Simple Ideas for Creating Family Volunteering Traditions

Volunteering Traditions

Many busy families wish they had more time to volunteer for causes they believe in or to give something back to their communities. This desire can be instilled in children, even from an early age. To make volunteering a part of your family life, create a tradition by making it a regularly scheduled event, whether once a week, month or once a year. The key is finding a cause that stirs everyone’s passions.

Here are some ideas:

Choose one cause to get behind:

One Florida family chose a food pantry, The Cooperative Feeding Program, to focus on. For many years, they have volunteered in tandem, stocking shelves and serving food. They take part in an annual food drive called the Postal Carrier’s Food Drive, taking place each Mother’s Day weekend. They help collect and pack tons of food that people have put in their mail boxes. The boxes were then delivered to the food pantry they work with. By focusing on one charity, and staying  involved over a number of years, this family has built a tradition of which they can be truly proud. Enlist the kids in helping to choose a cause. A good resource is A Kid’s Guide to Service Projects: Over 500 Service Ideas for Young People Who Want to Make a Difference by Barbara Lewis (Free Spirit Press).

Consider walkathons or other yearly events:

If your family can choose but one big event each year to participate in, consider a walkathon. In many communities, charitable organizations sponsor walkathons to raise money for various causes, from raising money for disease prevention or hunger to raising awareness of human and animal rights issues. Another worthy annual event to consider is participating in the cleanup of a public place, especially ecologically sensitive areas. Inquire with environmental organizations in your area.

Creative fundraising:

In our family, we’ve always liked to raise and donate money for our favorite causes, and this caught on with our younger son. He makes beautiful cards from his photography, sells them at craft shows and other events, and donates the profits to his favorite charities. Similarities, kids can sell crafts and baked goods and school or other community functions, letting their customers know that the profits are earmarked for donation.

Help your community by creating community:

At our local high school, there is a popular club called “Operation Donation.” It’s simple—members bring in supermarket coupon pages, then chat and clip. The group’s leader has contracted with area supermarkets to match the value of the coupons, and all the funds are used to buy food for local food pantries. To date, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised! These days, another popular form of community is knitting groups. Many of these now use the time spent together to make hats, blankets, and other items to donate to nursing homes and women’s shelters. A teenage friend of our family teamed with other teens to fix up deteriorating homes of low-income seniors. If you can’t find the motivation to do charitable work alone, team with other friends and family and work together, doing good while having fun.

Go beyond the obvious:

The Busy Family’s Guide to Volunteering by Jenny Friedman (Robin’s Lane Press) is a fantastic resource with dozens of ideas that may not immediately come to mind when you think of volunteering. These include working for human rights and peace, helping your local library, enhancing arts and culture, supporting the rights of animals, donating “stuff,” and lot more. You’ll also find many ideas at her website, www.doinggoodtogether.org.

Think small:

You do not need lots of time or money to be a volunteer. Just one small act a day can take minutes but make a world of difference. For these kinds of bite-sized ideas, check out The Difference a Day Makes by Karen Jones (New World Library).

Participate in Make a Difference Day and Family Volunteer Day: To jump-start  volunteerism, The Points of Light Foundation sponsors two annual events. The first is Make a Difference Day, falling on the fourth Saturday each October. Visit www.makeadifferenceday.com. Next, National Family Volunteer Day takes place on on the Saturday before each Thanksgiving. This event is “designed to showcase the benefits of families working together, to introduce community service, and encourage those who haven’t yet made the commitment to volunteer as a family.” Visit www.pointsoflight.org to find out more.

Show your kids that it’s amazingly easy to make a difference. Cement volunteerism into your family’s values by making it a tradition, whether one day a year, or a half day per month, or an hour a week.