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I’ve been on a journey to find out how I can serve in the community WITH my three small-ish kids: ages 9, 7 and 5.  The older two can serve at many different local nonprofits, but these don’t welcome my 5 year old.  And trust me, she needs to learn the lessons of serving others as the diva, youngest child of the family.  I thought I would share what I have found and a few really easy, but creative ideas in case your local nonprofits aren’t flexible with kids.

 

Each community is different, so you would need to check on the requirements locally.  But, here are some types of nonprofits that might accept younger children for volunteer service with their parents:

–       Humane Society (walking the dogs, petting cats)

–       Food pantry (bagging or serving families coming in)

–       Homeless shelters that accept families with kids (socializing with the children)

–       Church-based projects, like fall festivals or holiday parties, clothing drives, food drives, clean-up days

–       School-based projects similar in nature to those at the churches

 

When all else fails, we just have to get REALLY creative to teach the littlest ones in our families about the value of serving the community and the personal rewards we gain when we serve.  I thought of some creative ideas and have implemented a few with my kids.   Enjoy serving the community!

  1. Collect canned goods for the local food pantry.  Call them first to see what they need so they don’t end up with 20 cases of diced tomatoes when they really needed some tuna.  Take your wagon around the neighborhood or ask other parents at the kids’ activities to help.  Bring the list and a brochure or picture of the food pantry.  This time of the year, food pantries are stretched seriously thin as family budgets devote more to heat and fuel costs, eating into funds available for food.
  2. Call your kids’ school and find out if a family is in need of help with Christmas gifts or warm coats for their kids.  Get a list and help the kids ask neighbors and friends to help with an item or funds.  Involve the kids, but keep the family’s identity unknown to them.  We’ve done this at church almost every year for the last ten years and the kids love to go shopping for someone their own age.  If there are no families in need at school or church, the Salvation Army offers angels every year.  See their website for details (www.salvationarmyusa.org) or at JC Penney’s website.
  3. Collect spare change in an old paint or coffee can and donate to an overseas orphanage.  I stole this one from The Joseph School(thejosephschool.org), an orphan-education program in Haiti.  We are doing this now and you would be amazed at how much spare change we have managed to collect in a few short months.  Take the can around at work or help the kids go door-to-door at Halloween with the can and you’ll be even more shocked.  Change in a paint can could total more than $100.

    Paint Can to collect coins

  4. Go to the park on a Saturday, but bring a few big trash bags and clean up trash first, then play.  Keep recycling separate!  My kids are recycling freaks and I bet yours are too.  My littlest is really good at spotting small pieces of plastic hidden in grass.  To keep them focused on the task, I stay with the trash bag in the middle of the field and send them out to find 5 items each time.  Then we move general locations.  If you do this along a walking trail, have them come back every 3 items so that they don’t inadvertently drop the trash they have already picked up.  Make it even more fun by making up a list of trash types for each kid to find, sort of like a scavenger hunt, and check them off as they find them.
  5. Find an older neighbor who might have trouble raking their leaves – and offer your family’s services for free.  Bring the trash bags, rakes and any other needed equipment, then put the leaves in the designated areas for pick-up by local services.  You can even make this a multi-family or mom-daughter / father-son event for a few friends.  Kids love playing in the leaves, so be sure to budget plenty of time for raking and re-raking the piles a few times!  Small kids can be the ones who stand in the bags and compress the leaves down further.  Bigger kids can rake and bag.  Bring a loaf of bread or a casserole as an additional blessing.
  6. Call the kids’ school to see what easy projects need to be done there – this might include light gardening, trash pick-up, sweeping sidewalks, or raking leaves.  Recruit a few families to participate and make it a fun weekend afternoon for the kids with a picnic lunch or snack at their own school playground as the reward.  The kids will think it is really fun to be at the school on the weekend and they will see the results of their work the next week.

 

If you have more ideas, let us know with a comment!

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