Thursday, November 8, 2012

Help This Woman: Ideas for Kids and Volunteering

Last year, about this time, I wrote this:
"My sorry, fat, over-privileged, first world ass is starting a new tradition: Every week between Thanksgiving and New Years, I’m doing something service-oriented. ...this year is different. My kids are a little older. I have a tiny bit more autonomy because no one is breastfeeding and even my littlest is in preschool two days a week. I really can do something. And I’m going to try and do as much of it as possible with my kids." Here's the thing - I'm a giant, idiotic boobstain and I still think I can pull this off.

Let me be totally honest with you. I did something every week but not with my kids... Well, they participated in some of it. The majority of what they did was help me buy stuff for other people at Target and then ride around in the Big White Tampon while we delivered it all. They made some cards and wrapped some presents. They also really enjoyed the part where I snappishly ignored them for two weeks to focus on helping hookers.

Let me be even more honest, and I hope you won't judge me for this. My kids aren't spoiled exactly, they just have no idea. I grew up poor. I lived in Section 8 housing with my mom for five years. I remember vividly what it was like to be the poor kid, to wear crappy clothes and bobo sneakers (does anyone still call them that? Bobo?). My parents took good and loving care of me, but they could not spare me from feeling the fear and anxiety that comes from being poor. 

Before the Cap'n and I started a family, we swore we'd fight to keep that fear and anxiety from our kids. That we would do whatever we could to spare them that. Fast forward about ten years. Yesterday, I found myself saying: "IF YOU COMPLAIN ONE MORE TIME ABOUT THE FACT THAT YOU ONLY HAVE TWO PAIRS OF JEGGINGS, I AM GOING TO SET THEM ALL ON FIRE."

Bad mommy, shame. But I wonder now if the stuff we've worked so hard to shield them from aren't the very things that we need to be teaching them about. I don't want to make them feel the worry that I did, but neither do I want them to take anything for granted. Basically it boils down to this: I have middle class kids. And I do not want them to grow up to be ungrateful, over-entitled a-holes. 

So here is what I'm asking. I want to make a huge list of things kids can do to actively help others. And I want to start them young. I need your suggestions on specific, age-appropriate activities that different aged kids can do to help other people and give back to the community. And when we've made our huge list of things that kids can do, we can print it out and hang it on the fridge and point to it every time one of our offspring says "I'm bored" or complains that they're only seventh grader without an iPhone.

Here's what I mean:

Ages 2-4: 
Make cards for wounded soldiers
Sort through toys and clothes to find items to donate

Ages 5-8:
Make bag lunches for the homeless at a nearby shelter
Offer to do chores for to raise money for a charity

Ages 9-12:
Start a canned food drive
Offer help to elderly or sick friends and neighbors

Prepare and deliver meals to folks who are home-bound
Volunteer at a non-profit or community event

Thanks in advance for your suggestions and ideas. You hookers are the best.
xo, Lydia 

The awesome people at Sweet Relish are working with us to help moms in need this holiday season. They will donate $1 in gift cards for every person who joins their site and follows me (up to $5,000!!). If you're too busy or too broke to help to a family in need this year, here is one really quick and easy way to help. And if you follow me, I promise to follow you back! It only takes a minute and is really useful and fun.

To join Sweet Relish and follow me, click here.
If you're already on Sweet Relish and you want to find me, click here.
( (c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2012


  1. Whole family, go visit old people at a retirement home.

    1. Just what I was thinking! Also, kids or wounded warriors in the hospital.

    2. I agree! I was thinking of doing that with our MOMS Club - letting the little kids dress up and do a parade. Make pictures to bring to the Retirement Home. Have older kids do a skit (for those attention lovers) or write a story or poem. Have them ask questions about growing up in another time.

  2. I know Lydia is out east, but if any lovlies in Illinois are looking for an easy, awesome, fulfilling volunteer opportunity, check out Bernie's Book Bank.
    My cousin's family is super involved with this organization. I've volunteered there (along with my 6 year old son and 9, 11, & 12 year old neices and adults in the family.) There's something for everyone to do (from sticking stickers to sorting age appropriate books) & there's a tangible immediate sense that you've done something good- and something important. If you're looking for something to do, I hope you'll check it out & maybe find your way out to the Northwest suburbs of Chicago if you're in this neck of the woods!

  3. I truly wish we could afford to help, but my husband just got a pay rise that we actually lose on because it means we now pay more tax, and the condition of the raise was that our military subsidized housing is no longer subsidized so instead of a 250 pay rise we suffer a 350 lost, plus we lose 100 a week from my tax credits cause my husband is now earning more. =/ We cannot afford jack sweet all at the moment.

    1. Whuck? Seriously, thank you to your family for your service. I am sorry that you are suffering financially.

  4. Totally agree with visiting the retirement home...YES. Also...Operation Christmas Child is a good one for the whole family. Also, consider sponsoring a child through any number of child sponsorship sites...that way it is personal to our kids and they can actually begin a relationship with a child in another life situation. My son loves drawing pictures and sending letters to our sponsored child. And it's not just at the holidays, you know? Also, sometimes it is eye-opening and convicting to simply ask the 2-4 yr old range what they could do to be helpful. My son has mentioned things like "offer people his stickers" to "ask some of the kids withouth mommies and daddies to live with us." So yes, we are not deaf, God, we will explore adoption. Thank you for speaking to us through our 4 yr old, geesh. Wow. Anyway, I am very anxious to read what people say for the 2-4 yr range, thank you for putting this great call to action out there! Could use some solid suggestions. But I love the nursing home idea. Until my 2 yr old pulls the plug on some sweet unsuspecting person. Lawsuit. I may start calling my youngest "Lawsuit" to replace his current nickname of "Maniac."

  5. It you take a baby into a nursing home, it's instant joy for the entire place...residents and staff alike. I call it "baby therapy."

  6. My son's birthday is right before Christmas. When he was 6 he got to have (for the first time) a party with a lot of his friends. Instead of bringing him a ton of crap (to add to the crap he was getting for Christmas) we "adopted" a 6 year old boy from the Angel Tree and asked guests to bring something for him. My son was the one who took all the gifts to the angel tree dropoff. He was SO proud! They also put a portion of their allowance in a box to go to a charity of their choice. Buying cat food for the SPCA, contributing to the Y for kids to go to camp, and always gifts for Angel Tree kids their age (they really get into that - getting the "angels" the stuff they like). My MIL also has them fill a child-sized laundry basket with their favorite holiday dinner-fixings and takes it to a food collection for holiday dinner so they carry it in themselves. I feel they get more out of it if some of it is THEIR money, THEIR favorite things, or THEY actually deliver it. Thanks for inspiring us to do something each week!!

  7. We have done "feed my starving children" as a family. You fill sacks of food in proper proportion so it can be re-hydrated. Younger kids can do too.

  8. Well, at my martial arts school we have always encouraged kids to help too... whether by sending part of their Halloween candy overseas to troops or by this week donating toys stuffed animals and blankets to send out East. I along with the other owners of big dog taekwon-do believe that civic responsibility is something you are never too young to learn. Have them help sort donations at a food pantry geared towards needy kkds. Going along with our efforts to hep the Victims of Sandy it was my kids who suggested they could share their candy with folks who had lost so much. I encourqged them to write a note saying they were doing this to support and help out so they could also make it obvious it was coming from kids for kids.

  9. As a preteen/ teenager, the thing that really got to me was the Giving Tree at our church. My parents would make my sister & me select a tag and do our own shopping. You select a tag with an age, gender, and some things he or she likes and go shopping for that individual, then drop it off at the church. It really hit me to pull a tag of a 12 year old girl, for instance, and all she wanted was a Barbie. Just one. While I (in our by-no-means rich family) had like 30. Might not work as well for little kids, obviously, but older kids might be able to empathize with the kids they shop for.

  10. When I was a poor single mom my oldest and I decided to skip the christmas tree (we enjoyed Grandma's) and donate a christmas gift to a child (the same age and sex as mine) that wouldn't have gotten one. Most often we sent it to a local foster child. (any age can do this) One other thig we did was During the time of Desert storm. A friends husband was in the navy and she, a few friends and families I and our 5 kids under 10 years old made cookies and cupcakes and candy and put together bags and boxes of stuff for the sailors on her husbands ship. Boxes and boxes of stuff. The kids helped they bagged stuff pushed boxes around on the floor form one station to another and for hours we never heard a whimper or whine... Think about it 5 kids 2 -10 year olds, 1- nine year old and a 4 and 5 year old. HOURS. They are still good kids all these years later.

    Volunteering is great, but as parents you have to decide what works for your family. In Oregon our church hosted a homeless teen program (called Homeplate) that we cooked dinner for. We also had homeless families that slept at the church and we slept at the church as a host family about ever 6 weeks or so so homeless families could stay in the church.(That program was called Family Bridge) Both were safe places where we could help and not worry about our children's health and safety. Both were best for teen pre teen ages.

    Another thought. Can you get a HUGE bag of dog food and have them put it in smaller ziploc bags to give to homeless people that have dogs? McDonalds (or other fast food place) gift certificates are also decent to give out to homeless people especially if you are near a McD's (or other fast food place) at the time. Or carry a costco sized box of granola bars and some bottled water in the van to give a healthy snack to a homeless person.

    If your kids are old enough to read well they can read to children at story time at the library, or older people in a nursing home.

    For the little ones coloring pictures to take to lonely older people is good or riding along with you while you deliver food for organizations like meals on wheels or even for your local church.

    If your kids are old enough to use a knifty knitter they can make hats and deliver them to homeless shelters and such. ages 9 and up would be good though some younger kids might do OK with it.

    Depending on age be prepared to answer questions like "But why don't they have a place to live?" "How come that person is so dirty?" "Why don't they just get a job?" " If that man is so hungry, why did he just give his dinner to his dog?" and many others that are even harder to answer.

    If you belong to a church ask your youth co ordinator for input. Real volunteer jobs for kids is tricky. volunteer organizations have to deal with supervision and insurance issues so plan on being their supervision.

  11. we do a dorky Partridge-family style singing/guitar playing act at the local retirement home. My girls are 7 & 9 - I particularly like doing this every year because they don't look forward to it!!!! Seriously, it makes them a little uncomfortable and that's why it really really feels like a good deed and a sacrifice of some kind. They totally get it and they do it, and they see how happy it makes people who don't have any visitors around the holidays. They have also done a lemonade stand & donated the money to a local homeless charity.

  12. First thought is Toys for Tots or Angel Tree. They get to shop and pick out something for another kid and then take it to the Marines. And the Marines are awesome with little kids who donate stuff. They make a BIG deal about what a great toy/book/game etc. he/she picked out.

    Also, check with your local Children's Hospital. Sometimes that have caroling that the kids can participate in OR will host your group if you want to go caroling on the floors. Wear really UGLY sweaters and be super campy. Make an ass out of yourself because let's face it, these kids are sick and yours aren't. That's what I do.

    Lastly, I would check with your local Ronald McDonald House. This time of year they often throw Christmas parties for their families staying there. Might be nice for your kids to help decorate the tree, makes some cookies, get some gifts for the folks living there.

  13. Call the local homeless shelter and see what age your children can volunteer with them to serve meals, especially around holiday times. Also, teenagers may be able to help with blood drives. I know the Red Cross has certain regulations for this, but check to see what the teenagers can do. Have the kids learn a skill such as knitting and crocheting and make blankets for homeless shelters/soldiers.

    There are tons of things they can do to help out. Oh and don't forget Habitat for Humanity. They can help build houses depending on age and the organization.

  14. The Ronald McDonald House is always looking for volunteers, which you could do as a family. Also, at least the one in Baltimore, collects fleece blankets to give to each patient. That's something even littles can do, tie knots on the fringe of blankets. Then they are not only helping, but helping kids. My kids are helping out a family in their school through their girl scout troop this year, sharing food and toys.

  15. Have the kids tell a story, you write it down, then they draw pictures to go along with it. Put it all into a binder (or if you have the skills to make it into a book) and have them take it to a nursing home and "read" their story to the residents. (Ages 2-4, or older ones can write and illustrate their own.)

    Making cards for anyone is always a great project. If I got my daughter going, she could whip out about 70 per hour. She's always making me cards. I really hope I'm not dying or something. (Ages 2-8)

    We used to "make" wrapping paper for presents. We would draw or paint on pieces of paper and then use them to wrap all of our presents. I figure there is a way to work this into something for someone in need so the kids feel like they have a hand in it. (Ages 2+)

    There are some charities that take blankets, mittens, hats, scarves, things like that for people in need for the cold weather. Kids/teens that like to sew/knit/make stuff out of fleece-BONUS! They don't care if stuff if new or used. :-) If you've ever made one of those new sew blankets, this is an excellent project that even little ones can help out with. (All ages)

    If there is a shelter for domestic violence victims, something as simple as making cookies or something special and then taking them down there. They need something to smile about, I think this would be really cool! Aw heck, make cookies/bars/brownies for anyone in need-who wouldn't like that? (Again, all ages).

    My stuff may be random at best, but I hope its something you can use! Love your blog. Peace out.

  16. I have teenagers and now realize they need a backbone not a wishbone.
    My upbringing was more like yours and although my kids are good boys, they have no idea to want. To be happy it was your birthday because you got a new outfit or Christmas meant a yearly box of new socks and underwear and that made us happy. We saved bubble gum comics to get something in the mail. We did not know it at the time, but all those things made us self sufficient and willing to work for our wants.
    Have your kids volunteer, let them actually see there are people less fortunate and that they have the power to help. It was the best way to show them that they are blessed,loved and lucky!

  17. Our church participates in Operation Christmas Child. My 10yo step-son and I are going to Target this weekend to fill a box for a boy around his age. He can relate a bit better then with other volunteering because he knows it's going to someone that is his age. Just a thought if any of you have this opportunity at your churches and it would work for multiple age groups.

  18. I am in a similar situation. Both hubby and I grew up on poor farms, paid our way through college and now live in a lovely home and our kids are the only young grandkids, so they basically want for nothing. They are definitely spoiled by worldly belongings.

    Things we do...
    My kids love doing the Feed my Starving Children (maybe there is something similar locally for you). They have a film before you start packing the food telling you where it is given and shows how very, very poor they are. I cry, and hopefully the kids get a clue.

    We have done Operation Christmas Child boxes with them pretty much for the last 4 to 5 years. Next week is collection week, so you need to get on this one if you are doing it.

    This past month I have gathered every piece of charity solicitation mail, and intend to go through them with the kids reading the stories and have them help choose to donate $$ to around Thanksgiving. There is a lot to choose from. They sell the lists of donors to EVERYONE.

    One year I did a "baby shower" for a crisis nursery in town (it takes in the kids of the homeless or people that need to leave the kids over night for some reason. They don't ask why, they just take the kids and take care of them). I invited neighbors and friends over, and took the kids shopping with me for our gifts. If people couldn't come they still dropped some stuff off. I had wine. I don't know why more didn't come!

    We donate food all the time, so they SEE that. Not sure it really registers what it is like to be hungry, though.

    I think once my daughter gets old enough to use the sewing machine, I will have her (or both of them really) help me in some charity projects I take part in like,
    -ConKer cancer pillowcase for kids with cancer in the hospital
    - Pillowcases dresses for orphanages. There is always some drive you can find online for people going on missions and needing volunteers to help them sew clothing.
    - There are several for military members in the hospital, with sewing quilts (I'm not a quilter, so I didn't save those sites).

    I know we don't really do enough with them, but I think doing something is better than nothing.

  19. We live in a very tiny town,if you tootle everyone knows about within the hour. This time of year that closeness with your neighbors makes it so easy to get all the kidlets involved. I used to take the whole herd on yard clean ups, Kind of 'adopt an old lady' thing. We would stay and visit, bring muffins, and weed and rake. My kiddos have more grammas and grandpas now. It got to the point that the queen bees were calling to see if I was going to bring the kids. I think they were making up tasks. Point being the herd has learned that time spent with people is a blessing on both sides. And I only have one of 4 left at home now, and (pat on the back) all of them have taken community involvement into adulthood.

  20. Every year, before each kid's birthday or before Christmas, we have them fill a Rubbermaid bin with things they no longer use. The items have to be clean and functional, and something that someone would like to receive second-hand. The rule is that they have to fill the bin with things they'd like to give away, or else my husband and I will (no matter how much I try to help them declutter, they ALWAYS have a tons of stuff hiding in the toy bins.

    This has two purposes: first, it helps keep the down the piles of crap in their room. Second, we donate the items they've chosen to the homeless shelter, Salvation Army, etc., with the understanding that kids who may not have as much as they do can get some use and happiness out of the toys and clothes. As our kids get older, they do a lot more volunteering with their church youth group and through programs at school.

    My husband's a teacher and I work part-time. We have everything we need, but our kids are used to having to make trade-offs for the things they want (i.e., do you want to take a family trip for Christmas and get a stocking from Santa OR get presents). There is something very rewarding about watching them learn the value of their money, the value of their time, and having them make informed choices based on the fact that each of those items is limited. They're pretty awesome kids, and we feel blessed that they have concern and compassion for others. It's great to watch as they grow up (our oldest is 19) and become caring, responsible "adults."

  21. Habitat for Humanity hasn't been mentioned yet. I remember working with them as a kid and from their website they have a lot of youth programs.

    1. Bump for Habitat. It's a great organization that focuses on preventing entitlement. Volunteers work alongside future homeowners to provide safe, sustainable housing.

      Younger volunteers can help set up and serve lunch, organize construction materials, be "gophers" for skilled workers, or walk around picking up stray nails with a magnet on a string. Dropped nails are not simply lost goods like in normal construction.

  22. The hospital I work for partners closely with a local womens & childrens shelter. Every year they run Adopt-An-Angel, where employees can "adopt" one or more of the shelter kids for Christmas. We get each child a pair of sweats, socks, gloves, hat, and a new toy. Wrap it all up and the local fire station distributes. The boys love sitting down and discussing where to shop, what to buy, and then going and doing it.

    We have also donated new and gently used toys to another shelter in town that my grandmother worked at for many years. In this instance, the boys actually go with me to distribute the toys, and they get a chance to talk and play with the kids they are blessing, see how they live and experience the blessing of making others happy. It's been my experience that this is the one thing that really opens their eyes. I've been doing this since my oldest was 2, and he's now 7. You should find out if local womens' shelters will allow your kids to come and help distribute toys to kids, or hand out gloves & socks, anything to get them in contact with the people they are helping.

    Our martial arts studio is also helping a local animal shelter this year - the students are all collecting bowls/leashes/toys/beds/food/treats/etc. to donate to the shelter on Thanksgiving.

  23. Older kids can go to local animal shelters to volunteer. Chances are their duties will include poop scooping and dog walking, but the experiencee can still be rewarding. Older kids can also volunteer at schools to help other kids with their homework.
    Museums, especially children's museums, are always looking for volunteers.
    I don't know about the states, but up here in Alaska we have a group that does "Litter Patrol" where they volunteer (or get volunteered via community service) to ride around and pick up trash.
    Kids of almost any age can volunteer at local food pantries doing sorting and stocking of canned goods.

    Check with and, both are geared towards youth-friendly volunteer opportunities.

  24. The food bank in our area will let kids help out in the warehouse packaging and sorting food and teenagers can help serve meals. My girls have also served meals at the salvation army community center with their girl scout troop. My Daisy and Brownie troops have gone to nursing homes and sang songs and played games with the residents, they loved that! They also made craft kits for children in the hospital, things the sick children could do in their beds in case they were not able to move around. We have also collected supplies for the Humane Society. Hope all of this gives you some ideas!

  25. Almost all retirement/nursing homes will create lists of residents that have no family and won't be receiving any gifts or visitors for the holidays. Maybe set up a drive to get those people gifts, or just go visit them. All ages could help with that. Also, shoveling sidewalks for people in your neighborhood who can't do it themselves makes a big difference in their life, and kids get to tire themselves out playing with snow! Local libraries can always use help, but they usually require helpers to be a little bit older, like 12-18. Any age kids can visit animals at the shelter, just to give them a little pat and make them feel wanted.

  26. In my area (middle GA), we have a local organization called Reading on My Mind. They collect books and give them to homeless people, low income areas and daycares, overseas soldiers, hospital patients, etc. They're in the same building as a local food bank, so they have alot of people who come in while they're waiting for their appointment at the food bank.

    And as someone who used to work at a nursing home, please try to visit in January and February. Everyone and their brother goes in during the holidays, and the places are deserted after until usually spring. After all the rush of visitors in November and December, January and February can be really lonely for them.

  27. Collect can tabs for Ronald McDonald House.

  28. you know, I have found that some people really just want to pass the time of day, make chit chat and ask my children's ages. Then they want to say that they are cute, they have x amount of kids blah blah. For at least two years I had no idea and I would blow though my errands hardly acknowledging that this was happening. It's not because my kids are awesome and perfect and adorable, I think it is because they see their old lives when they look at me and want to be reminded of it. So now when a grandma-ish woman asks how old they are, instead of racing by while calling out their ages, I ask if she has any and their ages and etc. It takes just a few minutes. Am I explaining this right? Time is free but also the hardest thing to share. I have none and a ton of it. So I set some aside when we go out.

  29. I asked my 11 yr old daughter. Her suggestion was to help at a local food shelf, with sorting food donations that come in. Our church also does Operation Christmas Child & both girls are picking out the items for a shoebox to be sent to a child in a 3rd world country.

  30. Even fairly small children can make hats and blankets for homeless shelters, women's homes or victims of Sandy. Get a set of Knifty Knitter looms at Wally-World, and some bulky yarn and let them crank out the hats. Two layers of polar fleece, (which I'm sure most craft/fabric stores will have 1/2 off after Thanksgiving)some cutting by a parent or older child/sibling and tie knots. OH! You can also take polar fleece & make no-sew scarves - just cut to size and then make fringe on the end by cutting 1/4 inch wide strips.

    When my oldest was little, we would pick a girl her age off of the "giving tree" and she would pick out what to buy for her. She usually picked out things _she_ really liked, so it was a little tough for her to donate it to someone else, but that was the point - giving something she really liked and wanted to another little girl that might not be getting anything else for Christmas.

    ALSO, our local Jewish community will volunteer at the homeless shelter on Christmas day so that staff can spend time with their families.

  31. My good friend has a marvelous idea for this that I am totally stealing (with her blessing!). She has 2 boys, ages 3.5 and 1.5, and wanted to start early teaching them to be generous. Her oldest loves the book "The Giving Tree", so they started by talking about the book and what it means to give generously and freely. They then decorated a big jar that they call "The Giving Jar". Next, they started making a list of things they could do for other people, with mom & dad helping to guide the conversation. Some of the ideas they came up with: give food to someone who doesn't have any, give away one toy, draw a picture for someone, pick up litter at the park, bake muffins to bring to someone, etc. The boys colored a bunch of papers, and the parents cut the paper into strips and wrote each idea on a strip of paper, then put the ideas in the jar. Each day, they pick out one of the ideas from the jar and they do it that day. All of the ideas need some parental involvement, so they're doing it as a family. It's been fun hearing the stories of what they're doing, both the times things go great and also the stories of the flops. It's as much a learning process for the parents as it is the kids.

    We are totally stealing this idea for our family, although I haven't managed to get our own Giving Jar made yet. For now, we talk every day with our 4.5 yr old son about being kind and generous and come up with one idea he can do today to be kind to someone. We also do loans through and have our son help us choose who we're giving the loan to, and look up their city and country on a map, try food from that country, and pray for the person getting the loan. We, too, do shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, and we make shoeboxes for boys my son's age and have him help us choose what to put in the boxes and help decorate them.

    One other thing that we like is that on World Vision, you can sponsor a child with your child's same birthday. That's a fun way to have your kids involved with sponsoring a child, and they can write letters/draw pictures for the sponsored child, too.

  32. Family Circle had a GREAT article about this in the December issue, aimed at the teen crowd.

  33. Our MOMS Club put together soup mixes (beans and spices) and took it to C-CAP (ages 2 and up). Also stuffed animals to hospitals, police departments (any age). We bake and take items with homemade cards, awards (Best Fire Department Ever!), and drawings around our community (ages 2 and up). Volunteering at a soup kitchen (maybe 7 and up). Canned good drive (we put collection boxes at banks, library, barber shop etc.) The kids helped decorate the boxes (age 2 and up). Animal shelter drive (our animal shelter has a wish list online). McAlister's Deli let us host it there and tons of items were donated as well as proceeds from the sales that evening.

  34. A friend of mine has a little girl in 3rd grade who decided, all on her own, to make Christmas ornaments and sell them at craft fairs to raise money to donate to St. Jude's. She made a cute handwritten sign explaining why she is selling the ornaments and posted the letter that came from St. Jude's that made her want to do it. Her mom told me she has made over $300 so far. Kids of all ages could make ornaments or other crafts to sell and donate to a children's hospital or other organization.

  35. My girls are 8 and 5. We started sponsoring a Compassion International kid last year that our 8 year old daughter (then 7) picked out, and became her friend. When it's letter writing time, our daughter writes her a letter. My daughter writes about her life, and her friend writes about hers - her one room house, with a dirt floor, her parents with no work, getting to go to school and her grades because we sponsor her, etc. My then 4 year old, was so jealous that she didn't have a friend that this year she got to pick one out. Together we work on the letters. And I supplement the letters here and there for both girls. Last month my husband and I got to go meet our 2 Compassion girls . . . incredible! We got to take a back-pack full of gifts for the girls and their parents. Each of our girls went and picked out the toys and packed the backpacks for their Compassion girls. They have become very real in our life, and our prayers for them are for real people. We pray that the mom will get healthy, that they can have a solid floor, etc. I highly recommend!

  36. I don't know if you're looking for things that specifically help PEOPLE, but volunteers are always in short supply at humane societies/ animal shelters. Little ones will be asked to shred newspaper to line kitten cages and exercise the felines with feather wands, older kids would help sort donations, walk dogs. And I've always found that shelters are very good about rewarding your gift of time with a little stint in their puppy or kitten room before you go home to get in some snuggles.

    I also used to volunteer at the zoo / forest preserve. Not only helps some critters in need, but sometimes you get to hug a penguin, and if that doesn't reinforce how awesome it is to volunteer, I don't know what would.

  37. Heifer International is a great organization for kids to assist. Heifer gives livestock to poor families and teaches them proper care and resource utilization. Then, the receiving family passes the first offspring to another family in their village. Over time one flock of chickens can turn into food, income, and independence for numerous families.

    Kids can raise money to buy livestock and learn about the impact of paying something forward.

  38. When I was 15 I was in a group that did a lot of volunteering in the community, and one Christmas there was a party for underprivilaged kids. The day was great and the kids all had fun, eating special treats, meeting Santa and getting dontated presents. I was waiting for my ride afterward and a mother was waiting for a cab with her two small boys. Their clothes were clean but obviously old and a little worn. Somehow the mom and I got to talking and she was so thankful she had come; she wasn't sure if she should because she was not sure she could afford a cab to bring her. The presents they got that day would be the only presents they got, and she said they would be talking about it for weeks.
    I had never considered that someone could be that poor, that to get to a completely free event might be difficult (there is no public transportation where I live).
    When the kids are old enough, I would say do something where they SEE what real poverty, real need looks like. Maybe serve food at a shelter? Volunteer at a nursing home, many people do not have family to visit. Something that involves time, and not just giving stuff.

  39. I am an elementary school teacher and I have a club at my school in which we do community service projects. Most of these are things that would fall in the 5-8 range, but really anyone can do them. Sorry if there are a few repeats on here... I didn't read all the comments:
    - Visit a nursing home and read to the residents or do a simple craft.
    - Bring homemade treats to firefighters / police.
    - Go Christmas caroling.
    - Donate baby items to a women's shelter or a pregnancy resource center (like Birthright or Bethany Christian Services).
    - Make cards for or visit people in rehab or who are unable to leave their homes.
    - Attend a Special Olympics event (see their website). At the larger events they love having people, especially kids, fill the stands to cheer on the participants.
    - Visit a local food bank and help them organize as needed.
    - Put together packages of things soldiers overseas may need ( and/or send letters. We live near Quantico, so I usually have a Marine come visit the kids to teach them about deployment so it gives them a context and purpose for the things we send.

    That's all I can think of for now... there are some great ideas on here. :)




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