By Jenny Friedman, Ph.D., and Jolene Roehlkepartain, authors of Doing Good Together
On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, families across the country volunteer in ways that are meaningful and make a difference. This year, National Family Volunteer Day is November 22. You can do your part—it’s fun and easy!
Consider these five simple ideas (or create your own) to volunteer as a family.
1. Bake something yummy
People always enjoy homemade food, even if you make something that you buy in a box at the grocery store. Identify someone who would enjoy a treat (such as a grandparent, a sick neighbor, someone new to your child’s school, or a friend). Then bake something such as a batch of cookies, a cake, a loaf of bread, or whatever your family would like to make together. Once your baked good is ready, put it on a colorful paper plate, call up the person, and deliver it. Take time to visit, which is especially meaningful for elderly, sick, or homebound people.
2. Visit an animal shelter
Many children love animals. Take your family to an animal shelter to play with the animals waiting to be adopted. (Be careful, however, that you don’t come home with a new pet if that’s not your intention.) Call ahead to find out what their rules are for such visits. Some families take their children to an animal shelter a few times a year as a way to show support and care toward furry friends. Our book Doing Good Together includes family volunteer projects that you can do for animals.
3. Go shopping to buy things to donate
Food shelves always look for donations, and most people give food or money. But food shelves also need other things, such as toiletries, cleaning products, diapers, dish soap, facial tissues, and bandages. As a family, figure out what you’d enjoy giving (within your budget) and then go shopping together. Donate the items to a local food shelf. Find the one nearest you by calling 2-1-1 (the human services hotline) if available in your area. Or visit Feeding America to find your local food bank, which can direct you to your nearest food pantry.
4. Make cards to send to people
Few people receive personal letters and cards because most communication happens via email and cell phones. Brighten someone’s day by sending a card, a picture that your child draws, or a short note. (If you enjoy photography, take a picture of your family and send it to someone you love.) Once you get going, you may find that your family wants to send cards to a variety of people. Another possibility: Visit Send Kids the World and see the photos and read the stories of children with serious illnesses who are eager for some “happy” mail. Make a card for one or more of these children.
5. Clean up a small area of a local playground or park
Take your kids to a playground or park, and bring a garbage bag and work gloves for each family member. For ten minutes before you start to play, pick up stray papers, cups, and other pieces of litter. You’ll be surprised by how much you can improve an area in only a few minutes.
Whatever you choose to do, be sure to discuss and reflect on your experience. Emphasize what your family has accomplished and the difference it has made. You can find questions to jumpstart those conversations on the Doing Good Together website.
Finally, share your story with generationOn. When you do, you’ll be entered to win a prize pack, and ten families will be selected for a profile in an upcoming issue of Family Fun magazine.
Families that volunteer together connect even more deeply and have fun. Take some time on National Family Volunteer Day to do something your family enjoys—and that helps others.
Jenny Friedman and Jolene Roehlkepartain are the authors of Doing Good Together: 101 Easy, Meaningful Service Projects for Families, Schools, and Communities.
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