Volunteering as a Family
By Lucinda Robb
My three kids and I love volunteering together. For me it is a chance to model my values in front of my children, while for them helping others makes them feel useful and grown up.
I’m on the board of the Arlington Food Assistance Center, and because they have so many child friendly opportunities, we’ve done family bagging night, grocery store food drives, produce gleaning, neighborhood leafleting, and countless charitable lemonade stands. We’ve also done one-time activities such as Offender Aid Restoration’s Project Christmas Angel, where we’ve wrapped Christmas presents for the children of incarcerated parents. The important thing is planning ahead and putting these activities into our calendar so they don’t lose out to other pastimes.
At the same time, some of our favorite traditions are ones we have created on our own.
Every year when one of the kids has a birthday, we go to Giant and buy their age in cereal boxes, canned tuna, soup, etc. Then we go to AFAC where they weigh the donation and I take a photo of them surrounded by groceries they helped pick out. This was great when my kids were younger, because it was hands on and they understood hunger. Even now, my 6th grader still loves doing it and reminds me constantly about it when her birthday gets near.
Since 2014 my daughters and I have run the Jingle Bell Run 5K for Juvenile Arthritis. Our first time out was a disaster, but the girls whined the entire first mile. In desperation, I promised to donate a dollar for every bell they picked up (people tie them to their shoes at the start and they fall off throughout the race). All of the sudden they were zipping through the crowd, picking up bells and telling other runners how much they were raising for Juvenile Arthritis. Now it is one of our favorite Christmas traditions (and a welcome break from holiday eating).
As the kids get older, I’ve encouraged them to donate their own time and money to the causes they care about, even matching their contributions. But for now, the important part is that they get in the habit of volunteering and giving. Hopefully if they have fond memories while they are young, it will become a regular part of their lives as an adult.
Would you like to learn more about local Nonprofit and County volunteer opportunities for youth and families? Learn more here!