Thanksgiving is just days away and the Christmas shopping frenzy is in full swing. In fact, many shoppers across America will embark on their annual tradition of Black Friday shopping, devoting countless hours and testing their patience all in an effort to find the best deals. But how many families take time from their busy holiday schedules to teach their children the spirit of volunteering and the importance of helping others and giving back to their communities?
A recent study from the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania found that “when people volunteered—carving out even a small amount of time in their day to help someone else—they experienced feelings of efficiency and competence. These feelings gave people the sense that they could do quite a bit with their limited time. In other words, when you give time, you feel like you have more time.”
Additionally, “families that focus more on the material side of the holidays tend to feel less happy than families that focus on spending time together.” Make a commitment to create a new tradition this holiday season and give the gift of yourselves to others by teaching your kids the spirit of volunteering.
Here are some great ideas for family volunteering:
Partner with a local food bank. Type in your zip code in the search box at American's Second Harvest/The Nation's Food Bank Network to find a food bank near you and see how your family can help feed America's hungry.
Sign up with NetworkforGood. Use their search tool to find volunteer opportunities that match your family’s interests and geographic location. They provide information about volunteer projects, a youth volunteer network for teens, and international volunteer programs.
Doing Good Together is a family-focused organization that “inspires and helps family volunteer.” Their site is filled with ideas on how parents and kids can volunteer and help others, from cleaning up a local park to reading stories together to kids in the hospital.
The Center for a New American Dream provides these great ideas for family holiday volunteering:
Clothes and Toy Clean Out: Have your kids go through their toys and clothes and find ones that they can donate Goodwill or a homeless shelter. Give them a large box—a “giving box”— that they can decorate and then fill with donated items.
Make Greeting Cards: Help your kids make and deliver greeting cards and holiday decorations to a local nursing or veteran’s home.
Create a Holiday Care Package for a Service Member: Send a service member a holiday care package through Adopt a Soldier and use the opportunity to teach your kids about the sacrifices military service members make for our country.
Make Blankets: Check out Project Linus for information and drop off locations. Blankets can also be dropped off at animal shelters, homeless shelters, pregnancy centers, etc.
Volunteer to be Toy Shop Elves with The Salvation Army: Volunteers are needed through December to help set up their Santa’s Toy Shop and organize donated toys.
Random Acts of Kindness:
- Shovel the driveway of an elderly neighbor
- Bring cookies and thank you cards to the fire or police departments
- Make a care kit for a homeless person that includes a bottle of water, a granola bar, and a $5 gift card to a local pharmacy.
- Adopt a family in need and leave small gifts and trinkets on their doorstep with well-wishing notes on the twelve days leading up to Christmas.
- Take part in a Giving Tree or in Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child.
Regardless of the volunteer activity you embark upon with your children, make the goal be that you are helping your kids learn to help others. Give the gift of yourself to others this holiday season and also provide your family with some valuable “together time” free from the stresses of the holidays.