There are many ways families can volunteer and include their children. It starts by being aware of opportunities in your every day life.
Begin exercising a giving spirit where you live, finding out who needs help by getting out in your neighborhood, being friendly and kind. That used to be the norm, but since retro is In, it's OK to do some things the old-fashioned way.
You will soon discover, whether you are in the city or a suburb, there are neighbors who could use some help.
Maybe there are elderly and disabled folks could use some landscaping, or their homes need minor maintenance like painting, gutter cleaning, or window washing.
Single parents may not have the resources of other families to draw on. Include them in activities like field trips and cook-outs. Gift cards to local department stores and restaurants helps them out financially without it feeling like a handout.
Keep soft, thick socks stuffed with granola bars and water bottles in your car to give to homeless men and women you see while running errands.
Be aware of workers in your area, like the mailman, road construction crews, or garbage disposal workers. Offer them hot coffee in the winter, and popsicles or sports drinks in the summer.
Start a community garden and share the produce with neighbors and local soup kitchens.
Just keep looking around and your family will find ways to meet the specific needs of people where you live. Learning by doing is the best way for kids to internalize important life lessons.
You can go beyond your neighborhood with these ideas:
- Nursing homes: Kids can bring residents little gifts like quilts, pictures, and books, or sit and listen to their stories. Kids can also read and sing to them. Note on your schedule to regularly send cards and flowers.
- Project Linus: Make blankets for children who are seriously ill or have experienced a trauma, like a house fire.
- Hats: There are several kinds of “Hats of Hope” organizations. Some make winter hats for the homeless, while others make soft knitted hats for cancer patients. If you can't find one in your area, start one.
- Habitat for Humanity: I think everyone has heard of Habitat for Humanity. It’s a great way for older kids to learn carpentry skills and teamwork.
- Food pantries: Local food pantries need donations, but they also need people to load and unload supplies and organize their inventory.
- Children’s hospitals: Most children’s hospitals allow teens to volunteer in a variety of ways. Look online for a ‘wish list’ of items that are accepted as donations, such as blankets, activity bags, and craft supplies.
- Service animals: Many service animal agencies have volunteer programs, from visiting to play with the puppies to being involved in socializing and training.
- Blood donation: Healthy teens and adults can give blood, especially during the summer months when demand is high and the supply is low. Contact your local Red Cross to find a blood drive near you.
- Donate hair for wigs and hair pieces with Locks of Love.
- Support local charitable organizations by participating in their fundraising walk-a-thons/marathons.
I didn’t know at the time the impact volunteering would have on my kids, but now I can see the results of their awareness of the world around them, and the people in it who need help.
Parenting and homeschooling is about much more than teaching kids facts from textbooks; it's about modeling good character, and helping them become everything they are meant to be. Volunteering does both!
This list isn't exhaustive--share information and ideas in the comments about more ways families and kids can volunteer.