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Vacation a Prime Time for Volunteer Work

During winter break, students can help community groups with tasks such as sorting and distributing food to the needy.


Many Valley kids have plenty to be thankful for today--lots to eat this afternoon, and the beginning of a long weekend for pursuits like shopping, going to the movies or engaging in recreational sports. Plus there's something more--the prospect of a winter vacation from school.

During this period, high school and junior high kids might consider sharing some of their good fortune and, more specifically, some of their leisure time by doing community volunteer work.

Brenda Coleman, director of the Thousand Oaks Teen Center, has given considerable thought to this matter.

"These kids have a lot of leadership ability [and] by having teens help run an operation [like ours], it gives them more of a sense of ownership.'

She has volunteering opportunities available during the upcoming holidays for high school kids to help as "assistant chaperons" at dances where the guests will predominantly be middle-school kids.

Other organizations could use some help during the holiday season. Teens could devote a dozen hours to collecting, sorting and distributing food for the Ventura County Food Bank's "Holiday Challenge" or spend a couple of hours keeping watch over one of the Angel Tree gift collection sites being set up at Kmart and Wal-Mart by the Ventura County Salvation Army.

Volunteering benefits both the community and the kids, said Diane Dempwolf, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment at the Ventura County superintendent of schools office. "It benefits both the doer and the recipient," she said. "Students feel like worthwhile citizens when they can make a contribution."

And volunteer work can earn kids credit toward their high school diploma. "Requiring community service as a way of meeting the developmental needs of students has become popular [among educators] in the last few years," Dempwolf said. "It gives students experience in responsible behavior."

Many, but not all, schools in the county have programs in which teachers arrange for kids to do community work. But the students don't always earn academic credit.

Dempwolf advises kids to check with their school principal--not only to see if there is such a program, but to pick up suggestions about interesting volunteer work near home or school.


* FYI: For referrals to agencies that will accept young volunteers for vacation and after-school work, call:

Interface Children, Family Services of Ventura County--For church, shelter, food bank and rescue mission volunteer opportunities throughout Ventura County; (800) 339-9597.

Thousand Oaks Teen Center--(805) 494-5156.

Thousand Oaks Public Library--Norma Callero, management assistant for volunteers and grants, handles referrals to agencies in the Conejo Valley and elsewhere in the county; (805) 449-2660, Ext. 225.

FOOD Share "Holiday Challenge"--Junior and senior high kids should call Jeff Dronkers at (805) 983-7100 before Dec. 9 to sign up to help with several food collection programs--including ones at each of the 18 Vons stores in Ventura County.

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