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Volunteering in Your Community Together as a Family

by Chelsea Ponder

It is important for people to be involved in their local communities, but a lot of people don’t know where to begin. If you have never volunteered before, it can be overwhelming looking at all the different options. Kids and teens often don’t even know about these opportunities unless they are exposed to them by an adult, so if you have never volunteered before, here is how to check out your local volunteer opportunities and also get your kids involved at the same time.

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How to Find Volunteering Opportunities

Check the community services pages of your local phone book and see which non-profit organizations are located in your community. You will find food banks, homeless shelters, women’s shelters, and more. These are all organizations that offer opportunities to get involved and volunteer.

Other places you can volunteer include hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and animal shelters. If you belong to a church, find out which charities your church supports and this will give you more information about volunteering opportunities. Some communities also have volunteer centers that organize volunteers in their community.

Getting Your Children Involved in Volunteering

If you want your children to volunteer with you, then make sure to contact the organization you are interested in helping and find out their policies about children volunteers. Many organizations allow children volunteers as long as they are accompanied by an adult. There will also be age restrictions on certain activities, for instance, in some homeless shelters children cannot work in the kitchen but they can work in the dining area.

If your child is unsure about volunteering, then make sure to choose an activity that you both agree will be fun. If the experience is not enjoyable, especially the first experience, then your child or teen will likely not want to volunteer again in the future.

Many children get excited about the thought of working with animals, and your local animal shelter might be a great place to start. Animal shelters are always looking for people to play with the kittens and take the dogs for walks. Animal shelter are also always needing cat food, cat litter, dog food, etc. Find out ahead of time what their needs are and let your child bring them a donation when they go to volunteer. Your child could also hold a neighborhood “animal supply drive” to collect items for the shelter. Have them distribute a flyer to neighbors stating that if they wish to donate your child will return on a certain day to collect their donation.

Volunteering Together as a Family

Volunteering together as a family is a very rewarding experience. A local homeless shelter is a great place for a family to volunteer together. The shelters are always looking for people to help prepare and serve meals. There are many volunteering opportunities at shelters. Some shelters assemble food boxes to distribute to needy families, and they need help putting the boxes together. They also often need help keeping their pantries and freezers clean and organized.

There are also women and family shelters that are separate from the men’s shelters. Often the family shelters are looking for people to help sort and organize clothing and other donations that they distribute to needy families.

If you look around you, you will find that there are many places in your community where you can volunteer and make a difference in other people’s lives. Your kids won’t go do this on their own, they need you to take them. Take this opportunity to spend time together as a family while also instilling in your children a love for giving and serving.

Chelsea Ponder is a professional blogger that provides creative fundraising ideas for events, causes, and charities. She writes for Jamboroo, where you can find great fundraising ideas and shop for charity causes.

How to Send Care Packages to the Military

by Dustin Porter

Do you ever think about the hundreds of thousands of United States military personnel who are serving our country overseas? If you have family in the military or you have been in the military yourself, you probably already know how much our military enjoys receiving care packages while they are away. If you don’t know anyone in the military, you can still make a difference and reach out to one of our service men or women and show them how much you appreciate them by the simple act of sending them a care package.

There are a lot of things we take for granted in everyday life, like using a microwave, washing machine, coffee maker, etc. While some of our servicemen do have access to these luxuries, many do not. And they can’t run to the store to buy themselves a soda or a candy bar like we can. They learn to make do, and to many times do without. It really makes their day when items such as these show up in their mail. Not to mention words of encouragement. Many service men and women do not receive mail from home while they are away, and they can become very lonely and detached from their everyday lives. A short note from a stranger has tremendous power to make someone’s day.

military care packages

Where to Send

There is a great non-profit web site called AnySoldier.com where for a small donation you can receive names and addresses for as many soldiers as you would like to send care packages to. The limit is two addresses per day. The people who have signed up to receive the packages are just the “point of contact” for a unit. Any mail or packages sent to them is distributed throughout their unit. You can choose to send your package anywhere in the world, and to any branch of the military.

What to Send

What to put in a care package depends on where you are sending the package and what time of the year it is. Before you go shopping, check the AnySoldier.com web site and see what kind of items soldiers are currently requesting. Many need personal hygiene items such as shaving cream, razors, soap, hand sanitizer, lotion, etc. Snacks are always a big hit. Beef jerky, nuts of any kinds, granola bars, and candy are always appreciated. They are also always looking for drink packets to add to water bottles, energy drinks, and instant coffee. For those who have access to microwaves, microwave popcorn and macaroni and cheese in a cup are good choices.

Soldiers also appreciate new and used magazines. Instead of throwing out magazines after you read them, pass them on. Car and fitness magazines are popular with the men, and don’t forget about the female soldiers. They always appreciate good women’s magazines.

Don’t forget playing cards, dice, puzzle books, anything to help pass the time. Some units are looking for items like video game systems, so check the web site for those kinds of specific requests.

When you put together a package, do not combine food items with non-food items. The scents that are included in many laundry and hygiene items will affect the flavor of any food also in the package.

How to Send

If you ship priority mail, you can mail the package from your own home. The best value is to use the large flat rate military boxes available from the USPS. If they don’t have these special boxes at your post office, get them at the USPS web site. They will be shipped for free to your home. Using these special boxes saves more than a dollar in shopping and the weight of the box doesn’t matter since it is flat rate.

Although you will be paying domestic prices to ship the box, you still need to fill out a customs form to ship the box. The USPS has recently streamlined this process and if you print the address label online it will combine your shipping label with the customs label, preventing you from having to fill out a special form. There is a special clear pouch for customs forms you can get at the post office or order for free online. Place this pouch on the front of the package and insert the combined shipping and customs form in the pouch. You can schedule a pick up for the package online and your postman will pick up the package at your front door. You don’t even have to be home if you leave it on your front porch.

Assembling care packages for the military is a great group project. Whether done by a family, school group, scout group, or church group, it is fun to do together and the rewards are priceless. If you get lucky you might even hear back from one of the people who received a package.

Building a Better Relationship With Your Kids by Volunteering Together

Volunteering with your children is a fantastic way, not only to solidify our relationship but it’s also a great way to introduce some important life lessons to your children in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. If chosen correctly, the right volunteering activity can encourage and excite children (acting more as a fun day out, than “work”). You’ll get the chance to meet other adults in your community, but your child will also get to expand their social circle to include children that may not go to their school (which is great for confidence).

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So where should you start looking for these volunteering opportunities? Here, we’ll run through some of the most popular volunteering options and how you can go about arranging them.

Community tidy-up

Many councils run “tidy up” days throughout the year, where local residents get together and neaten up the common areas of a neighbourhood or a public park. It’s probably going to involve some light gardening, some sweeping, some re-painting or some litter picking – so be prepared for this. It’s a very fun day for the children though as they can get excited about helping out the local community in such a great way. This kind of excursion offer instant results – so fantastic for moral too.

Neighbour reach-out

If you live in an area with a larger OAP community, a great way to start off volunteering with your children is to ask if anyone needs any odd jobs doing. Some might want you to go shopping for them, some might want a sofa moving, some might need a shelf putting up. It’s a very personable job option, this one – so you and your children can enjoy the great feeling that comes from helping someone directly.

Hold a “food then cook” gathering

Hosting a “food then cook” gathering in your house is a great, fun and different way to introduce your children to volunteering. The idea is to invite lots of other local families in the area round and ask them to bring some simple ingredients with them. You then cook together all day to create various meals for a homeless shelter. It’s very rewarding to watch your food being enjoyed and it’s great for the kids to see the direct result of all their hard work.

Donate your old clothes to charity

Have a day where you and your children sort through your wardrobes and toy cupboards and find all the things you no longer use or wear. It’s a fun process, and once you’ve sorted them out you can donate the clothes to a charity shop (or homeless shelter if you have warm coats to give away) and you can volunteer the toys and games to a children’s hospital. It’s a great feeling to give something over to someone else selflessly, and it’s definitely a trait you’ll want to encourage in your children.

Walk for charity

Volunteer to take part in a cross-country sponsored walk with your children to raise money for a charity or organisation that they feel strongly for. They’ll enjoy collecting sponsors and it’ll be a really bonding experience for you to complete the sponsored activity together – as you’ll feel a great sense of achievement after it’s done. You could even encourage your children to start a blog or scrapbook leading up to the event, with how much money they’re raising, etc.

Visit a nursing home

A lot of people in nursing homes don’t have anyone who visits them regularly, so it’s nice to be matched up with someone like this who’s in care – and make their day by popping in and paying them a visit. It’s a lovely gesture and cultivates lovely relationships too.

This article was written by Cancer Research – providing volunteering positions and charity jobs in the UK and beyond.

Volunteering

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Positive Early Volunteering Experiences Lead to Lifetime Volunteers

by Emily Patterson

One of the best ways to create a lifetime habit like volunteering is to encourage children to start at an early age. Many parents are aware of this and the ways it can help reach the goal of raising caring and socially involved children.
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Encouraging young children to volunteer will get them started early on the path to becoming the kinds of adults parents want their children to be. Some simple guidelines will help you get your children involved in volunteering and help ensure their experiences are positive.

Volunteering is something that anyone can do. There are volunteer opportunities for people of any age, skill set and set of interests. Your children will benefit the most and will be more likely to enjoy themselves and want to continue volunteering if you find the right activity for them. A toddler is not too young to volunteer, provided the activity is age appropriate. Beach cleanups or visits to a nursing home are potential opportunities for the very young set of volunteers.

Choose an organization to volunteer with carefully. Interview organizations you are interested working with to make sure they are a good fit for young volunteers. It is best to choose a place that is accustomed to involving children and enjoys introducing children to the world of volunteerism.

Make volunteering an important part of your family. It is not enough to simply tell your children it is important to volunteer and encourage them to do it. Lead your children by example and show them that volunteering is important to you and the rest of the family by volunteering yourself and sometimes as a family. After a volunteer experience be sure to discuss how it went. Discuss both the positives and negatives of the experience. Be sure to highlight how volunteering makes you feel and encourage your children to discuss how the experience felt for them and why volunteering is important.

Every good parent wants to help their children grow into the best people they can be. Modeling and encouraging volunteering on a regular basis is just one of the many ways a parent can work towards this goal. Making sure early volunteer experiences are positive will increase your chances of success.

Adopting a Dog from the Humane Society


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Last week our family adopted a dog from our local humane society. It had been a long time since I’d been there to visit. It is quite an experience if you have never been there.

We already have a dog that is part Great Pyrenees and part Border Collie. She is a beautiful, friendly dog, but she has a lot of energy and had recently been sneaking out of our yard to go visit the neighbor dogs. We decided that maybe what she needed was another dog to play with.

Now you should never get a dog without putting a lot of thought into it first, and not act on your first impulse. Not me and my husband, we have had to learn from our past mistakes, especially not doing research on different dog breeds. This is so important before you bring a new dog into your home.

You are always taking your chances when you bring a dog home from the humane society, but often people who work there will be able to tell you some history on the dogs you are considering taking home to your family. Our humane society has a three-day trial period where you can take a dog and then bring it back if it doesn’t do well in your home.

We chose another cattle dog. Her name is Misty and she is part Australian Shepherd and part Blue Heeler. Looking at dogs at the humane society is quite an experience. I don’t recommend you take babies or very small children in there. I had forgotten how loud it is in there. The large dogs are often in a relatively small enclosed area, and very close to each other, and close to you. When they start barking it is very loud and overwhelming to small children.

Misty was the first dog I saw when I walked through the door. She was smaller than most of the large dogs and immediately caught my attention. I wouldn’t consider myself a real dog person, but Misty made sure to let me know that I was the one who was supposed to take her home with me. I asked about her history and found out that she had been hit by a car and her owner decided to leave her at the humane society instead of taking her to a vet. Fortunately it was only a leg that was hit, and she received care by a vet and then was nursed back to health in a “foster” home before being returned to the humane society. Her leg healed very quickly.

We took Misty for a walk around the building and our boys fell in love with her. It costs about $80 to adopt a dog at our humane society, however it does depend on whether or not the dog is spayed or neutered. The dog is also microchipped. They ask that you get a free exam at a local veternarian (free only if you adopt from humane society). If something is wrong with the dog you have about two weeks to bring the dog back. If you bring it back after that time, you have to pay a relinquish fee of $50. Our humane society is so pressed for space that you have to be on a waiting list in order to relinquish a dog there.

The adoption fee for our dog was actually already paid for. Sometimes people pay a dog’s adoption fee ahead of time to make sure they go to a good home. We decided to give them a donation any way, because the organization is not for profit.

The humane society is a great place for your children to volunteer if you want to get them interested in becoming involved in their community. Our humane society is the first place our daughter ever volunteered, and as she grew older she also volunteered at other local organizations. They always need people to walk dogs and play with the kittens. They also need people to donate things like kitten food, cat litter, and dog food. Kids love to help shop for these items and then deliver them, and the humane society really deserves your help. It is a fun activity that your family can do together.

Even though we’ve made some hasty dog decisions in the past, we definitely hit the jackpot with Misty. She and our other dog play great together. She completely ignores our cats and loves our children. She is even great with our 1 year old. She loves to ride in the car, follows me everywhere I go, and at night sleeps on the floor between our boys’ beds, watching over them while they sleep. We are very blessed to have found her.

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