Posted Nov 20, 2018
The holiday season is the perfect time to get the whole family involved in a service project! After all, when do you ever have so many volunteers on hand?
It is so easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. This year, seize the season as a way to help your children (and family) understand that the holidays aren’t just about getting gifts, but also about giving. Children will feel the warmth of sharing, caring, and helping others as they make a difference for members in your community to feel happy and loved - which is what the season is really about!
These seven kid-friendly service projects, recommended by our friends at SignUp.com, will work for a group of children, a family, or an individual child who wants to make an impact on the lives of others.
1. Create Blessing Bags, Care Packages for the Homeless. Assemble toiletries, socks, hats, gloves, scarves, bottles of water, granola or protein bars, a few dollars in quarters or low-value gift cards to fast food restaurants in reusable bags. Hand them out when you see someone in your community in need or asking for money. Include a holiday drawing or handwritten card. If you don’t feel comfortable handing out the packages in person, drop them off at a local shelter for them to distribute.
2. Prepare Festive Food Bank Donations. Decorate reusable shopping bags (with fabric paint or markers) and fill them with non-perishable food items like hearty soups, rice, beans, toiletries, even pet food. Donate the filled bags to your local food bank. This is also a great activity for Scout troops, Sunday school classes and group playdates. Pro tip: coordinate donations with free online signups from SignUp.com so each parent can buy in bulk and bring one type of item to the assembly gathering.
3. Volunteer at a Local Soup Kitchen. Soup kitchens always need volunteers (especially before or after the holidays). Even children can help. Younger volunteers might not be able to serve food, but they can greet the visitors as they walk in, set tables, or help clean up. Check out the Homeless Shelter Directory to find a list of homeless shelters and other service organizations that need volunteers in your community.
4. Help our Heroes Celebrate. Decorate or purchase bundles of blank holiday cards, put a stamp on each envelope then send them to the Holiday Mail for Heroes program of The Red Cross. Red Cross volunteers will give one bundle of three cards to service members who are wounded or ill staying at military medical centers, or to veterans being served by the VA. Service members can then send personal greetings to their families and loved ones on Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Mother’s Day.
5. Host a Book and Stuffed Animal Drive. Make a posting on your neighborhood listserv, gather your wagons and collect gently used books and stuffed animals from the families on your block. Most local hospitals, churches, fire or police stations, and shelters accept gently loved children’s books or stuffed animals. Check with the facility before you go to make sure they will receive the donations.
6. Adopt A Soldier. Adopt A US Soldier is a non-profit organization that connects supportive families with deployed troops to share encouragement and express gratitude to our brave men and women serving in the US military. You can choose to adopt an individual service member and support him or her by sending weekly letters/cards (and optional care packages) for the length of their deployment, OR you can sign up for Project Frontlines committing to send support one-time or short-term. Adopting a Soldier is an excellent way for kids to spread joy and practice their writing while learning about the world and honoring our service members.
7. Collect Items for the Local Animal Shelter. Shelters are always needing donations such as pet food, leashes, and new toys, as well as household items like old towels, newspapers, hand sanitizer, cleaning, and office supplies. But did you know that your family can also volunteer to walk dogs, play with cats, groom the pets, clean cages, help at adoption days, and more? Just ask at your local rescue shelter what kind of support they need. Find your local animal shelter HERE.
This season, give kindness and compassion from your family to those in need. Whichever service project your family decides to tackle, your community will be better off, and your children will learn empathy for others, as well as an appreciation for their own good fortune. Serving others is excellent for boosting self-confidence at any age and cultivates pride in making a difference in the lives of others. Start your service project this season, then plan for projects year-round!
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