as
tutors, students and parents and carers.

Stage 5: Map policies and practices against outcomes

Pastoral care policies and practices can be mapped against the schools’
strategic plan and key pastoral care outcomes in order to identify existing
overlaps and gaps. This stage also assesses the appropriateness and
effectiveness of current systems, practices, policies and services, and the
extent to which these achieve the identified wellbeing outcomes.

Stage 6: Enable staff to reflect on their own pastoral care practices

Teachers and other school staff need to clarify their understanding of their
pastoral care role, and how their own actions, and their relationships with
students, can enhance or harm the wellbeing of students (Best, 2002). This
‘academic care’ is influenced by: personal qualities of teachers and their
relationships with students; the curriculum and its ability to promote
meaningful participation and positive learning experiences; the school’s
organisational structure and its ability to offer safety, support, trust,
guidance and challenge; and links with the broader community.
Stage 7: Decide what needs to be stopped, started and kept

Determination by staff of what is currently working well, what’s not

working well, what’s missing and what’s promising in the school is
essential, especially given the limited resources for pastoral care. This
decision making may consider policies and practices related to the five key
pastoral care school-level tasks: proactive, preventative pastoral care;
developmental pastoral teaching and learning; the
supportive/collaborative environment; reactive casework; and the
management and administration of pastoral care (Department of
Education, 2001).

Stage 8: Clearly delineate roles and responsibilities

Careful delineation of the roles and responsibilities of all members of the

school community to promote a safe and supportive environment needs to
be explicit, clearly understood by all and disseminated widely and often.
This understanding reduces the pastoral care burden often experienced by
pastoral leaders within the school, and encourages students, staff and
families to recognise how much they can contribute to a positive, safe and
supportive school culture.

Stage 9: Communicate progress regularly

Present the purpose, process, major findings and recommendations from a

review to the staff and other members of the school community. To ensure
ongoing engagement, support for and sustainability of pastoral care within
the whole-school community, community members need to be updated
regularly on the pastoral care activities and processes being implemented.

Stage 10: Provide sufficient capacity and resources

Sufficient staff capacity and resources are needed to successfully align and
integrate the outcomes of a pastoral care review into the school’s vision
and strategic plan. A pastoral care ‘master plan’ can be used to guide and
monitor the ongoing implementation of recommendations to the school


Benard, B. (1996). From research to practice: the foundations of the

resiliency paradigm. Resiliency in action, 1(1): 1-6.

Best, R. (2002) Pastoral care and personal social education. A review of UK

research undertaken for the British Educational Research
Association. Cited 2005, 1 December. Retrieved
from http://www.bera.ac.uk/pdfs/BEST-PastoralCare&PSE.pdf
Cefai, C., Cavioni, V. (2014). Social and Emotional Education in Primary
School: Integrating Theory and Research Into Practice. Springer.

Clemett, A.J. and Pearce, J.S. (1989). The evaluation of pastoral

care. Oxford: Blackwell.

Cross, D., Lester, L. (2014). The Wellbeing of Teachers. In submission.

Cross, D., Lester, L., Barnes, A. (2014). Evaluating pastoral care.

Independence, 30(1): 46-51.

Department of Education (2001). Pathways to Health and Wellbeing In

Schools: A Focus Paper. Cited 2005, 20 December. Retrieved
from http://www.health.wa.gov.au/mentalhealth/symposium/ChildYouth/

Doll B., Lyon M.A. (1998). Risk and resilience: Implications for the delivery
of educational and mental health services in schools. School Psychology
Review, 27(3): 348.

Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools (1989). Pastoral care in secondary

schools. An inspection of some aspects of pastoral care in 1987-
88. London: Department of Education and Science.

Howieson, C., Semple, S. (2000). The evaluation of guidance: Listening to

pupils' views. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 28 (3): 373.

Konu A., Alanen E., Lintonen T., Rimpela M. (2002). Factor structure of the
School Well-being Model. Health Education Research, 17(6): 732.

Ministerial Council on Education Employment Training and Youth Affairs

(2003). National safe schools framework. Cited 2005 9 December.
Retrieved from http://www.mceetya.edu.au/pdf/natsafeschools.pdf

Nadge A. (2005). Academic care: building resilience, building

futures. Pastoral Care, 23(1): 28-33.

Nadge, A. (2005). Academic care: from research to reality. Independent

Education. 35(2): 30-32.

Does your school undertake a regular pastoral care review?

What changes have you made to the school as a result of the findings?