I am a long time visitor to Amy’s blog, Flexible Dreams, and a post she wrote over a year ago now (yikes, where did that time go?) recounting a conversation with her young children about homelessness has stayed with me. Since then, Amy, her husband and children (aged 6 and 4) have been involved in a number of different service opportunities and given that I have recently been thinking about ways for families with young children to volunteer, I have asked Amy to share a little more of their adventures…
Could you share a little of the story of how you come to the decision to look for volunteer opportunities as a family?
My husband and I were married for 10 years before we had children and during that time we enjoyed serving side-by-side in the teen ministry at our church. When the kids came along it was difficult to juggle all the schedules and only one of us could commit to that program. Now our kids are older and we want to teach them about service, volunteering and giving of their time, talent and treasure. Plus we really wanted to do work together again.
What sorts of projects have you volunteered for so far?
We’ve purchased food and water for homeless people, delivered meals to home bound AIDS and cancer patients, helped our local Free Store pack up and change locations, helped prepare and serve food in our county’s cold weather shelter and did a day of trash clean up in the streets of a nearby city.
Which experience has been the most memorable to date?
Definitely the cold weather shelter. The entire event was moving, from preparing food to serving it to sitting down and eating with a homeless mother and her 10 month old little boy. It was the most hands-on and personal of all the things we’ve done. The kids went around from table to table serving dessert and the guests at the shelter remarked on how special it was that we all sat down to eat and talk with them.
Which have Christopher and Hannah enjoyed the most?
We generally combine a service event with something fun, so they have a hard time separating the black-lit mini-golf or snow tubing from the actual volunteer work. That being said, they really had fun at the Free Store. They helped a lot, moving boxes and bins and cleaning up. Plus we set up tables outside for people to take things and the kids enjoyed organizing stuffed animals and books and shoes.
What criteria do you consider when choosing a project that is right for your family?
How much the kids will actually be able to contribute, how far away we’ll need to drive, the weather. One of the big reasons we do this is to make service fun and enjoyable for our kids. There’s no point in doing something where they won’t be able to contribute or where they’ll be miserable the entire time.
What advice would you offer to other parents who might be looking for similar opportunities within their own communities?
Just get started. Try lots of different things. You’ll figure out quickly what works for your family. Keep a good attitude, no matter how hard or boring the project is to you. The kids will pick up on your attitude and mirror your reactions.
Thank you for sharing your inspiring volunteer journey so far, Amy, I look forward to reading more of your adventures.
I am happy to share that the Westfield Give Ability Day nationwide event that I was involved in last week raised $137,572 which will be used to help families of children with disabilities in Australia. What a fantastic result 🙂