Nurturing Family Volunteering
Teaching children the joys and rewards of volunteerism has traditionally been put off until the early teenage years with service-learning programs at school, Scouts and youth groups. When Marissa Vogel realized her oldest daughter was ready to learn about compassion in preschool, "I spent hours on the Internet trying to find meaningful volunteer opportunities with no luck. What I wanted was a single online resource listing projects appropriate for her age and be able to sign up for them easily." After this search turned up fruitless, Little Helping Hands, a nonprofit that facilitates family volunteering in Austin, TX, was born. Marissa adds, "Preschool aged children have tremendous capacity for understanding compassion and generosity, and those values should be nurtured."
"The earlier you start teaching the idea of philanthropy, the more likely you are to instill the habit," said Susan Crites Price, author of "The Giving Family: Raising Our Children to Help Others." Price, who also serves as vice president for the National Center for Family Philanthropy, says one of the best ways to impart philanthropic values is to model the behavior. "Let your children witness your giving. ... Establishing the habit of giving with a preschooler can be the beginning of a lifelong commitment to generosity."
Several non profits focus on getting young children and their families involved in volunteer service activities including Little Helping Hands in Austin, TX, and Blossom International in Manasquan, NJ. Both groups do the legwork for parents by organizing events tailored to young children and emphasize that volunteering is fun. They offer experiences kids love such as dog washing drives, cooking meals for the hungry, making craft kits for kids in the hospital and packing care packages for troops overseas.
Steven R. Covey says it best: "Can you imagine anything more energizing, more unifying, more filled with satisfaction than working with members of your family to accomplish something that really makes a difference in the world?"
If your community doesn't have a resource like Little Helping Hands or Blossom International, you may search for family-friendly volunteer opportunities at The Volunteer Family by zip code. For families wanting to initiate their own service projects, please see our free eBook containing simple ideas for families to come together and make a difference in their communities: Family-Friendly Volunteering: Ideas from A-Z.