Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Service Opportunities with Kids

This post is something I have been working on for a long time and I am so pleased to finally deliver it.  It is generated by a reader's question and also something we recently discussed in my Mothers of Preschoolers group.  How to get kids involved in service to the community and to others?  How can kids learn the importance and benefit of volunteering at an early age?  How can parents use local organizations and places as a way to jumpstart a lifetime habit of giving to others?

I was given a great article by WRAL's GoAskMom.  This article was written in December and specifically is holiday-focused.  But many ideas in that piece can be used year-round.  The list below, though, expands those initial ideas with some other ones that my mom friends and support groups have told me about.

Donate clothes, toys, and food.
Sure, we believe in the power of consignment in these blog parts.  But sometimes it might be nice to forgo the few dollars earned on an old shirt to donate it to kids in need.  This particular way of volunteering is also great for encouraging your kids to go around the house, collect items they don't need anymore, and help you drop them off.  Places you can donate to include:
Ronald McDonald House.  They have a toy & food donation program with locations in both Durham and Chapel Hill.  Check out this link here for details on what they will and will not accept.  (Ronald McDonald House does need volunteers for various projects that you can find specific details of on the website under How You Can Help but, generally, kids needs to be at least 13.)
- Goodwill.  You can find details on what they accept here but it is fairly open.  There are 5 GCF donation centers (places that accept what you have to give) in the Triangle area with 2 in Durham, 1 in Hillsborough, 1 in Mebane, and 1 in Morrisville.  Use the locator here.
- The Salvation Army.  They are still doing good things (outside ringing a bell around Christmas time outside your grocery store).  In fact, Salvation Army of Wake County has a women's shelter.  See the details about what they need and will accept here.
- The Women's Center of Wake County.  They are always asking for material goods and have a great list here.
- Harbor, Inc.  This shelter for women and children is in Johnston County but could be a more relevant experience for kids when it comes to collecting goods.  In addition to clothes, toys, etc., they also ask for art supplies for kids.  See the full list here.
- Genesis Home.  They also need items for kids and even request things like educational games.  See the full list here.

A quick note about donating to PTA Thrift Shops.  Don't get me wrong, I love me some PTA Thrift Shops around town.  But note that these are not items tagged to go to needy families.  These items are sold, with the money going back into local community schools.  Still cool, but certainly a different mission.

Donate money.
Of course, all of the organizations listed above as well as many, many other deserving non-profits accept and welcome cash donations.  A very popular idea I hear a lot from parents with older children is saving money for a charity.  They put a jar out, labelled, and as extra change comes in and as the kids earn their allowance and can elect to dump some in to the jar, they start collecting in a visual way.  Some other donation ideas that kids( of various ages) respond to that I like:
- UNICEF.  This organization does everything.  Well, maybe not everything, but a lot.  It focuses primarily on children but is very professionally run.  They accept donations and you can read more about them on their website.
- Heifer International.  This is a giving program that young children especially can really get.  You raise money to earn animals for poverty stricken families and areas.  There are a variety of animals you can "buy" that range from a flock of geese for $20 to a true heifer for $500.  (See the full gift catalog here.)  I have seen preschool programs tack up a big picture of a duck on a wall, for example, and shade in a bar as they get closer and closer to raising the money needed for that duck.  They even have great and wonderful ideas for how to get kids involved, complete with games and activities, and they offer camps and programs for youth.
- Send A Kid to Camp.  On a more local note, the Triangle Community Foundation raises money to help send children living in difficult circumstances to camp each year. In addition to being a great program in many ways, this seems very appropriate given the time of the year we are in now.

Get creative.
- A Million Thanks.  There is a beautiful campaign going on right now to encourage people to write and send inspirational messages to our troops serving.  If you head to www.amillionthanks.org you can see detailed and easy instructions as to how your family and children can make cards to send directly to the troops.
-Visit a local nursing home to share cards and art and stories.  There are nursing homes all over our area and they all welcome visitors.  You don't necessarily have to be with a group to go, either.  Just call ahead, make some cards, and go pass out sunshine.
- Coupons for Military Overseas.  Military personnel can use manufacturer's coupons 6 months past the expiration date, they just need to have them!  So instead of throwing your old coupons away, send them on.  Encourage your kids to take scissors to the newspapers on Sunday to send coupons to our troops.  Get the details and instructions here.

Food Banks.
In addition the organizations above that need toys, clothes, and food, here are variety of different food banks in the area, always collecting.

- Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.  www.foodbankcenc.org
- Haven House.  For at-risk youth in NC. www.havenhousenc.org
- Urban Ministries of Wake County. www.urbanmin.org

Alas, there isn't too terribly much young kids can do that's hands-on these days.  Minimum age requirements for volunteering tend to be in the teens (like Ronald McDonald House as I mentioned earlier).  Here are some things I did stumble on though:
- PORCH.  This is a food bank specific to Chapel Hill and Carrboro.  They need families and folks to be "porches" for drop off centers and then to sort the items.  www.porchnc.org
- Habitat for Humanity.  This old stand-by still needs people to help.  Again, though, you are mostly looking at opportunities for older kids (16 and up) if you want to drop in to one of the builds they always have going on.  However, Habitat does have an entire section of their mission for kids ages 5 and up who want to serve.  Head to this link (www.habitat.org/youthprograms/) to get started.
Durham Habitat www.durhamhabitat.org
Habitat Wake www.habitatwake.org
Habitat of Orange County www.orangehabitat.org
Chatham Habitat www.chathamhabitat.org

Note that donations to Habitat for their ReStore are, indeed, sold, not donated.  Of course, profits go to a good cause.

No, not literally (like you need another?).  I am referring to one of the organizations where you sponsor a child internationally.  I know that folks are nervous about these organizations given some of the scams we've heard about this in the past decade.  I have personally been sponsoring a child in the Dominican Republic for almost 10 years now through Compassion.  Our family gets pictures of her and we send letters back and forth.  It is very rewarding and, I feel, helps us stay connected to the world outside of our own.   There are many organizations like this out there so just find the one that works for you.

Check with your local Mothers Group.
I know, for example, that the Chapel Hill Carrboro Mothers Club (chapelhillmothersclub.org) provides a service opportunity once a month.  These range vastly from getting together and packing up backpacks to visiting a local nursing home to dining out to support a cause.  Odds are that your local Mothers Club does the same.  See a list and review of Mothers Clubs here.

This list is not, by any means, meant to be exhaustive.  But just my (exhausting) way of helping us all get a foot on the ladder when it comes to volunteering and giving back to the community.  I like the idea of building people who care about their community as much as we can.  If you have any others ways or places that people should know about and consider, I encourage you to post comments here and on our Facebook page to share.

All the best, parents!


At April 10, 2012 at 9:46 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great list - thanks for putting it all together and sharing it!!

At April 10, 2012 at 3:37 PM , Blogger laura said...

amazing. we love helping PORCH. syd and i go to the grocery store and she gets to fill her little cart with "things that go in the pantry, right, mommy?" then, we deliver it once a month to the drop-off center on the way to her preschool. it's not much, but i feel like it is guiding her in the right direction....

At April 11, 2012 at 8:18 AM , Blogger heather v said...

What a great resouce to pass along. Thanks for taking time to put together.

At April 11, 2012 at 8:32 PM , Blogger Karetchko said...

Nice post! I also wanted to mention Book Harvest, a relatively new local non-profit that donates new and gently used books to kids in need. Flyleaf Books is one of their donation locations.

At September 1, 2012 at 9:27 PM , Blogger Giovanna Mollinedo said...

thank you for sharing this! I was in need all the information!! Best, Allison!

At September 1, 2012 at 9:28 PM , Blogger Giovanna Mollinedo said...

Thank you for share all this information!
Best, Allison!!


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