Kids’ Corner

Parents, teachers, club leaders and other caregivers often ask how kids can support Doorways’ mission. Young people are a very important part of our community, and there are several ways they can volunteer their time to help their neighbors.

10 Ways Youth Can Get Involved

1. Learn about the issues

One of the most important actions a young person can take is learning about the issues impacting their neighbors—at an age-appropriate level—as well as how those issues might impact them. Conversations with your child can start simply, focusing on kindness and empathy, growing in specificity and detail as they age. Talking with your kids about healthy relationships can start early, for example, with discussions about being kind to one another. To get started, here’s a recommended reading list that introduces the concepts of homelessness and poverty, consent, healthy relationships, and philanthropy in kid-friendly stories:

  • Mango’s Quest by Ralph da Costa Nunez with Robyn Schwartz
  • Cooper’s Tale by Ralph da Costa Nunez with Willow Schrager
  • A Place to Stay: A Shelter Story by Erin Gunti
  • A Shelter in Our Car by Monica Gunning
  • Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting
  • Saily’s Journey by Ralph da Costa Nunez with Karina Kwok
  • Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
  • C is for Consent by Eleanor Morrison
  • Let’s Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect by Jayneen Sanders
  • Love Is by Diane Adams
  • Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer
  • Being You: A First Conversation About Gender by Megan Madison and Jessica Ralli
  • Kindness Makes Us Strong by Sophie Beer
  • Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race by Megan Madison and Jessica Ralli
  • The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
  • Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt
  • Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
  • Many Shapes of Clay: A Story of Healing Hardcover by Kenesha Sneed
  • Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson
  • Stone Soup, a folk tale retold by many authors
  • The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth
  • Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids and Bucket Filling from A to Z: The Key to Being Happy by Carol McCloud

2. Participate in one of Doorways’ kid-friendly events and awareness days

Throughout the year, there are awareness days, campaigns and other events that kids and youth can join in age-appropriate ways. Whether it’s wearing purple on Purple Out in October to celebrate healthy relationships or attending an event like Rocklands’ annual roast benefitting Doorways, there are opportunities throughout the year to join our community in making an impact.

3. Create a giving jar

“Sometimes my grandmother would send me to the corner store for a loaf of bread and give me two dimes. I had a little ‘piggy’ bank in her kitchen and she would have me put one dime in the bank and one dime in my pocket. The idea being that you should enjoy and spend some of your money and also save for the future.” —Eileen Flynn, Doorways Legacy Society member

Giving jars can be a great way to keep compassion, gratitude and generosity central to your child’s life. Creating the jar can be a fun family project; decorate an old jar, coffee can or other container, and decide when gifts will be added. Perhaps you add money to celebrate good things that happen, as a wish for good things to happen to the people who the donations will eventually support.

Older children who receive allowance can pay forward a portion to their neighbors through the jar. Younger kids can count the things they’re grateful for and add a dollar to the jar for each. Both of these examples also provide opportunities to talk with your child about the challenges facing families in their community, helping them to be mindful of those in difficult situations. You can also incentivize your kids to give by offering to match their donations yourself.

Once you’ve determined how you’ll use it, place it in a central location in your home so everyone remembers to participate. Keep up the conversation as gifts are placed in the jar. You can even wrap in money management skills like saving and basic budgeting. At the end of each month, or however often makes sense for your family, donate content of the jar to Doorways to support the adults, youth and kids we serve.

4. Add Doorways to your grocery list

Adding Doorways to your grocery list is another great way to keep giving to Doorways top of mind. Like the giving jar, create a bag or box in your kitchen or pantry. Every time you go to the grocery store, buy an item that Doorways needs—see our urgent needs list for examples—and add that item to the bag. Once it’s full, schedule a time to deliver the contents to Doorways. During holidays such as Thanksgiving, extended family members can also be invited to participate, offering your kids an important opportunity to share about the project and see their passion supported by their relatives. This fosters conversation about giving back, and why people in our community need items like the ones you’re collecting.

5. Pay it forward around birthdays and holidays

For birthdays and other holidays, several young philanthropists have asked for donations, gift cards and gifts from our urgent needs list for their neighbors at Doorways instead of (or in addition to) gifts for themselves. This is a great way to help your child learn to celebrate themselves and their life by lifting someone else up.

You can also create your own online fundraising page to collect monetary gifts for Doorways. You’ll be notified when someone donates, and, through an app, be able to send thank you notes!

6. Host a fundraiser

Empower your kid to get creative in designing a fundraiser for Doorways. Many children have hosted a lemonade stand or bake sale, for example, to raise funds. The process of imagining a fundraiser, setting a goal, and creating a plan to make it happen can teach your child valuable skills, including financial awareness, organization and communication skills. It also enables them to practice asking for help and support!

You can also create your own online fundraising page to collect monetary gifts for Doorways. You’ll be notified when someone donates, and, through an app, be able to send thank you notes!

7. Sponsor a fellow kid through Doorways’ campaigns

Grace Stroup drops off back-to-school items from St. Mary’s Episcopal Church

The back-to-school and holiday seasons are generally exciting and fun for kids, but they can be stressful for children and families at Doorways. They’ve lived in unstable situations, and may have experienced or witnessed abuse; in these situations, survival is the priority, and there may not be resources available for school supplies or holiday gifts.

Through our Back to School and Holiday Wishes campaigns, we pair your family with a child or family at Doorways, providing you their wish lists. You can shop as a family for these items—kids, in particular, are great at picking out items for fellow kids—and discuss what these gifts mean to the recipients. Older children might also want to make a financial donation to Doorways’ Back to School campaign to support other expenses such as visits to potential colleges and other school-related activities.

Additionally, children can also purchase Doorways’ Mother’s Day cards for the moms, grandmothers, aunts and other important people in their life. These cards benefit the women and families at Doorways, and can be a great way to connect their love for the important people in their lives with giving to support others.

8. Lead a donation drive

Donation drives are particularly great opportunities for groups such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, school clubs, sports teams and faith groups. Using Doorways’ urgent needs list and/or online Amazon Wish List, groups can collect items for our shelters and programs, including gift cards, which are always needed. It’s generally easiest to collect the items at a central location, such as where the group meets, and deliver the items all at once to Doorways at the conclusion of the drive. This is a great way to make giving a team effort. Throughout the process of planning and executing the drive, there are many opportunities to talk with the group about the importantce of their project and the impact they’ll make in their neighbors’ lives.

9. Raise awareness

Kids are curious. Have you ever passed someone on the street with a sign about being homeless? Has your child asked you about them? Helping them understand the challenges facing many of our neighbors is a powerful beginning to their involvement in the cause. In addition to talking with them about what they see and wonder about, it’s also important to help them understand what they don’t see, like families experiencing homelessness. You can also help them understand the importance of healthy relationships and their own bodily autonomy well before you might talk about domestic violence or consent.

10. Host an event at your school, church or another community center

Patrick Henry Elementary School Halloween Costume Parade/Walk to End Homelessness

Each October, Fleet (formerly Patrick Henry) Elementary School and Thomas Jefferson Middle School host Walks to End Homelessness to raise awareness and funds to support Doorways’ efforts in our community. Before the walk, Doorways’ staff visits the schools and speaks with students about homelessness—through an age-appropriate Homelessness 101 talk—and how to help our neighbors who are experiencing it. If you’re interested in hosting a Walk to End Homelessness or Homelessness 101 at your school, class or meeting, please contact Linley Beckbridge, Communications and Outreach Manager, at (703) 504-9283 or

Make Time to Reflect

Whichever ways your family chooses to give, it’s important to take time to reflect on the importance on philanthropy. It’s also important to highlight that a family is not going to be “needy” forever. But instead, focus on how the family has a need, and right now, we have a surplus, so we can share. This also helps demonstrate the importance of your family’s support. Here are some sample questions to jumpstart your family’s conversations about giving:

Questions for families to talk about together:

  • What does giving/philanthropy mean to us?
  • What causes are important to each of us? How can we help one another support these causes?
  • What are we grateful for?
  • Why is it important to give?
  • What are some other ways we can help one another and our community?

Questions for kids:

  • How do you feel about doing this activity?
  • How do they think the kid/family who will receive this gift will feel about getting it?
  • If you could share a message with someone at Doorways, what would you want them to know?