Children and Charity

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With the holiday season approaching, many of us are beginning to think about gifts, baking, decorating and family gatherings. Charity is a big part of the holidays for many families, yet it is often difficult to find ways to get your children and teens involved in the process. In fact, there are many ways to involve children and teens and instill in them the importance of selfless sharing.

Talk About Charity

The most important thing you can do is talk to your children about charity. With young children, simply explaining that there are people and children in the community and in the world who don’t have enough to eat, warm clothes to wear or toys or books is an important first step. Tell your child that you think it would be nice if your family could help those other families. Children are usually receptive to this since the situations you describe are hard for them to imagine.

Older children and teens already have an understanding of need, yet tend to be comfortable in their own lives and not give it a lot of thought. Bring the subject up with your kids and ask them what they think about it. Do they want to be charitable? Are they already? Why is it valuable?

Ask for Ideas

It is easy as a parent to grasp the situation yourself and plan how your family will give to charity. It’s important to involve your children in the planning stage if you want them to feel they are actively participating. Ask your children how they would like to be charitable this year. Are there certain charities they are interested in? Would they like to give their time rather than material goods? What kinds of suggestions can they offer? Really listen to what they tell you and see if you can arrange something to fit their views.

National Organizations

Get children involved in giving to large organizational charities, such as the Red Cross or the Salvation Army, by starting a collection jar in your house and asking everyone to regularly contribute pocket change to it. Choose an organization to donate the proceeds to by going to websites together and reading about how groups use donations.

For an organization such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army that collects used goods, put a box in a closet or in the basement and everyone in the house can contribute items they have outgrown or no longer use.

Look Close to Home

Charity has a greater impact when children can see the result. Do you or your kids have an elderly or handicapped family member, neighbor, friend or acquaintance? Talk with your children about things you could do for this person. Elderly and handicapped people often need transportation, assistance with household chores, help with errands and shopping. Assembling a special care package for the person is also a great way to help out.

Companionship is one of the greatest gifts to give. Your child could play checkers with the person, read aloud to him or her and bring toys, pets, school projects, etc. over to share. Model this for your children by bringing them along when you or your spouse do similar things. Show your children that gifts of time are valuable and can have a great impact.

Another way to get your kids thinking about charity is to suggest you try some charity in your home. Your children can offer to help each other with chores and to share toys, books and activities. As they give and receive, they will begin to understand the benefits of being on both ends of the exchange.

In School and Around Your Community

Many schools sponsor holiday food drives, mitten trees, used jacket collections and other events. Find out what your child’s school will be doing and get your family involved. Sort coats by size, box up canned goods or help set up a mitten tree. Working with other kids will help reinforce that charity is socially acceptable.

Many stores sponsor angel trees, where you pick a tag off a tree that describes one child and what he or she needs or wants. You purchase the gifts, wrap them, attach the tag and return them to the store, which then distributes it. This kind of giving lends a personal element, since you and your child can select the child you’d like to help and then buy things specifically for him or her.

Area food banks, senior citizen centers and homeless shelters provide many opportunities for volunteering and charity. Area churches may also sponsor charitable drives, collections or services. Find out what items they are in need of, or ask about their need for volunteers. Specifically mention the ages of your children and ask if there is something you could do as a family – such as serving meals, providing transportation or helping with clean-up.

If your children have particular interests, look for charities that incorporate them. For example, if they like animals, donate to or become involved with a local animal shelter or with national groups such as the SPCA or Greyhound Rescue. Also consider charities that have something to do with things your children have been directly affected by or seen the effect of, such as particular diseases or medical conditions. There are charities for the arts, animals, sports, diseases and conditions, education, specific religions, jobs and hobbies.

Brette McWhorter Sember is a freelance writer.


Kids Helping Kids

Choosing a gift or providing food for children and families in need can be a powerful lesson in giving. The following organizations offer local opportunities for your family to help other families this holiday season.

* Members of the Boys and Girls Club of Davidson County have made ornaments with a three-item wish list, including not just something for themselves but also for a loved one. The program “teaches children that Christmas is not just about receiving, but about giving as well,” says Kimberly Smith, program coordinator at the Andrew Jackson Boys and Girls Club. Families can visit the clubs at 916 16th Ave. N. or 67 Thompson Lane in Nashville to choose an ornament. Contact Smith at 320-5106 for more information.

* The Boys and Girls Club of Rutherford County sponsors a holiday adopt-a-child program for its club members. Gifts must be returned by Dec. 21. For a child’s wish list and more information, contact Yvonne or Helen at 890-2582.

*The Boys and Girls Club of Franklin sponsors an Angel Tree program at various locations around town. Organizations can sign up to adopt one of the approximately 70 club members. Gifts must be received by Dec. 18. For more information, call 794-4800.

* The Dede Wallace Center Time for Toys Campaign grants holiday wishes to underprivileged children and adults from its many mental health programs. Sponsors select a name and bring gifts to the center at 1101 Sixth Ave. N. in Nashville or to numerous outlets including O’Charley’s restaurants, The Club Athletics and Fitness Centers, Executive Cleaners in Bellevue and Green Hills, A Carter Collection (73 White Bridge Road, Ste. 104 in Nashville), Phillips Toy Mart (5207 Harding Road in Nashville) and Sport Seasons (56 White Bridge Road in Nashville). BMG/RCA at 1400 18th Ave. S. will also accept donations Dec. 1 – 10 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

* Hands On Nashville sponsors several programs year-round. Call 298-1108 for more information.

* The Rutherford County Emergency Food Bank takes food donations at 211 Bridge Ave. in Murfreesboro, Mon – Fri from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Donations to the Second Harvest bin at Murfreesboro Kroger stores go to the food bank. Call 895-1148 for more info.

* Safe Haven Family Shelter at 1234 3rd Ave. in Nashville provides temporary housing for families in need. Your family can adopt a Safe Haven family by calling Sam Hollis at 256-8195.

* St. Luke’s Community House coordinates “adoptions” of St. Luke’s neighborhood families and seniors, delivering gifts and food during the week of Christmas (or bringing them to the center for delivery). Volunteers for gift delivery are needed beginning Dec. 20. Turkeys and hams are also needed for emergency food boxes. Call 350-6936 for more information.

* The Salvation Army Angel Tree Program serves around 20,000 children, senior citizens and people with disabilities in the Middle Tennessee area. In Davidson and Williamson counties, adopt a child from angel trees at RiverGate Mall, Hickory Hollow Mall, the Mall at Green Hills and CoolSprings Galleria. Gifts must be brought by Dec. 8. Call 256-0006 for more information. Adopt an angel tree child in Rutherford County at Stone’s River Mall, Wal-Mart, select Kroger and Bi-Lo stores, AmSouth Bank in Murfreesboro and many other area retailers. Gifts must be returned by Dec. 17. Call 895-7071 for more information.

* Second Harvest Food Bank has food donation bins at Kroger stores; donations can also be made at 608 20th Ave. N. in Nashville. Call 329-3491 for more information.

* The Smyrna-LaVergne Food Bank is in need of food of any type, though turkeys and hams would be especially appreciated. The food bank is open Mon – Fri from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at 130 Richardson St. in Smyrna. Donations made to Second Harvest Food Bank bins at Kroger in Smyrna go to the Smyrna-LaVergne Food Bank. Call 355-0697 for more information.

* The U.S. Marine Corp Reserve Toys for Tots program collects toys for underprivileged children all over the United States. Make donations at Wal-Mart, H.G. Hill stores, and malls and toy stores throughout Middle Tennessee.

* Youth Villages provides a child’s holiday wish list or takes cash donations so case workers can purchase gifts for children. Call 250-7200 for more information.

If your organization would like to be included in future listings, email us or call 256-2158 ext. 3006.

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