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Volunteer work for children

March 16th, 2010

Did you sign up for “Give a Day, Get a Disney Day”?

I have to admit, when my daughter and I signed up to volunteer, we were not motivated by altruism, but by the free ticket to Disneyland!

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 63.4 million people, or 26.8% of the population, volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2008 and September 2009.  Interesting, parents with children under age 18 were substantially more likely to volunteer than were persons without children under 18 years of age, 34.4 percent compared with 23.9 percent. As busy as parents are, they make the time to volunteer.

Disneyland’s offer to give one free ticket in exchange for one day of volunteer work made me think about how I can encourage my children to do more volunteer work. We often say that kids are self-centered. Or we think that kids nowadays are too materialistic. What better way to teach children to think outside of themselves than doing volunteer work?

The impact of doing volunteer work is much greater when the family can do it together, starting when the children are young. I’ve seen children as young as 3 tag along with their parents to help in the community. Working and cooperating side by side in volunteer work is a natural way for families to bond. I found this to be true when my children and I work together in church activities, such as helping in Vacation Bible School every year.

I started googling volunteer opportunities that families can do together. But actually, it doesn’t have to be complicated at all. Here are a few ways to get your family involved in volunteerism:

1. I know a family who helps at a homeless shelter on a regular basis. It’s a family activity they do on a Saturday. With parents present, many shelters do allow young children to help.

2. Take walks around the neighborhood and parks together, bring along a trash bag and gloves to pick up trash. Any recyclables belong to the kids to turn in for money!

3. Make regular visits to a convalescent home. Just your smiles and handshake will make someone’s day.

4. Take food to a local food bank and volunteer some hours there.

5. Ask your library how you can help. Since we use the resources of the library quite a lot,  it’s a good place to give back.

While I’ve been doing quite a bit of volunteer work for the schools and community, I have not been very intentional about involving my whole family in volunteerism. As a family, we do volunteer regularly at our church quite a bit. We always participate in Operation Christmas Child and other Christmas giving opportunities together. We also went on a one-day mission trip to Mexico together. Mostly we respond when a specific need is presented. However, I would’ve liked to do more, on a regular basis.

And in case you want to know, the current estimated dollar value of volunteer time is $20.25 an hour! (Source: Independent Sector)

What ideas do you have for families to volunteer together?

P.S. For “Give a Day, Get a Disney Day”, my daughter and I are making blankets for the Project Linus. Project Linus is a national nonprofit organization with the mission to provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer “blanketeers.”  This is a fun project to do together.

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