Our family had big plans this summer—a trip to Hawaii with our extended family. Clearly, that trip is no longer happening. While I mourn the loss of warm weather and tropical breezes, what I’m really feeling sad about is the loss of connection with my family. It got me thinking about ways we create memories with our loved ones and friends.
Without a vacation on the horizon, I started thinking about ways to create some of the meaningful and fun memories this summer. To that end, I started looking into ways to volunteer as a family. Turns out, there are lots great ways – organized and otherwise – to bring your family together for a fulfilling summer!
First, talk to your family.
Figure out what everyone is interested in and able to do, then find opportunities that reflect your families’ interest. Set some collective expectations. Locally, we have two great volunteer resources – VolunteerMatch and United Way of King County – that can help you find just the right project. Here are some easy ideas for this summer that will engage your family, create great memories and make the world a better place.
Help the elderly.
Check in the local senior center or retirement home to see how you can safely lend a hand. Many of us live far from our extended families and this allows your kids connect with and see an older adult as interesting and vital community members. Involve your kids in family discussions about things they might learn from older adults.
Handmade cards = Happiness
Got little artists and lots of “art” in the house? Share it out with folks who don’t have any. Kid art (and your art) can be transformed into handmade cards. Ask your local hospital, senior center, veteran’s center (you get the idea) if this is something that would be meaningful for their clients. Then, share the love.
I’m a feeder – it’s one of my love languages. You can make sack lunches for people in need, deliver food from the food bank, put together a meal train for a friend. There are so many ways to open your your heart and kitchen. It can be as simple as making an extra loaf of banana bread for a neighbor.
Get off the couch.
Don a pair of gloves, your favorite face mask, and a grab a bag to pick up litter on your block or at a local park or beach – carefully of course. Work on trail maintenance or tree planting – something fun for the whole family!
As I have this conversation with my family, my kids seem mildly skeptical. They want to know more about why we should volunteer. For starters, it means we’re all together doing something that isn’t watching TV or screen time. We’ve played games, we’ve done puzzles, we’ve had a couple of Pinterest fail projects — it’s time for a change!
Our family time has taken on a sameness that makes it feel flat. It’s time to break out of that together time rut and do something new. Volunteering offers something for everyone!
Here are some of the benefits of volunteering:
- It feels awesome. Gardening in your own yard can get repetitive. Working on a trail restoration project? Fun, fulfilling and you are working on something that makes the world a little better.
- It develops a sense of responsibility. Volunteering can help your kids learn more about making a commitment, being on time, doing a good job and a having sense of responsibility for our shared world.
- It demonstrates the power of one. It’s important for kids to see that one person can make a difference and that one person can be anyone – even a kid!
- It broadens your worldview. Kids can understand more than we think about fairness and sacrifice. Volunteering shows kids that there are important things in the world besides them and their needs.
- It imparts life skills. Working in the community can put your kids in touch with people of different backgrounds and help them learn to find common ground. They can learn job skills and further career aspirations. Interested in being a vet? Volunteer at an animal shelter. Being a trusted member of a volunteer team will give kids a jumpstart as they one day look for their first job.
- It’s a way to make after school count. Volunteering can be a great alternative to doing nothing after school. Plus, in Washington State, you have to have 60 service hours to graduate.
- “Do you remember that time…” Coming back to my original reason, it creates shared memories and you can have fun as a family.
The decision to volunteer as a family is a big conversation and maybe you’ll need to have it more than once to get your family on board. But, once they are on board, volunteering is a lot of fun. Whether you end up at bagging groceries at your local food bank, serving food to the elderly, taking a meal to someone homebound, checking in on your neighbors, helping out at an animal shelter, planting a traffic circle, figure out what makes your families collective heart sing and do it.
This is an opportunity to show – not tell – your family that compassion and kindness matter. In short, volunteering rocks!
Jolyn Mason is Campaign Manager of the UW Combined Fund Drive. Learn more about how to support your favorite charities through the UWCFD and how to get involved here.