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!