Lifestyle

Volunteering as a Family

Quality time and community service combine for fun and feeling good

“I’m bored!” “There’s nothing to do!” “I don’t have anything to play with!” “I already did that!” If this sounds familiar, and you’re constantly trying to find things for the kids to do on weekends and after school, there are options that can help your family be together, have fun, and help others, too.

Family volunteering puts bonding time back into ever-growing to-do lists and new experiences back into planning activities. Finding a charitable cause to offer your time and talents to as a family becomes quality time together where your influence and hard work are able to make a true difference with each other and in the community.

The big picture

Influences can come from all directions—the Internet, television, and friends at school. Sharing in activities that promote positivity can help to instill the values you want your children to have for a lifetime. Perhaps the most important benefit of volunteering as a family is the chance parents, grandparents, and other caregivers have to create a new generation of volunteers to continue to pass down those values and traditions to other family members.

Plus, children take away many benefits from working in their communities. Volunteering is empowering, raising a child’s self-esteem and helping to develop an understanding of responsibility.

A long list of skills and qualities that are useful in school, work, and socially are developed, too, including everything from decision-making, problem-solving, and critical thinking to empathy, teamwork, and compassion.

Helping from Home

Taking part in volunteer work doesn’t even mean that you have to leave your home or neighborhood. Children of all ages can get involved and make a difference right from their own homes with the help of parents, older siblings, and other family members.

For many organizations, donations are a necessity in order to reach out to those in need, and families can help by gathering and collecting donations for shelters, or making no-sew blankets for hospitals and hospice centers. Diane Winkler from the Humane Society of Midland County explains, “We only have between five and six staff members, and one full-time, and we rely heavily on our volunteers for supporting inside and outside of the shelter.”

Cleaning up local parks and streets or helping a neighbor with everything from shoveling snow to carrying groceries are other ways for all ages to work together and bring positivity to the communities they live in.

Local churches, schools, law enforcement and public safety departments, and organizations such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts often host events that offer opportunities to make a difference right in your own community. Look for walk-a-thons or fundraising events to participate in. From adopt-a-family to donation drives, there is something for everyone.

Looking to the future

For older children, community service is often required for high school graduation and is strongly recommended for preparing for college applications. Between work schedules, sports, studying, friends, and all the other things to do in a day, community service adds more time families might spend apart—unless they start working together. Parents are able to support and work alongside their children to gain much more than just a requirement to check off on an application.

Bill Dalton, a former educator at Carrollton High School, saw the benefits directly from the school’s partnership with Habitat for Humanity during the years he worked with the program. Juniors and seniors in the program were able to earn math credits, learn a skilled trade, and work toward credits for an associate degree through Delta College. Dalton notes, “There are quite a few of my former students who are currently employed in a skilled trade. The program gave them hands-on experience that wasn’t able to be gained in a regular classroom, as well as valuable skills sought after by employers.”

Turn your interest into giving back

Volunteer work gives parents and other grown-ups the chance to get involved and excited about the things that kids are interested in, too. Adults can volunteer to coach a soccer team, help out with fundraising for an art club, or work with a local community theater or music group to raise money for charities.

For Stephanie Thomas and her son, Ben, a passion for animals prompted their work with the Humane Society of Midland County. “My favorite part is making a difference for the dogs and cats, advocating for those that need out (of the shelter) and getting them out, and rescuing those that are lost and reuniting them with their owners,” says Thomas.

For Ben, spending time with the animals is the best part. His mom agrees, supporting volunteering as a family because “it brings you closer together and helps the animals.”

The key is to get together, get out, and get started having fun as a family while making an impact!

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