Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Season of Giving :: How to Get Your Family Involved in Community Service

If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it. ~Lucy Larcom
With the season of giving upon us, many families wonder how they might incorporate gifts and actions of helpfulness into their holiday schedules. November happens to be the perfect month to begin serving others. Children of all ages, as well as adults, can develop a sense of community awareness and a zeal for assisting those in great need.
First, visit your city’s Chamber of Commerce or Visitor Center and discover if there are any upcoming city-wide volunteer opportunities or events where you and your family can assist. Our city just finished a garbage clean-up day and will be hosting a Thanksgiving food drive in a couple of weeks. Our family will participate in both of these activities. The latter being dear to my heart as our first Thanksgiving in California, while my husband was in the Navy, found us without a Thanksgiving dinner. The kindness of strangers that year really impacted me and my husband and showed us that there are always people who care.
Performing a quick internet search for non-profit organizations in your area will also give you an outlet for assisting. Non-profits can range from therapeutic horse programs to homeless shelters and everything in between. Choose one or two for the month and call to find their immediate needs. With the current cold snap, one of the homeless missions here in Longview posted it is in desperate need of children’s jackets today. The boys and I will go through their closets in a little while to see if we have a couple to donate and deliver. Sometimes, these organizations have immediate needs and can be helped with very little effort.
Another great way to serve this season is to simply find a need and fill the void. One of boys’ friends enlisted his entire Anchor Club to assist in a project called Bags of Hope where local youth, with the support of friends and family, are gathering winter supplies to deliver to our homeless men and women. In a completely different way of serving, each year the boys and I help set up a train display at a local museum. Children and families are allowed to visit and enjoy the spirit of the season. My boys love helping with this because they know the enjoyment this brings to the young and old.

For the younger generation have them scan Facebook for needs in your community. I know a lot of people don’t see a positive value in the social media giant Facebook, but I have seen firsthand lives changed through help by others via this social community. One organization in town who assists with foster care placement by giving away clothes and other necessities posts to Facebook when needs arise, as does our Humane Society.

In addition, Random Acts of Kindness are always a hit with children and teens. Various times throughout the year my boys and their friends (and parents) get together to make baked goods to delivery to firehouses, help out at local senior community homes, and more. These small unofficial service opportunities can be created with little effort, but have a large impact.
One very important thing to remember when serving, is to serve with a servant’s heart – know that while you may think something you are working on is not in the lime-light for the world to see, it is the most important thing at the time to whomever you are serving, and know that your actions, no matter how small, are always appreciated.

A lot of times, service opportunities abound this time of year because Christmas gets people into the mood to give. Please let this season become the catalyst for your family’s permanent actions in your community. As a parent, one of the greatest lessons I can share with my children is a pride in community service for as I get older, they will be the ones to help shape the world we live in and I want it to be better than the one I know.
For those in the Longview area, here are some upcoming service opportunities:

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