Monday, December 15, 2008

Volunteering Together Brings Families Closer

(ARA) - From rising energy costs to escalating prices at the grocery store, Americans are feeling the pinch in their pocketbooks. Traditionally the holiday season can be a time for individuals and families to think of donating to charities, yet some may find it more viable to give of their time.

Just 13 percent of Americans who donate to charitable causes expect to increase their giving at the end of the year, according to a recent survey by Grizzard Communications Group. Whether you can make a financial donation or not, there are many opportunities to give from the heart and help those in need.

“For our family, it started with a holiday party we organized for our local nursing home two years ago,” explains John Henris of Washington DC, a volunteer for Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly. “We wanted our children to be aware of people in their community in need and in turn we created a rewarding volunteer experience for our whole family.”

It is important for parents to set an example for their children in making community service a part of their everyday life. Children can see first hand what it means to take action and learn how satisfying such an experience can be. In the case of the Henris family, 11-year old Madeline has even involved her friends in their family volunteering activities and they like to brag about how “cool” it is.

Volunteering actually brought Bill and Charron Andrews of North Carolina together more than 25 years ago when they each started providing support at the Chicago chapter of Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly. They subsequently married and their now-grown daughter recently gave a concert and donated the proceeds to Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly. Dave and Linda Rulison helped organize a holiday party for elders in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula back in the 1980s and have been volunteering ever since, recruiting both their sons and extended family members to assist.

Here are some tips on how to create a worthwhile volunteering experience for your family:
1. Look for organizations and opportunities which will allow you to involve your whole family in the volunteer effort. You can look at it as your “gift” of community service, as well as an opportunity for extended family to bond in a common activity.

2. Don’t rule out volunteer opportunities because you think you are too busy with your own family commitments. There are many social service agencies, like Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly, where you can make a difference just through weekly phone calls to a senior or that have activities you can share with other family members or friends. For more information, visit www.littlebrothers.org

3. Use a one-time event, like an annual visit to a shelter or soup kitchen, to investigate other programs that the organization sponsors throughout the year where you can extend your support.

4. Consider creating or tapping into an existing intergenerational program that allows children to interact with seniors in your community. John Henris and his family created a program called “Life Stories” in which they organize a small group of seniors to visit a local school to be interviewed by students in a history class.

5. Be sure to ask the intended organization about the volunteer opportunities available for all age groups in your family. Even if there is a recommended age restriction for on-site participation, you might be able to prepare some of the items at home with the help of your children or have them assist in other aspects of the volunteer effort.

Giving the gift of time not only gives to those in need, but it can be a powerful bonding experience for the whole family.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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