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Simple Ways to Volunteer with your Family this Holiday Season

During the holidays, it’s easy for families to get sidetracked from giving back when the message of “getting” is so prevalent. Carve out some meaningful family time for service to community and your kids will remember it long after the batteries have died on their favorite new remote control car.
Why give time as a family?  Volunteering together provides a fun way for families to make memories and strengthen bonds while making a meaningful difference in the lives of others. It also teaches children the values of kindness and giving back, ideas which complement the gift giving season.
So kick off your holiday season with the spirit of giving and service by participating in National Family Volunteer Day 2010 on Saturday, November 20th, just in time for Thanksgiving and all the ensuing holiday hullabaloo. Check with your local Volunteer Center to see what family volunteering activities are planned in your area, or create your own family service project (and maybe include a few friends and neighbors).

Here are some ideas for service activities for kids of all ages:
Younger Kids can:

  • Decorate reusable grocery bags and fill them with their favorite non-perishable food items.  Feeding America offers a Food Bank locator, searchable by zip code.
  • Stuff new, warm socks with water bottles and granola bars to give to homeless men and women you pass on street corners.
  • Decorate holiday cards for soldiers overseas. Red Cross-sponsored Holiday Mail for Heroes will deliver letters postmarked before Dec. 10, 2010.

Older Kids can:

  • Donate their gently used books and DVDs to a local children’s hospital. 
  • Make holiday decorations and sing songs for nursing home residents. Call ahead to schedule a visit.
  • Rake Leaves or shovel snow for an elderly neighbor.
  • Collect used towels and pet toys for the local animal shelter.
  • Host a hot chocolate or cider stand and donate the proceeds to a charity of their choosing.
  • Adopt a family for the Holidays through a local business or faith group, and have your kids help with the shopping for that family. 

Making it Stick
Volunteering as a family while kids are young cultivates a positive service habit that sticks long into adulthood. Here are a few tips to help ensure your kids understand the impact of their good work.

  • If donating goods or money to a local charity, deliver the items in person with your kids so they can better visualize how they made a difference.        
  • Be sure to talk about your family’s service experience. Discuss what you did, why you did it, how it felt, and what you learned.    
  • Celebrate your service! 
  • Build on your kids’ enthusiasm and choose your next service project together. 

Family Volunteering Resources

About the author:
Karen Bantuveris is the founder & CEO of VolunteerSpot, a time and sanity-saving online coordination tool that empowers busy parents, teachers and grassroots community leaders by making it easier get involved.  Frustrated by the ‘little things’ that often prevent parents from participating at school (“reply-all” email overload, disorganized clipboard signup sheets, and constant phone-tag), Karen launched VolunteerSpot in 2009 to simplify the volunteer experience. VolunteerSpot has quickly grown mom-to-mom and group-to-group, boosting turnout with more than a quarter-million users nationwide.  Karen is passionate about increasing parent participation in schools, engaging parents to fund education technology, and using new media tools to inspire social action in the ‘real’ world. Karen lives in Austin, TX with her husband and daughter.