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CLOSE CLEVELAND – Summertime offers opportunity for self discovery. The lazy days, assuming we take the time to enjoy them, are great days for relaxation and observation. And they can be a great time to learn something new about ourselves – and our children.

Many of us will plan activities for our children that push the envelope of creativity – piano lessons for the first time, a karate camp, art classes. This is the time to explore. Volunteering is another way to learn something new.

The great thing about the following ideas is that they are versatile. Some require parental participation which can be fun. Some don’t, which is great for working parents. And the best part? Most are free!

So delve into this list of volunteering ideas – your children will feel good about the work they do in the community and they may discover a new passion.

University Hospitals has an eight-week volunteer program called Teen Scene. It’s specifically for teens 15 years old through graduation. Volunteers read to infants and children, work in the gift shop and push the book cart. Space is limited.

At The Gathering Place , volunteers work with people who are affected by cancer. Volunteers can serve as greeters, gardeners or retail assistants. Age requirements vary.

Severance Hall Junior Volunteers Corps allows children to immerse themselves in their arts. They work as ushers, ticket takers, greeters and store staff.

Outdoor lovers ages 14-18 can work as Naturalist Assistants at the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center . They help care for and feed animals!

Children and teens can learn the value of helping Cleveland’s homeless and hungry by sorting and serving food at the Food Pantry of The Cleveland Foodbank .

And pet lovers of all ages can feed kittens and puppies, clean cages and groom animals at the Brooklyn Animal Shelter .

Zoo, Zoo Crew is a favorite at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Teens ages 13-17 assist in the education department. Volunteers can commit to one day a week for the entire summer.

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