One great way of helping kids to “see” the world around them — and to help them develop empathy for others — is in service. It’s a great time of year for giving back.
Janet Bruno knew that her kids really didn’t recognize how fortunate they were to have a good dinner every night and pretty much everything they need in their closets. So, with the holiday season approaching, she decided to make an effort to sort of “expose” her kids to the different ways of life “out there.” She decided that the family would volunteer together.
There are plenty of ways for families to reach out and help in the surrounding communities. Here are some considerations while you hone in on what to do:
As a family, brainstorm together to decide what type of volunteer activity you are interested in doing. Ask your kids who they would like to help. Is there a particular cause they know about or are passionate about? What interests, skills, and talents do your family members have? Indoors or outdoors?
Do your research and find out the group’s history and how it got started, the goals and mission, who its leaders are and how it is funded. Check their website and search online for press coverage. Visiting sites such as charitywatch.org and charitynavigator.org can help you, too.
Search for projects that are close to home. Check your local paper, call charitable organizations, or search online to find the perfect places for kids to volunteer in your area.
Decide how much time you have to volunteer. You can do it as often as you can or sign up for once a week, once a month or once a year. Start slow and gradually increase your involvement if the project is working out well, and expose your children to a wide variety of experiences!
— Sandi Schwartz
Local Holiday Volunteering
FREESTORE FOODBANK; freestorefoodbank.org
FreeStore Foodbank’s mission is to eliminate hunger and make our communities healthier while offering a pathway to stability. Register as an individual or a group for Thanksgiving Holiday Operations or Christmas Holiday Operations, and serve more than 7,000 households in need.
HABITAT FOR HUMANITY – CINCINNATI; habitatcincinnati.org
4910 Para Drive, Cincinnati, Oh; 513-621-4147
A nonprofit Christian housing ministry that builds and renovates affordable homes to sell to low-income, first-time homebuyers. Donate online or volunteer as a construction and build site volunteer, office, crew leader, event volunteer and more.
LIGHTHOUSE YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES; lys.org
401 McMillan St., Cincinnati, Oh; 513-221-3350
Collect various items for children, youth and families in need. They offer a variety of ways for family involvement during the day, evening and weekend.
MATTHEW 25: MINISTRIES; m25m.org
11060 Kenwood Road, Cincinnati, Oh; 513-793-6256
Help families in need by sorting, counting, packaging and preparing shipments to distribute across the world. Volunteers are needed for the the upcoming Hunger 5k Run/Walk
Saturday, Nov. 9 from 6:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.; and for the Family Holiday Bash, Sunday, Dec. 8 from 1:30 – 5:30 p.m.
PREPARE AFFAIR; (Various local locations)
Sat, Nov. 16, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Rake leaves, clean gutters and help out with other small tasks to make a big difference for the elderly, low-income and disabled homeowners and help them prepare for winter. Register as a group or independently; for all ages and skill levels. Register at secure.pwchomerepairs.org/prepare.
RONALD MCDONALD HOUSE OF GREATER CINCINNATI; rmhcincinnati.org
341 Erkenbrecher Ave., Cincinnati, Oh; 513-636-7642
Known for its mission to provide normalcy to children and families as kids recover from illnesses, log on to the website and click “Volunteer When You Can.” Snacks and activities are an area in which the Ronald McDonald House is seeking help now through the end of the year. Afternoon and evening shifts are available during the week. Morning opportunities open up late December on the weekends.
SHARED HARVEST FOODBANK; sharedharvest.org
5901 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, Oh; 513-874-0114
For individuals or groups wanting to help fight hunger. Holiday Food Drives run in November and December and are the largest organized food drive campaigns held to benefit Shared Harvest. Help sort and box goods to make a difference.
ST. VINCENT DE PAUL; (Various local locations)
St. Vincent de Paul looks to partner with all who have a desire to resolve the issues people face every day. For the holidays, Greater Cincinnati residents are being asked to donate new and gently used winter coats at convenient drop-off locations across the tri-state. Last year, St. Vincent de Paul distributed 1,700 coats. This year they aim to provide 3,000 to neighbors in need. Children’s coats and adult coats sizes XL+ are critical necessities. The drive runs through Sunday, Jan. 5.
UNITED WAY OF GREATER CINCINNATI; (Various local locations)
United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in the community. From selling Christmas trees to raking leaves, volunteer opportunities abound. The Christmas Tree Sale at Findlay Market is a good volunteer opportunity. It runs Nov. 29 – Dec. 15 from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Volunteers can help sell trees, garland, wreaths and more. All proceeds go to the fight against HIV/AIDS.
– Compiled by Nyketa Gaffney