Family Travel, Holidays, Outdoor fun

Outside the Box Volunteering

November 1, 2021

Fostering a Commitment to Community Service

Some people want to save animals. Some people want to save the planet. You have to find what your family finds important,” says  Lakeview mom, Mandy F. When talking about how her family engages in community service, she believes you’re never too young to learn the value of volunteering your time, your talents, or your money.

“My kids have more than what I had growing up. They need to know there are people who don’t have things and they need to share their gifts, whether it’s monetary or time. It’s what we need to do to keep the world a kind place.”

Volunteering makes the world a happier place as well. Healthcare experts say volunteering teaches empathy and compassion, and volunteering as a family helps create a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Giving Your Time

Family volunteering doesn’t mean hours and hours of labor, a benefit for those whose calendars are pretty full. Allocating even an hour a week can provide families a chance to do something good for others and spend time together. Even the youngest can create cards and letters for military personnel and donate them to national organizations like Operation We are Here, Support Our Troops, or Doing Good Together.

Closer to home, HandsOn New Orleans showcases volunteer opportunities through its partnerships with other organizations across the region. The HandsOn Volunteer Center Portal provides links to these partners.

At Youth Rebuilding New Orleans (YRNO), the volunteer experience is all-inclusive, according to Program Manager Courtlyn Sholar. And while they don’t have family-specific projects, “When families and young people volunteer with us, we have specific tasks that are able to be accomplished by young and old alike.” For safety reasons, YRNO can’t have volunteers younger than 6, and those 16 and younger need to be accompanied by an adult.

If you’re looking for outdoors opportunities, NORD Outdoors seeks Saturday volunteers for its Open Canoeing & Fishing activities at Joe W. Brown Park. Family members ages 14 and up can assist with registration, life-jacket distribution, casting games for children, lessons in casting or knot-tying, water monitoring, or other activities.

The Garden of Grace is a collaborative project between Grace at the Green Light, Urban Gardening, and Tulane’s Environmental Studies program. Beginning in February 2022, family members of all ages (starting at five years old) can help work the garden, whose crops will be used to feed the city’s unsheltered population.

Eden House, which works to “eradicate the trafficking and selling of human beings,” hosts volunteers of all ages; however, children under high school age need parental accompaniment. According to Emily Thomas, program coordinator, “Young volunteers have assisted us with all kinds of projects from painting to gardening to organizing donations.”

Environmentally-conscious volunteer families should consider Glass Half Full, which takes family members under 16 as long as a parent or guardian is present. This organization accepts glass donations for recycling into sand, which is then used in disaster relief, new glass, eco-construction, and other projects.

If your family members are 10 or older, they can volunteer at Culture Aid NOLA, which supports culture and hospitality workers through food distribution. Volunteers bag and distribute produce and dry goods. Younger volunteers (ages 10-15) must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. According to Olivia Morgan, communications manager, “Many of our regular volunteers have been serving with us and bringing their friends and loved ones along since we first began.”

Giving Your Goods

Cleaning out closets and wondering what to do with gently-used products, especially clothes? Some organizations accept them for their constituents’ use or to resell to generate funds. All ages of family members can be involved in identifying toys, games, books, or clothes they’re no longer using that can help others. Covenant House accepts clothes and electronics.

Often, churches and other organizations sponsor an Angel Tree during the holidays. Families can choose an angel from the tree; the angel includes information on the child or family’s needs. One mom takes her children shopping to select items for their contribution, also letting them wrap the gifts to get more involved in the act of giving. 

Giving Your Money

One former nonprofit fundraiser notes, “People think if they can’t write a big check, they can’t contribute. They could give a dollar. Kids can take the dollars they earn for chores and make an impact. All those dollars add up.”

Make sure you’re working with a legitimate organization by checking them out on the IRS Nonprofit Charities Database Exempt Organizations Select Check Tool or on Charity Navigator.  

Before You Volunteer

Just Do It

Family volunteering starts with making the decision to act. With hundreds of nonprofits seeking volunteers of every age and interest, every family can find a mission that suits them. Mandy, who is also an experienced volunteer mom, says, “Everybody has the opportunity to make a ripple in the pond.”

By Valerie Andrews

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