This post was featured on TODAY Parenting Team‘s site.
My Family Volunteering Dilemma
When my son was a toddler, I wanted to do some volunteer work in my community but quickly realized how difficult this would be with such a young child in tow. I could not find any child-friendly projects. I did not want to pay a babysitter and take time away from my son in order to volunteer, so I gave up for a few years.
Kids Care Is Born
About the time of my daughter’s first birthday, I was introduced to a woman who just started working at my congregation tasked with organizing community service projects for our members. I quickly let her know my passion to do volunteer work alongside my children. After a few brainstorm planning sessions, we developed the Kids Care program that my husband and I now sponsor.
I am so proud and excited about this program because its mission is to organize hands-on volunteer projects for families. Many of the projects are focused on kids helping kids in need. I believe strongly in doing community work with my children to teach them about charitable service and to expose them to the world beyond their comfort zone.
Families Making a Difference
At Kids Care, we welcome children of all ages to participate. Parents and grandparents bring their children to these educational, inspiring events. It is truly amazing to see the generations working together to make a difference. At one event last year, there were four generations from one family volunteering at a nursing home–from a six year old girl to her great-grandmother in her eighties.
We have entertained the elderly at holiday time; made snacks for children’s after school programs in economically challenged neighborhoods; packed food kits for hungry families all over the world; built Lego toys for autistic children; decorated cards for the sick, the elderly, and troops overseas; and spent time with the disabled.
Our Top Three
Three events in the last year were especially momentous for my children. They were the hit of the show at a nursing home when they sang songs and danced with residents. There is a fabulous picture of my son dancing with an older gentleman in his nineties—both of them are glowing from the camaraderie they shared like they were a grandson and grandfather pair.
My children enjoyed time with residents at a center for the disabled. We served them a home cooked meal of tasty salads and baked ziti, and entertained them with a fun game of Bingo. My children volunteered to give out the prizes. It was so meaningful for them to see how excited the winners were to receive a simple gift. Although this was the first time my children were around handicapped people, they treated them like their friends and never questioned their differences.
Finally, the most meaningful project was the one my children and I created together for a large community service day at our congregation. My son loves Legos, so he worked with a partner to collect new and used Legos from friends at school and in the neighborhood. Then during the community service event, children built toys that were given to students at the Palm Beach School for Autism. It was so rewarding for my children to be involved in a project they helped create. It was a huge hit for all children involved, and we hope to do it again next year.
I encourage all of you to explore volunteer opportunities in your local community that you can do as a family. To help you get started, I have provided some amazing resources. There are so many ways that you can give together. And if you don’t find something that you love, create it yourself! Your children and the people you help will thank you.
- Generation On’s Family Volunteer Guide: This online handbook provides so many fabulous tips for families embarking on new volunteer activities, such as age-appropriate ideas, a searchable database to locate local volunteer opportunities, and ways to reflect after a project is complete.
- Doing Good Together’s Start Your Kindness Practice Worksheets: These easy printable worksheets guide your family in identifying your interests, priorities, and talents so you can choose the best volunteer projects possible.
- PBSkids.org’s Family Guide to Volunteering: This comprehensive printable booklet explains how to choose a project, provides important reminders while on-site at a project, and offers ways to reflect and share your experience.
- Idealist: This is one of the best sites for searching volunteer opportunities all over the world. The best part is they have an option to locate projects that are appropriate for families to do together.
What is your most meaningful family volunteer project?