Kids Help Out

Young volunteers get creative to help others

  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

Times are tougher than usual this year, and kids are feeling the pinch. They are also working to help make things better by volunteering and raising money.

"It's important to be thankful for what you have because there are a lot of kids in need," said Caley Backstrom, a 9 year old from Vista Grande Elementary School in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Caley and her family volunteer for Joy Junction, the largest homeless shelter in Albuquerque, and the only shelter where families are allowed to stay together.

The Backstrom family volunteers regularly, helping serve food to kids and their families who would otherwise go hungry during this holiday season. Caley said she plans to keep helping out throughout the holiday and into the next year.

Hard Times

The number of homeless children living at Joy Junction has increased rapidly recently. Due to hard times, more families are unable to afford the price of housing or food. According to Jonathan Matheny, the volunteer coordinator for the shelter, 80 children currently live at Joy Junction. Last year during the holiday season, there were only 45 children living at the shelter.

Matheny said that families end up at a homeless shelter for many reasons that include job loss and illness. He and his family were once homeless and received help from Joy Junction.

The increased number of homeless families requires extra volunteers. Those helping out include kids who have never volunteered before and kids like Caley Backstrom's little brother, Caleb, who started volunteering when he was 4. Like the Backstroms, these young volunteers gave up their Thanksgiving to help serve turkey at Joy Junction.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Joy Junction served 1,700 people at its service at the Convention Center in Albuquerque, and hundreds more at the shelter.

Children help out by working together to put dinner rolls on plates and carry food, drinks, and dessert to the tables. Volunteers also help to set up and clean up after meal services.

"I am worried about kids in need," said Autumn Silva, 13, of Las Lunas Middle School in New Mexico. She is a first time volunteer and served food along with her brothers, mother, and grandma. "We're here because we are worried and want to do what we can to help out. Problems with our economy hurt kids in lots of ways. Class sizes are getting bigger and there have been big budget cuts."

Silva said that because of school funding problems, her school didn't have enough money to pay for supplies for sports programs or for extracurricular activities.

Kids at Silva’s school and the community joined together to volunteer to give back to the community in rough times, just like she and her family are doing by helping serve food at Joy Junction.

"It's not all bad, because I think the economy is making kids be creative and kids are learning to help others," Silva said. "At my school we had less instruments for band, so we came up with new ideas for fundraisers like holding a chili night and having frozen food fundraisers to get the money we needed."

Check out a slideshow of kids volunteering at Joy Junction over the Thanksgiving holiday!

Kids and the Economy

Kid Reporters take a look at the economy and how it is affecting kids and their communities during this holiday season in the Kids and the Economy Special Report.

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The Scholastic Kids Press Corps was a team of about 50 Kid Reporters around the nation that brought news to life with reporting for kids, by kids.