Do you wish to cultivate compassion, kindness, and community responsibility in your children? How can you teach them firsthand that their efforts can improve other’s lives and our world? What are some fun ways to spend time together and strengthen your family? Here are five tips to help you explore the benefits and delights of family volunteering!
Encourage all family members to help select volunteer opportunities. The more engaged everyone is in the selection process, the more committed all will be to the chosen projects. Think about your family members’ ages, talents, and interests. What issues are important to everyone? Your family can become environmental activists or work for human rights. You can host a fundraiser, organize a collection, or start a neighborhood garden. The possibilities are endless!
Consider different ways of weaving service into your family’s life:
Enjoy occasional “kitchen table” service projects: volunteer opportunities you can do from home. For example, create a no-sew fleece blanket for a child in need of comfort (binkypatrol.com), make greeting cards for children who are ill (makeachildsmile.org), or send an email message to our troops.
Set aside a “Doing Good Together” time each week or each month. During that time your family might pick up litter (wildernessproject.org), collect food for your local food shelf, or deliver soup to a neighbor who is ill. For more ideas, sign up at doinggoodtogether.org to receive an e-mail list of five Twin Cities family volunteer opportunities each month.
Choose one ongoing project. Consider visiting a local nursing home regularly, cooking a monthly meal at a homeless shelter, delivering meals to the homebound (meals-on-wheels.com), or mentoring a child (kidsnkinship.org).
Start a holiday tradition. You might sponsor a child for gift-giving, help with a toy drive (toysfortots.org), or decorate a shelter or nursing home.
Participate in community-wide clean-up (most nature centers and park districts have these events around Earth Day).
Plant native species, collect seeds for prairie restoration, and/or remove invasive species (fmr.org; greatrivergreening.org).
Plant trees. (arborday.org)
Stencil storm drains (cleanwatermn.org).
Make, use, and share reusable gift bags and greeting cards created from recyclable materials during the holidays.
Help with live animal care or other events through the Three Rivers Park District (threeriversparkdistrict.org).
Research an organization carefully before your family decides to volunteer there. If possible, ask a current or past volunteer about the pros and cons of working there.
Discuss your experiences with one another. Before beginning the volunteer job, explain to your children what will happen, how they’re expected to behave and why the job is important. Ask about their concerns. Later, discuss any issues that arise, share thoughts about the project, and talk about what you’re all learning.
Have fun! The more everyone enjoys their family volunteering experiences, the more often you’ll make them a priority.
ON THE WEB!
Hands On Twin Cities, handsontwincities.org
Do It Green! Minnesota, to find a local environmental organization,
The Busy Family’s Guide to Volunteering, by Jenny Friedman, Robins Lane Press, 2003.
The Giving Box: Create a Tradition of Giving with Your Children, by Fred Rogers, Running Press, 2000.
Doing Good Together