Growing up, I can recall volunteering as a family often. My parents were involved with a non-profit organization that would volunteer their time to the community and several times my brother and I would get to go with them to events. Some of my fondest memories include helping athletes and families at the Special Olympics and the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure events! We would also participate in community projects through the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America. Through these efforts, I could see that my contribution was helping make a difference. My parents did a great job of explaining the importance of the tasks and activities we were involved in and how it benefited the community. This is probably why I have a passion to help others and why I want to share that passion with my own children.
Here are some of my recommendations for encouraging your youth to volunteer:
Since my parents started having us volunteer early in age, I considered it a normal part of life as I got older. We were often encouraged to join volunteer programs in and outside of school. Many of the programs we were involved in as a family took place after school or during school breaks.
Through volunteering, many children start to understand the value of things in life. When your kids realize that some children don’t have any food or clothing, let alone toys to play with, they start thinking. I will not forget after donating some winter clothes to a clothing drive, a few days later my son started asking questions. He realized that his birthday wishes for extravagant toys were not necessary and learned to appreciate the things he had.
Lead by Example
Your children learn from you! I saw the passion my parents had in volunteering their time and skills, and I was inspired. Even more, when I saw the smiles, the thank you notes and the results of our efforts in helping, I found my own passion. Everyone has skills that someone else may not possess, and if you can use those skills to help someone in need, do it!
Add some fun to your volunteer work. Through some of the Wichita Mom give back programs, our children have joined my husband and I by volunteering as a family. These events have incorporated some fun into the work by including a game and learning activities. There often is a stigma that volunteering is boring or not any fun, but I find that to be quite the opposite.
Start With Things at Home
I often ask for “help” with things around the house. Different than chores, I will ask for help with things and my children take pride in lending assistance. So much that sometimes it happens without me even prompting them. Often this takes place with cooking dinner, but my goal is to later have them help prepare meals or set the tables at the Ronald McDonald house.
Think of donating toys or clothing. Our family enjoys gathering items for the toy drives or giving winter coats for the local coat drive. Recently we all participated in donating non-perishable food to the food pantry. The boys gathered the food and helped us deliver it. We explained why were collecting the items and where the food would go, and the boys were eager to help.
Before we volunteer, we like to cover a few bases. We will explain their role and how their participation has a positive impact. After volunteering, we talk about it again. For example, when we were sorting donations at the United Way, we talked afterwards about their accomplishments. What those items did for those in the community and how it helped others. This created a sense of purpose and they felt proud that they were able to help someone.
When we give money to an event or charity, we like to explain the reasons why you donate and what the result of that donation means to the organization. This includes things like donations at our schools and when their cousins call and have a fundraiser they are participating in. Share the cause, which gives them a reason to care about the issue. Cookie dough is often being sold by their cousins for a school fundraiser, but what we missed last year was explaining what the school was going to do with the proceeds of the money raised from selling the cookie dough.
Where to Volunteer
We like to expose our family to a variety of volunteering activities and see what they found of interest to them. There are 5,195 non-profit organizations in 501(c)(3) status located in Sedgwick County and the surrounding areas. With this many organizations, you are bound to find some volunteer opportunities that interest your child and family.
Wichita Mom recently partnered with United Way of the Plains to give back to the community where families are able to volunteer together at organizations around Wichita. You can also check out these articles for more places to volunteer in Wichita: