Thursday, November 23, 2017
   
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Holiday Volunteering: Full Family Involvement

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Giving time to others during the holiday season is such a sweet and useful way to make that crazy, busy time of the year mean more and feel more “real”.  But if family time is at a premium right now, (and it usually is), volunteer that time and talent together!  It’s a real way to make happiness grow and lighten hearts.  Just the act of planning and gathering information is a bonding activity and can inspire the family in new, beautiful ways.

The go-to organizations that depend on this time of year for an expected volunteer boost are always good places to start.  The Salvation Army, Toys for Tots, the Boys & Girls Club, and Meals on Wheels all have a strong infrastructure made to efficiently organize their volunteers.  There are different activities and different age requirements for each group, but finding out what you can do with these groups is simple and can be expanded if your family plans begin to expand to a multi-family group effort.

But what if the goal is to do something that is more geared towards specific people?  Helping the community at large is always a good thing, but there are times that one wants to have a personal connection with their efforts.  In this case, start with neighbors, church members, brand new parents, the elderly, and families who have kids with extra-special needs.  Things that could be helpful for these folks could include bringing food to them, organizing a yard clean up effort, getting Christmas decorations out of the attic, giving primary caretakers a needed respite, or running errands during a time that is already extra busy.  Ask friends for ideas and keep an eye on social media to flesh out those who need some help this season.  Sometimes, the best thing a family can do is identify someone who is going to be alone for the holidays.  Giving that person attention, love, time, and a sense that they are not forgotten - that they are important - can truly be a game changer for that person and truly enriching for the family.  Check with local retirement communities to see if they can point to those who might need some extra love this season.
 
Road cleanup isn’t something that can be taken on without the permission of proper authorities and a whole lot of safety preparations, but that idea can be taken and expanded to include neighborhood cleanup or park cleanup.  Walking around with some trash bags, gloves, and an attitude of fun can end up creating a morning full of laughs and crazy conversations!
 
The community’s first responders might be ideally suited to be the recipients of the family’s volunteer efforts as well.  Law enforcement, fire departments, EMS, etc are not going to be getting time off during the holidays the way those they serve do.  Their needs will be varied and it’s important to check with department heads to get ideas for things that might be truly useful.  But during this time of year when those in service want to be with their families, but can’t be, maybe serving their family is just the thing that would bring them the most comfort and peace of mind.  It is worth asking a few questions to see what type of volunteer effort would be truly helpful and affirming to them.  This kind of service can be extended to the families of deployed members of the military as well!
 
A long time favorite paraphrased quote attributed to Mother Teresa is “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”  That’s the idea of serving and volunteering as a family.  The “what” of what you do isn’t as important as the “how” and the “why”.  Making this effort definitely requires a lot of coordination.  So keeping it simple is paramount.  Teaching kids to love others is best digested in small bites anyway.  Go for it, families.  Sharing love and spreading joy doesn’t require immense expense or unavailable time.  And the little sacrifices made now will inspire kids to seek opportunities to serve others as they grow up.  That is a gift that surpasses all others! 

 
 
Leah O’Gwynn Kackley lives in the Rez/Fannin area with Jason and their three kids.  She wishes for a beautiful holiday season for all the P&K readers out there!

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