Philanthropic Families

Ideas to get your clan to volunteer.

In juggling work, school schedules, activities and the ever-growing to-do list, families get easily sidetracked from the act of giving back. However, it’s important to carve out time to volunteer as a family to teach your kids the golden lesson of helping the less fortunate. Need some direction? The following ten pointers can bring you and your kin together while making a difference within your community.

1. Collect clothes. It’s cold outside. Could you image if you didn’t have any outerwear? For many needy kids, a gently worn jacket is priceless. Work with your children to sort through old winter attire, including hats, gloves, scarves and sweaters. Determine which garments are too small. Then bag up and bring the items to a local Salvation Army or thrift shop.

2. Mail joy and support to our troops. Decorate cards for soldiers overseas. The Red Cross-sponsored Holiday Mail for Heroes initiative delivers letters postmarked before December 11, 2011.

3. Donate your gently used CDs and DVDs to a children’s hospital. Make sure your kids come with you to drop off the entertainment, enabling your youngsters to can see who will enjoy music and movies. The experience also affords your children a fresh dose of perspective.

4. Offer a sprinkle of sparkle. Grab glitter glue, shiny paper and markers and let your kids unleash their creativity while making magical holiday decorations. Bring the creations to the nearest nursing home and watch the holiday cheer spread. Just call ahead to schedule a visit.

5. Learn to landscape. Find some rakes and head to an elderly neighbor’s house. Take two hours from the day to clean up leaves and debris with a child or two, transforming the neighbor’s lawn into something clean and beautiful.

6. Give love to furry friends. Collect used towels and soft blankets for an animal shelter. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is always in need of items for cats and dogs like pet food, which is gladly accepted.

7. Think outside the box. Although summer is over, it doesn’t mean your clan can’t have a friendly neighborhood drink stand. Let your kids host a hot cocoa or baked goods sale and donate the proceeds to a charity of their choosing.

8. Adopt a family. Many churches, YMCAs and schools offer adopt-a-family programs during the holidays. Explain to your children that kids in some homes aren’t fortunate enough to receive presents. Allow your youngsters to help with the shopping for others and contribute their own money to purchase the gifts.

9. Organize a food drive. Kira Maton, mother of two, put together a canned food drive at her son’s school. To start the initiative, she created signs announcing the program and gathered bins. Within a week, students donated more than 500 cans of food for local families. “It wasn’t hard and it taught all the kids about helping others in need,” says Maton.

10. Research projects. Let Google do the work in finding the right volunteer opportunities for your clan. Other helpful websites to browse include www.kidsguide.com/enrichment/volunteer.html and www.servenet.org.

Volunteering lets the gang make memories and strengthens familial bonds. It also reinforces the value of kindness and the importance of counting your blessings, which can be lost in the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life.