Q: I want my sons to experience volunteering. How can I find programs that will involve them with other teens?
A: Every YMCA in NYC has a "Leaders Club," where teenagers organize projects like reading to tots after school and neighborhood-park clean-ups. To find a branch near you, call 212-630-YMCA. In Brooklyn, the Prospect Park YMCA (357 9th Street; talk to Ed Michel, 718-768-7171) holds fund-raising car washes, bake sales, and phone-athons.
For longer term projects, check out the Queens-based Samuel Field YM-YWHA (58-20 Little Neck Pkwy.; call Hal Eisenberg, 718-225-6750, ext. 272). This youth group has worked with Habitat for Humanity, planned a festival for physically disabled adults, and distributed clothing to the homeless.
For groups of teens, the Youth Service Opportunities Project (15 Rutherford Place; call Ed Doty, 212-598-0973) arranges weekend work camps where young volunteers spend the night at YSOP headquarters near Union Square after preparing and serving dinners at soup kitchens citywide.
The 92nd Street Y (1395 Lexington Avenue; 212-415-5614) oversees 400 high-school students involved in community service. Adviser Sergio Alati helps each participant choose an activity, from bringing food to homebound elderly to manning water stations at the New York City marathon.
Not sure what you're looking for? Go to www.volunteermatch.org, a searchable database of volunteer opportunities. Options range from dog walking for the ASPCA to tutoring adult-literacy students.