Volunteering is a great way to give back to your community and meet new people. But sometimes, it can be overwhelming to figure out where to start.
Volunteering is an essential part of our society. People who volunteer tend to live longer, happier lives. They also tend to be healthier and less stressed. In addition, volunteering has improved mental health and reduced loneliness.
Volunteering is an excellent way for families to get involved and spend some quality time. There are many ways for an entire family to volunteer together. Some examples include helping at a local food bank or animal shelter, working with children at a school or daycare center, or participating in a community service project. The good news is there are tons of volunteer programs that need your help!
So, let’s get into it!
Volunteer Work Around Your Neighborhood
When I was a kid, I was taught to leave places nicer than I found them. What better way to teach this than in your own neighborhood and parks! This is a great way to introduce your kids to their first volunteering experiences.
You can do so many things around the neighborhood to help others. Here are some ideas:
Pick Up Trash While On A Family Walk
This is one of the most straightforward family volunteer options. You don’t have to go far from home to pick up trash on the side of the road. If you’re walking down the street, look for litter along the sidewalk. You could even make a game out of picking up trash while on a walk.
Kids love using those pincher-style trash grabbers. So bring along a garbage bag and let your kids use the grabbers to pick up litter while enjoying some family time on a walk. This is a great way to make your outdoor activities more productive while bonding with your family.
Offer To Mow The Lawns Of The Elderly
If there are any elderly neighbors near you, offer to mow their lawns. It may seem like a small thing, but it really helps these older folks feel more comfortable in their homes. Plus, they’ll appreciate having someone take care of their yard. Many people don’t realize the amount of need in their immediate area. This is also an excellent opportunity to teach your children about lawn care.
Helping When Your Family Doesn’t Have Lots Of Time
If you have a particularly busy family, maybe volunteering with time isn’t your best option. What about helping charities and churches supply themselves with what they need to complete their missions. Perhaps have your family call around to grocery stores and see about arranging pick-ups for food to provide homeless shelters and church food banks. There are lots of ways you can still help with limited time.
Visit With People In A Local Assisted Living or Nursing Home
Another great option if you have limited time is visiting nursing homes. Many people think that nursing homes are depressing places, but actually, they can be pretty comforting. Most nursing homes provide residents with a lot of entertainment and fun opportunities. Plus, the residents often love getting to experience the joys of kids being around. It often brings smiles to their faces.
Volunteering for Organizations and Churches
Many churches and organizations have missions that need volunteers. In addition, these groups often have projects that need help. For example, if you’ve got young kids, you might want to consider volunteering at a school or daycare center. Below are some steps you can take to find the right volunteer opportunities for your family!
Identify The Times That Work Best For Your Family
Coordinating one person’s schedule is hard enough. Throw in multiple people, and free time slots can get scarce! So, how do you find the available time to volunteer between school, soccer practice, homework, jobs, and dinner time?
The best way to do this is to create a “master calendar” and get all of the activities and obligations for everyone on it. Once you have that calendar made, you’ll be able to see where you have openings.
Figure Out Which Organizations You Want To Volunteer With
If you want to volunteer with kids, try looking for groups specializing in helping kids. Or, if you’re interested in volunteering with animals, check out shelters or rescue groups.
Ask other people who have volunteered for the same organization you’re considering to see what their experience was. This will give you insight into what you can expect. For example, we once volunteered for a soup kitchen that had so many volunteers show up that people didn’t actually have jobs to do.
We found out that this was actually fairly common. So, in that case, it’s better to find a different way to volunteer for an activity or organization that needs more help.
Before signing up to volunteer, ask questions. Learn more about the organization, the task, and the people you will be working with. This will give you a better idea of whether you will enjoy volunteering.
Check out their website and see how they do things, and look for photos of their events so you can have a better idea if it would be a good fit for a whole family to help with.
Identify The Tasks Your Family Would Enjoy Volunteering For
Once you decide on a particular organization, you need to learn more about what tasks are required. For example, do you want to work with older adults, or do you want to work with young children? Do you want to build houses or help feed people? Knowing this information ahead of time will make it much easier to choose which type of volunteer positions your family should take.
When choosing activities to participate in, think about how everyone will feel. Will it be appropriate for all ages? Will it be challenging enough to keep everyone engaged? Will it be something that everyone enjoys doing?
Generally, volunteering isn’t about you and what you enjoy doing, but there has to be some element of passion for what you’re doing. This is especially important when bringing kids into the mix. Kids can sometimes have trouble seeing past their own needs and wants.
Understand The Needs Of The Organization
We’ve talked a lot about our own schedules and needs, but the organizations themselves have needs too. Therefore, it is essential to understand those needs before volunteering your family. Some organizations need people to show up consistently or have a minimum age requirement.
For example, my husband and I volunteered at a church as youth pastors for about 2 years which required a very rigid schedule. Every Friday night, we were prepared with activities and teachings for the kids at the church. As a result, we couldn’t just wake up on Friday and say, “we don’t feel like volunteering today.”
If your family can’t commit to the schedules and demands of the organization, then they can’t serve the people they want to help.
Before you sign up to volunteer:
- Ask lots of questions.
- Try to learn everything you can about the organization, its mission statement, and what they need from volunteers.
- Find out what volunteering opportunities they have and what kind of adult supervision might be in place if you all will be split up for any reason.
The Benefits Of Volunteering: What Do You Hope To Get Out Of Your Family’s Experience?
At the heart of it, people want to volunteer to help out, but there are often other motivations. For example, some people prefer to volunteer because they want to work on themselves. Maybe they want to learn new skills or get the gratification of knowing they’re making the world a better place.
Perhaps you want to teach your kids about charity or that there are less fortunate people than you and give them the desire to help people who might live in a homeless shelter or a women’s shelter. Or maybe, as a family, you just want to have an activity that isn’t self-focused and allows you to bond as a family through service to others.
Volunteering can be an excellent opportunity to positively impact our communities.
Preparing For Your First Volunteer Day As A Family
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when doing something new. The best thing to remember is that no matter what happens, you are trying to do good and create an opportunity for your family to work together for the good of others. So just relax and enjoy yourself as much as possible.
Try not to stress too much. Go into this knowing that not everything will go to plan. Instead, focus on the positive things. Remember that even though the first day may not be picturesque, you did something good for someone else.
Try to prepare for any situations that might arise. For example, if it’s warm out, make sure you have water for yourself and your kids. If It might be cold, make sure everyone brings warm clothing. If you have little kids, it would probably be worthwhile to ensure there are nearby bathrooms. We once volunteered at a pop-up soup kitchen, and there were no bathrooms nearby.
Now Go Out And Do Good!
Volunteering is a great way to meet new people and gain valuable skills. However, there are many factors to consider before signing up to volunteer. By following these tips, you will find a good match between your family’s interests and the needs of the organization you wish to volunteer for.
What have your experiences been like with volunteering? Have you volunteered with your family before? What tips would you like to share with others? Let us know!