Teaching Kids to Serve Others
“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.” – H. Jackson Brown Jr.
Volunteering is a great way for families to make a difference in their communities. Nothing is more rewarding than knowing you’ve made a difference in the lives of others. What’s more, volunteering raises kids’ sense of civic responsibility, makes for an excellent family bonding experience, and provides valuable skill building and socialization opportunities for kids and adults alike.
In Mississippi there are countless volunteer opportunities available. Share these ideas with your kids to see what triggers their enthusiasm. Then make a family plan to put it into action.
Volunteer at a soup kitchen or food pantry. The poor and homeless are always in need of nutritious food and meals. Search online for local soup kitchens and food pantries. Then call and offer your family’s service. Be sure to mention the age of your children in case there are age restrictions. At a soup kitchen, you can help prepare and serve a meal or do kitchen cleanup. For a food pantry, help with stocking or putting together food baskets for families in need. Some pantries also need delivery assistance since many poor families don’t have transportation.
Help out at an animal shelter. Cats and dogs spend days, weeks, and often longer cooped up in small kennels or crates with little opportunity to exercise or socialize. Offer to spend an afternoon walking dogs or playing with cats. Other things you can do for a shelter include transporting a pet to a new home, cleaning kennels; you can also donate supplies or help find loving homes through social media.
Adopt a road or park for cleanup. Did you know Mississippi has adopt-a-highway programs? These typically require a signed contract for a period of 2 to 4 years with a promise to clean up a designated area 2 to 4 times a year. Alternatively, you could pick an unsightly city street and just head out to clean up the debris. Keep kids safe by requiring them to stay off the road and picking up litter only on the boulevard. If you have younger kids, park cleanup is a safer option.
Help build a house with Habitat for Humanity. This organization helps build and renovate homes for families in need of safe shelter. Visit habitat.org to find your local Habitat organization and ask how you can help. Habitat also offers a teen volunteer program.
Send letters to military members overseas. Veterans, new recruits, and deployed troops deserve and need to know just how much we appreciate their dedication and service to our country. For more information, visit operationgratitude.com/writeletters.
Help an elderly person by running errands. Do you know an elderly person who doesn’t drive or own a vehicle? Offer to transport them to do their errands and grocery shopping. If it’s too difficult for the elderly person to go out, you could offer to run the errands for them.
Put together care kits for homeless shelters. Ask local businesses to donate items for the homeless care kits you plan to create. The following are useful items to include in each kit: toothpaste, toothbrush, dental floss, a comb, bar of soap, shampoo, a package of hand wipes, razor, shaving cream, protein bars, and other small useful items. Any food items should be nonperishable and require no preparation.
Offer your service to a domestic violence shelter. Coordinate with a local women’s shelter to hold a clothing and toy drive. Or put together arts and crafts kits and spend an afternoon teaching craft workshop for children at the shelter. Childcare is also often needed for working mothers staying at these shelters.
Hold a bake sale for a charity. Pick your favorite charity and hold a bake sale to raise funds for it. Ask a busy local business or grocery store if you can set up a table on a given day for your charity bake sale. Then invite family and friends to pitch in and help with the baking. Have the kids create signs and flyers to promote the event.
Rake for a disabled person. If you don’t know anyone in your community who’s disabled, ask coworkers or friends if they know of anyone. Or do an online search for disability organizations in your area. Then reach out to offer your service.
Perform for children in a hospital. Countless children suffer from diseases which require lengthy and sometimes indefinite hospital stays. If your family’s got talent, what better way to put it to good use? Search for a children’s hospital or wing in your area and arrange a date to perform for the kids. You could put on funny skits, perform magic, dance, play music, or do acrobats.
Kimberly Blaker is the author of a book for tweens, Horoscopes: Reality or Trickery?