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The Holidays: Melding Family and Volunteering

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My mom used to drag me and my sisters down to local soup kitchen to help out when she volunteered. I usually went reluctantly but, even as a small child, was struck by the disparity between the haves and have nots. Today, those sessions at the kitchen are among my more touching memories of time with my mom.
Thanksgiving offers a great chance for all of us to do something meaningful that combines the two important themes of the holiday - connecting with family and remembering the less fortunate.
Primrose Schools, a Georgia-based franchise specializing in educational daycare, has tips on how to volunteer as a family to help make your Thanksgiving more than just another pig out. (This is probably why the Corporation for National Community Service designates the Saturday before Thanksgiving as Family Volunteer Day. Primrose's four-step guidance is good year-round, but the holidays are a great time to take advantage of unscheduled family time.
Step 1: Know why you want to include your child in volunteering. Pick a cause that is meaningful to you and your family.
Step 2: Explain the importance of volunteerism. A child's favorite question is "why?" Keep your answers simple and concrete. For example, "The food bank has lots of food for people who need it, and it will be our job to sort the food."
Step 3: Choose age-appropriate volunteer activities. Children as young as three can volunteer but their concept of the world is usually limited (home, neighborhood, school). Keep the activity within the realm of what they can imagine.
Step 4: Find a child-friendly not-for-profit. Does the organization have experience working with children and families? Will it provide a reference from another family who has volunteered? Does it conduct background screenings on its staff? Does it have insurance if there is an accident during your volunteering?
Have you volunteered as a family? Tell us about it! What tips do you have for others?

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