Volunteering and Kids: Raising Kids to Give Back

Before I became a parent I imagined all of the ways I would volunteer once I had kids. I’d volunteer at school functions, help teachers out in the classroom, go on field trips, be a troop leader. Now that I have kids (ages 9 and 11), I’ve done those things. I enjoy having a presence at their school—not only to help out but also to get to know the teachers and the classmates and to get a feel for the environment. But something was missing.

Life Lesson: Doing for Others.

Although my kids SAW me in their classes and helping the teachers, they weren’t experiencing how it feels to give up your free time to help others. And as a consequence they were missing out on an important life lesson: doing for others. That’s when I decided that my 2011 New Year’s resolution would be to volunteer as a family once a month.

Family Volunteer Opportunities.

Based on a suggestion from a friend, I got in touch with Volunteers of America (VOA). As it turns out, VOA organizes monthly volunteer opportunities for families in the Denver metro area. Eureka! I was so excited to get started that I didn’t wait until January. Our first volunteer activity was to deliver meals to home-bound seniors for the Christmas holiday. Over the holiday break I announced what we were doing and my kids did the requisite complaining that you might expect. “I don’t want to go.” “Why are we doing this?” “I want to stay home and watch TV/play my game.”

Seeing IS Believing.

As we drove around the Five Points neighborhood near downtown Denver and entered houses to deliver meals, they quickly surmised that everyone doesn’t live like they do. Although we’ve talked about that, it’s a concept my kids didn’t fully comprehend until they witnessed it for themselves.

Volunteering can be Fun.

Another volunteer opportunity took us to a low-income housing complex for seniors, many of whom were Hmong and spoke limited English. While playing bingo, my 9-year-old was sitting next to a gentleman who was hard of hearing. My son would repeat the called numbers for him, they would help each other find the called numbers, and animatedly share in the disappointment when they were so close to getting bingo. When my son finally did excitedly shout “BINGO!” he turned to the man and handed him his card so he could claim the prize. As we were leaving that day we were showered with hugs and profuse thank yous from the seniors. On the way home, both boys said, “Well that was kind of fun!” It was at that moment that I KNEW I was on to something special with this volunteering thing.

Raising Kids Who Care.

Through our volunteering this past year, my kids have gained more than I had hoped. An appreciation for what they have; an empathy for those who must go without basic things they take for granted; that doing for others and self sacrifice can actually feel good; discovering they have the ability to bring joy to others they hardly know through their kind actions. I hope this foundation of volunteerism will stick with them as they grow.

Spirit of Helping Alive at FRCC.

I’m heartened to see all of the opportunities our students at Front Range have to give back. Last month, the students hosted Halloween Carnivals, giving children from the community a safe place to celebrate. Our Student Life and student organizations hold book, clothing, and food drives, support adopt-a-family, and much more. Our faculty lead service-learning trips and projects, most recently to Belize and Africa.

Was volunteering a part of your childhood? How have you instilled a sense of giving back in your kids?

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Sandra Bergman is the Assistant Director of Digital Marketing at Front Range Community College. She's a rare Colorado native and enjoys all of the outdoor delights Colorado has to offer.

12 Responses to “Volunteering and Kids: Raising Kids to Give Back”

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November 14, 2011 at 8:56 am, Calgary Garage Door Company said:

Great post Sandra,
thank you for providing such great valuable information about giving back to seniors and children.
I also believe in doing for others, volunteering for my community, and raising kids who care ( I have a 9 year old daughter, and as a dad it is important to me to instilling good values into my daughter).

As a Calgary Garage Door Company I try to keep up with the information happening on the Internet and with social awareness not only for myself but for my clients and friends as they rely on what I write in my blogs and what I post to let them know about what I feel is socially relevant information on the net.
With that in mind I am also looking for new articles and new information for my clients and myself.
Thank you for posting such great information in your blog.
I hope you don’t mind if I send this article to my clients and create some back links to it.
I’m also going to Digg it.

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November 14, 2011 at 9:03 am, Sandra Bergman said:

Thanks for the feedback. Please do feel free to pass it along. I think it’s all too easy to get caught up in our own happenings with young children (and there are a lot of them!) that we have to consciously make an effort to look beyond ourselves and help others. So happy to hear that you’re able to do that!

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November 14, 2011 at 11:20 am, SeonAh Kendall said:

Great post Sandra! My daughter and I are part of the National Charity League (a mother-daughter volunteerism/leadership group). Every time we volunteer, the community has been so appreciative for any and all help that we provide. Thank you for this thoughtful, well-written post.

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November 14, 2011 at 11:50 am, Sandra Bergman said:

Thanks SeonAh! The appreciation makes all the work so worth it! Another great thing about volunteering with your kids is the time it gives you to spend and connect with them.

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November 14, 2011 at 12:19 pm, Laurel said:

This is awesome, very inspiring. I love what you are doing with your family, and providing some input on how others can get more involved. Way to go with your kids – that is awesome, you are giving them something that will last a lifetime. I believe we all have a responsibility to help those in need – and they are all around us, all day.

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November 14, 2011 at 12:23 pm, Sandra Bergman said:

Well said Laurel! Those in need are all around us.

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November 14, 2011 at 2:07 pm, Toronto Bed and Breakfast said:

Great article Sandra. As parents we always need to remember that ‘what we do’ speaks louder than ‘what we say’. It is clear that you are indeed a great role model not only for your children but for all of us. Giving back is a lifestyle you adopt that has great rewards – just like the movie “Pay It Forward”
During the summer we operate a toronto bed and breakfast but in the winter we travel to the Bahamas with our boat. We do a big fund raising drive for school supplies and craft before we leave and then hand deliver to the schools in the out islands in the Bahamas. It is our way of giving back to the small schools that have a very limited budgets and we are rewarded with beautiful smiles.
Keep up the good work.

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November 14, 2011 at 2:38 pm, Sandra Bergman said:

You’re right – giving back is a lifestyle. I never looked at it that way! Love that you make the effort during your Bahamas vacation to give back with donations for the schools. Now THAT is inspiring!

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January 18, 2012 at 12:22 pm, Lucia said:

Thanks Sandra for this wonderful article. I have fond memories of it in my childhood. Now that I have kids of my own I have instilled this concept early on they are 3 and 6 yrs of age. I felt it was best to start young and expose them to the spirit of giving. Whenever an occasion presents itself, we volunteer in school book fairs and bake sales. I also get them to participate in senior citizen bingos. After each event, my children tell me how happy they are and really FEEL they have contributed in a positive way.

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January 18, 2012 at 1:09 pm, Sandra Bergman said:

Lucia, it’s so great that you’re getting your kids started so young with volunteering! I suspect giving back will simply be a way of life for them and not anything out of the ordinary. That mindset would serve us all well.

November 14, 2012 at 2:56 am, Giving When You Don’t Have Much to Give | Front Range Community College Blog said:

[…] Don’t forget that you are doing the world a great service by raising your children to be good citizens and people. Teach them to be compassionate, honest, and hardworking. Show them how they can make their communities better. And help them understand the importance of giving back and helping one another. […]

May 22, 2013 at 2:08 am, Summer Learning Loss? Not in My House. | Front Range Community College Blog said:

[…] be volunteering with the Library’s reading program. There’s a nice symmetry to that. We can give back to the program that we’ve benefited from for so many years, and he can be on the other side of […]