Last Friday night on the spur of the moment I decided to sign up to help at a local Free Store that serves a hot meal and gives free clothing to local folks in need. I'd heard from several people that it was a great place to volunteer with children, and goodness, I'm so glad we decided to do it.
When I realized we had a free Saturday morning, I went online to the Free Store Ministries website and noticed they had a few openings to help that day. I asked my girls if they'd be interested (and was thrilled that they both were!), and we headed out Saturday morning.
We spent the morning helping serve food, and the girls helped clean up the children's toy area as well as work on a few odd jobs around the store. They both said they'd love to go back again, and it's brought up so many valuable discussions this week. While my kids learned quite a few things on the trip, I think it may have been even more valuable for me. Just getting out and doing something for someone besides my own little family was such a blessing!
The reason I'm sharing this is not because I did anything right – in fact, as a busy mom with three kids, I really haven't done all that much in the way of volunteering. While I've helped out at church a bit and we donate to food pantries regularly, we don't often go far outside our comfort zone, because honestly I'm not always sure where to start.
But after helping out for just a few hours this weekend I realized it's so simple to do, and volunteers are needed everywhere. I simply didn't know how to easily connect with a place to serve (especially with young kids), so I've hunted down a few easy ways to volunteer with your kids. If you've come up with other ideas, I'd love to hear them!
For younger children (7 and under)
1. Donate to a local food pantry.
This is one we've done since my kids were babies, and it's been a great way to easily help someone when my kids were too young to really volunteer. For us, it's just a super easy way we can make all that coupon clipping worth it, and it's so easy to do. I keep a bag in my pantry for items to donate, and drop them off every few weeks at our local food pantry. If you're not sure where to find a food pantry in your area, start HERE.
2. Help serve in your local Meals on Wheels program.
Meals on Wheels has several different areas you can help with, and if your children are young consider delivering meals in your community. They also need servers to help serve in community centers in some areas, so if your children are a little older that may be a great way to help those in need.
3. Donate food to a local adult group home.
When we lived in Huntsville, there was a small adult group home that was always in need of food pantry staples. I took my kids to drop off food a few times, and it was great for them to see the residents and tour the building, and I know my friend Shannon donates there all the time. It's just an easy way for our children to see a glimpse of those in need, and the people love seeing the kids when we stop by!
If you're not sure where to start, contact a local church who may be able to point you in the right direction of places like this to give, or call a few group homes in your area. These aren't as easy to find but they are out there, and can use your donations so much!
4. Pack a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child.
This is such a wonderful way for small children to get involved in giving, no matter how young they are. Take a few minutes to watch some of the videos sharing the stories behind Operation Christmas Child with your kids ~ those helped our own understand so much better why we give through that ministry!
5. Have your kids color pictures and deliver them to a local nursing home.
6. Bake cookies or brownies and share them with your local fire department or police station.
8. Donate school supplies to your local school or to a homeless shelter.
When those back to school sales start, take advantage of the great deals and grab a few supplies to share with those in need. We've donated those before at a local homeless shelter that houses children, but they're also great to donate to your local school or even an inner city school that could use those extra supplies.
For older kids (ages 8 and up)
All of the ones above and . . .
9. Volunteer to serve food at a local homeless shelter.
Go HERE to find a local homeless shelter in your community – many homeless shelters have website where you can sign up directly to volunteer, or call one in your area to see if how to get involved.
10. Help out at a Ronald McDonald House or help work on a Habitat for Humanity home.
11. Host a lemonade stand and donate the proceeds to a local charity.
12. Donate rice (for free) through the Free Rice program.
I came across this one and couldn't believe it was true (so I did some searching), but your older child can actually work on their vocabulary and send rice to those in need all at the same time. Go HERE to try it out (I was pretty impressed, and am going to have my kids start working on that one today!)
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