Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Ways to Volunteer

I am a firm believer in stewardship.  (You can read about it here if you like.)  Basically, I believe everything we have has been given to us, and we are to share that which has been given.  I don't mean just financially.  Our health and our brains are just as important to share.  This is why I volunteer. 

I want my kids to understand this, so I have always included them in my volunteering.  I have heard many people say they would like to volunteer, too, but have no idea how or where to start.  I thought I'd give you a few ideas.  These are all things I have done with my kids over the years.

1.  Library helper.  When we first moved to Indianapolis, I knew no one.  I delivered Phoenix a mere 4 weeks after we moved here.  I was lonely and bored, so I went to the first place I thought of.  I offered my services, but I was upfront and said my newborn would be coming with me.  They were hesitant to say the least, and put us on a probationary period.  I ended up volunteering there every week for over a year, and Phoenix became their mascot.  They even threw a first birthday party for him.  Once I was very pregnant with Buttercup, I stopped coming in every week.  However, each summer for years, I would bring the kids and we would work their summer movie nights.

2.  Leaf raker.  Our church matches up families and groups (Confirmation or sports usually) to rake the yards of elderly parishioners.  A few years ago, we were paired up with Mrs. G.  All six kids get in and work their tails off to get her yard cleaned up.  I just ran into her at church last week.  She was with two of her friends.  As soon as I introduced myself, they both started gushing, "Oh, we know all about you and your kids!  They are such hard workers and so cute and polite.  She is so grateful to have you all come each year." 

Then Mrs. G spoke up.  "I'm 92, but still planning on being alive in October.  If I am, will you be coming out again?" 

Of course we will.

3.  Food pantry.  (I've written about this before.) Volunteers set up a store then help the customers shop.  The one where we volunteer also has a community center.  We've helped organize school supplies, too.

4.  Catholic Charities.  Birthline in particular.  I did this when Phoenix and Buttercup were little.  Mothers are referred to Birthline by social workers.  I would get the information about the new (or not so new) babies and put layettes together (from donated items) for the moms.

5.  Meal preparer.  Several years ago, a mother of one of Star's classmates died from leukemia.  In her name, a group of people got together to help people having to come to Indianapolis for treatments.  There is a house downtown, right next to the hospital where people can stay, free of charge, while they are in town.  Star and his classmates are the ones who did the landscaping around the house.  Each week, at least two nights a week, the meal team supplies dinners for the families staying in the house.  My kids (Buttercup mostly) has helped me make dinners.  We even spent one full Saturday making tons of food for the freezer, so when there are last minute needs, we are ready to help.

6.  PTO.  Our school doesn't allow classroom volunteers to bring siblings, but there are PLENTY of other ways to help.  My kids have helped me sell SpiritWear and Scrips.  Turken has taken it upon himself to find, cut out, and count every Box Top that enters the house.  The older kids have spent hours entering Coke Reward numbers to the school's account.  They help set up and clean up from the fish fry.  They've grilled hot dogs for the fall festival.  See?  Plenty to do.

7.  Kids' activities.  The kids love them some VBC, so I have always worked a station.  The big kids are now old enough to work it instead of attend it, and they sign up every year. Hubby and I have both been coaches for teams the kids have been on.  I wasn't the head track or cross country coach, but they always need assistants.  Just yesterday, the little boys were asking when cross country practice was going to start again.  Turken, because he likes to run with all of the big kids.  Cuckoo because he wants to play on the playground while everyone else runs.

8.  Personal shopper.  When a friend went on bedrest with her 4th baby (for 10 weeks!) I offered to do her grocery shopping each week.  At least a few kids were with me each time I went to the store.  They helped do the shopping and delivering.

9.  Just be friendly in general, even to strangers.  My kids see me helping people all the time.  In the grocery store, if I see a person of shorter stature can't reach something, I'll get it for her.  When someone has his hands full, and is headed for a door, I point it out to the kids, and one of them will open the door for him. 
Every once in a while, I will help someone out on the open road.  I don't recommend this in every instance.  I don't help all strangers, seeing as how I don't want my kids and me to be killed.  I do, however, help when someone is in obvious need of help AND my creep radar isn't sending any flags AND the road is safe to do so.  For example, we came across an older gentleman on one of the backroads around here who was still driving, albeit very slowly, his truck which had a flat tire.  I pulled up alongside him and offered him some help.  In the end, I drove him home, about 2 miles down the road.  Ended up, his brother is the policeman that lives right around the corner from us.  This gentleman happened to raise horses.  He was so grateful for the ride, he told me to bring the kids down to ride the horses any time they wanted.

10.  Use their art.  When someone is in need of prayers, I sometimes suggest the kids draw pictures/write cards for her.  Our church is involved in prison retreats, and they asked for kids to make placemats.  My kids were all over it.

11.  Our school has some sort of service project each month.  I absolutely love the way it is done.  They aren't looking to raise a lot of money or tons of goods, because they don't want the kids to simply go out and ask parents/grandparents for money.  They want the kids to earn it/donate/do the work themselves.  For example, each class decides what animal it wants to buy for Heifer, International.  Each animal costs a different amount, so the kids look over the catalogue, decide how much they think they can earn, then choose.  They then have a goal of their own making, which makes it that much more satisfying to obtain.

12.  Two of my kids play piano.  Now that they are getting good enough to play real songs, and lots of them, I am planning on visiting a nursing home with them.  They can play the piano, and then we can visit for a bit.  I know a lot of kids find nursing homes very uncomfortable, but mine do not.  Their grandma is a physical therapy assistant in a nursing home, and Buttercup has gone to work with her more than once.  They all have visited both their great-grandma and great-grandpa in nursing homes, and have done very well.  At first, yes, they didn't know exactly how to behave/what to do/what to say.  They caught on real quick, though, once they saw how Hubby and I behaved.

13.  Trash clean-up.  Our soccer club has volunteers to clean up the trash on the fields.  We've done that.  We've also simply been playing at a park, seen a bunch of trash around, and decided to clean it up all impromptu-like. 

Volunteering takes time.  Volunteering can be difficult logistically sometimes.  Many times, it is just plain hard work.  And yet, I have never, not once, regretted doing it.  Depending on the age of your children and the type of volunteering you do, the kids will either be of big help, or simply be "helping" you, but really be kind of getting in the way.   Both are good, as the kids are seeing you help others, and they see themselves as helping, too.  When choosing what activity to do, get the kids involved in the choosing.  Think of their talents and interests and abilities.  Ask them if they have any ideas.  You may be surprised at what they come up with.

Simply look around.  There are calls for volunteers all over the place, with phone numbers and email addresses for you to respond.  If you don't see any organized calls for help, figure out what you want to do, then simply walk in and volunteer your services.  It is a rare day that the organization won't be completely glad to see you.

I'm always looking for new ideas.  Got any?? 

Have a lovely day!


  1. Catholic Charities is an amazing organization! They were, and continue to be, a positive presence here after the tornado.

    You are also an amazing one-woman organization! I continue to be in awe of you.

    1. Yes, the Red Cross gets a lot of attention and money (as they should) but Catholic Charities is always one of the first to jump in and help in any emergency.

      You are too sweet.

  2. All excellent ideas. Since I "retired" I log more volunteer hours than I ever did in the work force. Another great organization that I've been involved in is the Literacy Council. Teaching an adult how to read is very rewarding.

    1. That is a great group to be a part of!
      Once all the kids are in school, I will also be volunteering a lot more, in different ways.

  3. Great ideas. While all are good, I particularly like number 9, because it teaches that we should always be looking to help others. We find ourselves at Disneyland frequently, and we like to look for lost tourists and point them in the direction they wish to go.

    1. Good friends of ours are on vacation in California and are going to Disneyland tomorrow. If you see them, give them a hand! :)

  4. My husband's company does "Rebuilding Together" once a year. The team is paired with a homeowner and they do spruce-up and repairs. My kids always go along, and I love that the homeowner is there, so my kids see the impact on the recipient.

    I also make meals for sick friends, always. Even if they just have a cold or the flu, if they can go to bed early and know their family has a hot meal, it's well appreciated. Usually I cook and my boys deliver.

    1. I've never heard of that. It sounds like a great idea.

      I'm sure the friends appreciate the meals, especially if you include one of your delicious desserts!

  5. I share you views on volunteering, and I find it's one of the most rewarding things I've done in my life. I've always been a volunteer fanatic, and wish others would too. It's so wonderful you are demonstrating this to your children (although I never had a doubt you would).

    I think you touched upon the biggest point of all: Just helping someone when they need it is volunteering. Holding the door open for someone with a baby, or taking the trash out for an elderly person, or mowing the lawn for someone with a broken foot (you wouldn't know anything about that, would you?)

    All of those things are ways to volunteer and help others, and to give back to a world that's been so giving to us.

    When I was in junior high, I volunteered at The Salvation Army's soup kitchen. They discovered I had a "gift of gab" and my job was to walk around and talk to people that were sitting alone while they ate. This job was probably given to me so I would stop talking to the other volunteers.

    I met so many amazing people doing that, one of which was an elderly woman who lost everything she had in a fire. It was so sad and she was so kind. She was able to get a small house after the fire, but her spirit was really gone after that. Just sitting and talking to her lit up her day and I think it was just because I paid attention to her. It's not that I was especially brilliant or interesting. I wasn't. But I could tell she enjoyed just having someone to talk to. As kids and young adults, sometimes that's the perfect thing for them.

    Another option is The Ronald McDonald House. It's a great charity and one I really like. Contact your local one, but you can usually sign up to cook a meal one night. So basically, you and your family come in on a date and time that works for you, and you use their ingredients to make a meal for everyone staying there.

    It's a great family activity for you all to do together, and it's so great for those staying there, as having a family dinner gives them a sense of home and normalcy.

    Sorry I just wrote a small novel on your blog post. I'm just so passionate about this, and I love that you are too!

    You can also try a few of these sites:


  6. Well, this confirms my suspicions: You are a truly fantastic person. These are great ideas- thanks so much for sharing. I love your thoughts on getting kids involved in volunteering along with you. Thanks so much for this!

  7. I agree with everyone above...you ARE amazing, an inspiration and truly fantastic person!!!!! I love how you have gotten all your kids involved. I'm afraid I didn't do a very good job in that area. :(

  8. Those are a lot of great ways to help out within your community. I'd likely only be comfortable with the Library one, or the Food Pantry (maybe shopping for someone). My anxiety can kind of stop me cold in my tracks, though I do try to help people whenever able. Even if complete strangers (minus those maybe on the road... that kind of creeps me out. Too many movies).

    It's so awesome you incorporate your children into your volunteering! What a great example. Hopefully as they grow older and begin living their own lives as adults they continue to volunteer (and even involve their own kids eventually).

    Jak at The Cryton Chronicles & Dreams in the Shade of Ink

  9. I've done all these things too. I think we could be good friends! My kids are grown now, but we did all kinds of things w/ the school when they were young. We still do food pantry and giving sandwiches to street people. I'm so with you on having the kids see us helping others. It's what we're here to do. Such an inspirational post! Love it!


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