The holidays are a time for good food, family gatherings and an appreciation for all that we have. Every day across the nation, there are thousands of opportunities to volunteer your time and skills for the betterment of your community, and doing this with children can be an especially enlightening and rewarding experience. This holiday season, make a plan to serve your community with these five opportunities to give back as a family.
Start a Food or Clothing Drive
Organizing a food or clothing drive for an agency in your community is one of the easiest ways to give back as a family. First, select an agency to give your donations to: homeless shelters, halfway homes, youth shelters and women’s and children’s shelters are all great options. Be sure to contact the agency before proceeding, to find out their needs and restrictions on donation items. Then, set a date for the community drive and invite your neighbors, friends, work colleagues and fellow school families to participate.
Plan a Neighborhood Cleanup
You don’t always need advanced planning or assistance from other members of your community to give back as a family. Identify a street, block or other public area polluted with litter and mobilize your very own neighborhood cleanup. You only need gloves, trash bags and several pairs of (perhaps) tiny helpful hands.
Prepare Meals for a Food Bank or Shelter
While many shelters allow volunteers to interact directly with the people in need, often there are age restrictions in place that may prevent your youngest children from participating. Instead, do the meal prepping at home where the entire family can help out and drop the bulk food donation off at your local shelter in need.
Donate Toys for the Holidays
During the holidays, there are loads of amazing organizations that take new and used toy donations to give to disadvantaged children. First, find a local charity, hospital, shelter or daycare that’s accepting gently-used toys. Then, work with your children on identifying the toys they don’t play with anymore or are willing to part with and have them help you neatly box them up. For bonus volunteer points, if your donation site accepts them this way, consider wrapping the box or decorating it with a bow!
Volunteer at an Animal Shelter
Animal shelters rely heavily on the generosity and time of their volunteers. Many shelters need volunteers to walk dogs, groom the animals, help with feeding and bathing or just spend time with the animals. Reach out to your local animal shelter and see about opportunities where your whole family can give back to animals in need.
Search for local volunteering opportunities in your neighborhood at createthegood.aarp.org. Many volunteer search sites give the option of using a filter to find gigs for those looking to give back as a family. Idealist.org has an “appropriate for families” filter. VolunteerMatch.org has filters, “Great for Kids” and “Great for 55+”. Volunteering sites such as Doing Good Together and Big Hearted Families focus on volunteering as a group.