Tucson teens looking to give back to the community and complete volunteer hours can now easily do so without leaving home through a new program offered by the Pima County Public Library.
The library recently introduced its Library Virtual Volunteer program after hearing from teens who wanted to know how they could continue to volunteer for the library during this time, says Pam Park, assistant manager at the Flowing Wells branch.
Pre-pandemic, teen volunteers helped at branches throughout the county with tasks like handing out prizes for the popular kids summer reading program, shelving and organizing and assisting with library programs and events.
"It gives them the opportunity to develop skills that help them on their way to adulthood," Park says. "Sometimes they have volunteer hours that are required for their schools and so volunteering at the library really helps to fulfill that."
Teens from age 13 to 18 who live all across Pima County can sign up to be a virtual volunteer on the library's website. So far 35 teens have signed up and the library will be accepting new volunteers on a rolling basis.
For the first project, teens will work on creating cards for residents in assisted living and long-term care homes as part of the Pima Love Notes project. The teens can work independently or join a library-organized Zoom meeting to create cards together with other volunteers. The library is also putting together kits with cardstock, colored pencils and card templates that teens can pick up at a nearby library branch in case they don't have crafting supplies at home.
"We happened to see the Pima Love Notes project and thought this is perfect because this way teens can work on their own, but they're a part of a community effort and they're reaching out to the community that way," Park says.
The next project will have a civic engagement focus where teens will be taught about voting and the census and asked to share what they learned with at least five other people, Park says.
Future volunteer opportunities include writing book reviews, helping host virtual programs and illustrating stories written by children and teens as part of the library's Story Sketches project. Teens will also be invited to share their own ideas and volunteer projects they are interested in working on.
"I want them to know that their voices are really important in the community and their contributions are always welcome," Park says. " It's important to hear what their thoughts and ideas and hopes are for the community."
Learn more about the library's virtual teen volunteer program and sign up here.