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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