[Family Volunteering Series Pt. 4] It Takes a Village To Make a Difference

For our family, Thanksgiving, and pretty much every holiday, is always about valuing the love that we have for each other and showing our appreciation for that love. It’s so easy to fall into that trap of taking things for granted and I believe there’s no better way to remind ourselves of how blessed we are than to put ourselves in the position to serve others who are in need.  

Volunteering is so much more than handing out or picking up things, it’s about making that human connection to another person or to Mother Nature. It’s about getting family together, radiating a positive and nurturing energy and taking the time to emphasize the importance of loving acts.

Planting Native Plants with Tree People

Since Thanksgiving is just around the corner, I thought it would be inspiring to me, and hopefully to you, to spotlight a few other families who value how beautiful family volunteering can be. Do you have a favorite family volunteering tradition? Share it with us and let’s inspire each other!

Melissa from Keeping up with the Rheinlander’s

Holidays are a special time for families! However not all families can or are unable to give their children what they want/need during the holidays! That is where my family and friends like to help! During the Holidays we all get together and pitch in money to “adopt” a family every year! To ensure that at least one family in our area has a wonderful Christmas/Holiday!! I think it is a bright spot in our Holiday tradition and makes everyone feel as if they made a difference. 

As a family we donate to places, events, charities throughout the year (especially our local children’s shelter). I always involve my daughter (who is now 4) because I want to teach her to give, that we share what we have with others.  I want to teach her to be a generous and loving person. 

Having worked with at-risk youth and children in Foster care I feel that I “know more” than the average person and a responsibility to GIVE. If I am able to impact the life of one child and teach my own child a valuable lesson in the process then I am doing something right! I challenge you to find a charity or local family in need and give back! You can do it alone or gather family and friends to help make someone else’s Holiday special for them!! 

Jennifer from The Good Long Road

Our family holiday volunteer tradition began when our oldest son was barely 2 and our youngest son was not quite 4 months old. 

My husband and I nurture family volunteerism by example — showing our boys the importance of doing what we can to help others, particularly in the ways that make the most sense for us. My husband shot photos and video footage of the event (he and I are independent filmmakers). This was a talent he could give to the organizers — quality photos they could use to promote the event and get more people involved in the future. It helps the boys understand the importance of their job, as a job that a little one can do varies quite a bit from an adult. Still, children can give back. They can also learn a great deal from seeing parents give back and having parents prioritize giving to others, both time and donations.

Since our particular family holiday volunteer tradition relates to feeding those in need, this theme often runs throughout the year for us as we try to donate items to our food pantry on a regular basis and engage in other creative ways to raise awareness about hunger and help individuals struggling with food insecurity. 

I love that my kids take joy in helping others. As they get older, I look forward to seeing what volunteer opportunities and giving activities grow out of their own interests and concerns, and we’ll continue to have fun committing lots of random acts of kindness!

Amber from The Mile High Mama 

I’ve always had a problem with Thanksgiving. By its very definition, this holiday should be about giving thanks with those we love but has become an excuse to be over-indulgent stuffing our faces while watching football all day (can you tell I have pretty strong opinions about this? 🙂 So I decided my family’s Thanksgiving would be about service. 

This will be our third year serving Thanksgiving dinner through Volunteers of America to a residential and support program designed to help chronically homeless women. We bring a side dish to share, we make cards for them, we play BINGO together and, most importantly, we are filled with gratitude for all that we have while realizing maybe we’re not so different after all. 

Melissa From Chasqui Mom

My husband and I have been youth leaders for eight years at our local Spanish speaking church, Iglesia Esperanza Viva for Junior High and High School Students.  

Last year in addition to starting a wilderness program, we wanted to teach our youth students the value of giving back to our community.  We coordinated to have 13 students volunteer at the Telegraph Ministry Center’sfood pantry and it was a great opportunity for them to serve their neighbors.

Even though my own children are toddlers, it’s very important to me to teach my children to serve the needs of our community.  As in all our outdoor adventures (we do everything as a family) our own children come along on volunteering activities.   I love working with teenagers whether it’s teaching them  outdoor skills, spiritual lessons or volunteering alongside them in our community.

[Family Volunteering Series Pt. 2] Teaching Tots the Importance of Environmental Stewardship

I’m a firm believer that modeling is the most effective way to teach my daughter responsible and respectful behavior. I don’t always succeed. I lose patience. Then, I take a few deep breaths and continue on my ever-evolving quest to act as I wish to be emulated.
There’s no question that being a mother continually pushes me to examine and improve my own behavior and I am always looking for positive and fun ways to allow my little peanut to experience the grace of caring for Mother Nature. After a quasi-successful Heal The Bay Vencie Beach CleanUp last month and a almost 3-week ordeal with a sick toddler, we were more than ready to jump back in to the swing of things! Cue TreePeople!
buckets and kids planting trees
We have hiked passed TreePeople‘s compound on a popular trail here in Los Angeles countless times and I have been looking forward to the time when Vivi would be old enough to participate in their great nature programs and volunteer opportunities.
Tree People’s first planting project in 1970 was led by visionary 15-year-old Andy Lipkis. Their mission for the past almost 40 years has been to inspire, engage and support people to take personal responsibility for the urban environment, making it safe, healthy, fun and sustainable and to share the process as a model for the world. How inspiring!

I was SO in!! Fellow mommy hiker and partner in crime, Megan was, as always, IN too with her little man! I couldn’t WAIT to wake up, pack up the fam and trek out to gorgeous Calabasas to help expand native habitat along Cienega sin Nombre (No Name Creek) and in the valley preserve to protect our animals and birds. 

calabasas california
Not a bad working environment!
What better way to engage small people in environmental stewardship than to give them a pile of dirt and water!

planting trees with toddlers
Vivi & David preparing the soil
It was a splendid way to spend much-needed family time together while teaching our babes how to work together to complete a task! My hubby also did a blog on our TreePeople adventure!
Work hard, play hard Dad!
Learning the proper ‘dibbler’ technique!
We had SO much fun volunteering for TreePeople that we decided to do this once a month! 
The family that plants together, stays together!

[Family Volunteering Series Pt. 1] Heal The Bay Guest Blog for Tales of a Mountain Mama!

Incorporating charity into my life has been a bit of a roller coaster. There have been years where I excelled and years where I completely fell flat, but since having my first daughter, it’s been an ever present thought in my mind.  I believe, kids are never too young to start teaching the art of volunteering; learning important lessons of earth stewardship, instilling a child’s sense of community and reinforcing self-worth through helping others.
Since 1985, Heal The Bay, combined with their massive volunteer army, has fought to “make Southern California coastal water and watersheds, including the Santa Monica Bay, safe, healthy and clean.” They are also leaders in environmental advocacy, petitioning local, state and federal government and regulatory agencies to protect and preserve the beauty and health of Southern California’s natural resources.
Photo by Kerem Hanci
I have volunteered for Heal The Bay’s Nothin’ But Sand Clean Up before and it’s always a great time! You simply fill out their single page waiver, they give you a bucket and gloves and off you go! Volunteers of all ages, from all over the city meticulously sift through sand, restoring it to its original exquisite elegance.
I thought, why not take full advantage of the fact that Vivi is 22 months and still thinks cleaning up is a fun game! Combine ‘The Cleanup Game’ with lunch at the beach and you have a volunteer experience I was certain she would enthusiastically participate in! So we slathered on the sunscreen, grabbed our sunhats, packed our lunch and headed towards the Pacific Ocean! So far, so good!