Volunteering as a family has the positive effect of developing a life-long commitment to volunteering and service. It’s a shared experience that provides children (and adults) the opportunity to feel a part of a community, in part by showing children that they can make a positive difference in someone’s life.
The winter holiday season is a good time to get started helping others, especially considering that the colder weather and holiday expenses brings ever greater difficulty to those who struggle financially. The holiday season is also a time of increased psychological hardship, often caused by financial stresses, but also because missing family can amplify feelings of loneliness. Ideally, however, the habits and traditions of volunteering during the holidays will extend beyond into the rest of the year.
- For Christmas specific activities, invite your children to pick a tag off one of the area Christmas for Kids trees and buy a gift. I like to choose children the same age and gender as mine because it encourages my children to consider the different needs and situations of others like them. Depending on your own financial situation, you may choose to adopt a family rather than buy a present or two. Christmas for Kids also needs volunteers to wrap and deliver gifts, which I think would be an even more rewarding experience for families. For fur children, the Humane Society of the Palouse hosts a Christmas tree as well, and their website includes a list of items they’re always in need of. Unlike Christmas for Kids, the humane society will take used items, from towels and blankets to boxes of laundry soap. Finally, to avoid the, “what do I get the person who owns everything” question is to shop at the Alternative Giving Market of the Palouse.
- This is one of my favorite ideas, which may be more appropriate for older children and teenagers: clandestinely rake leaves or shovel the driveway and sidewalk of an elderly neighbor. Even better, get a large group of kids together and hit all the neighbors in need. Keep it up for an entire month.
- Have children decorate a bag to fill with food bank donations, then fill the bag. Perhaps encourage them to pick their favorite non-perishable food items to include in the bag, but don’t forget that things like toilet paper, sanitary napkins, and other non-food items are just as valuable (and also often left out of food bank donations, and accordingly are desperately needed). Consider foods that can be eaten without the benefit of a stove, because maybe there is no money for electricity, and include things like powdered milk, since lack of refrigeration is a reality for some. Also, if you’re purchasing foods especially for the food bank, take into account the fact that many non-perishable items are high in sodium and sugar.
- Since getting out-of-doors can sometimes be challenging, especially considering how busy children can be, check out Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute's (PCEI) Tuesday drop-in volunteer days. They have seasonal projects needing workers from 10:00-4:00 year round.
- Finally, check with the Moscow Food Co-op to see what volunteer opportunities are available. They have regular gigs, but also frequently need volunteers to help with an event. Click here for the latest openings.