Mr. Rogers was a big part of my childhood. Growing up in the country we didn’t have cable television. In fact, we only had seven TV channels to choose from and two were Spanish speaking. So we watched a lot of public access TV and Mr. Rogers was always a favorite. After Mr. Rogers passed away in February 2003, I read an interesting article about his life. In it, he shared a quote from his mother that has stuck with me.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
This perspective, so simple in words, is profound in meaning. I strive to be a helper. I strive to inspire others to be helpers. I definitely want my boys to be helpers…now and when they are grown.
In this day and age of technology and immediate self-gratification, it can be difficult to get kids to understand the importance of helping their fellow man and woman. Giving back is not something that is inherent to most people. While some souls are more compassionate and empathetic, the act of volunteering should be instilled in all kids. I do believe that if given the opportunity, most kids want to help others. They just may not know how to do it. So as parents, we should provide the means for them to make a difference. The good news is there are thousands of volunteer opportunities you and your kiddos can choose from. From animals to the elderly, hunger to homelessness, disaster relief to literacy programs, there is a nonprofit in your community that needs your help.
Now that we’re in the smack dab middle of summer, now is the perfect time to get involved.
Volunteering teaches children invaluable life skills including responsibility, empathy, tolerance, and job skills. Through volunteering, children learn the importance of keeping a commitment and can be proud of their work. Through volunteering, children will come in contact with a variety of people and personalities, which can help teach tolerance and understanding for those who might have a different lifestyle or culture than their own.
Encouraging your child to volunteer may even help them fuel a passion that could lead to a career. They may find a love of nature or a knack for helping young children learn to read that they never knew was there. But to me, the best part of volunteering with your child is the bond formed when you work together to accomplish a goal or task. Studies show that when a parent volunteers with a child, that child continues to volunteer into adulthood. A child participating in meaningful volunteer activities alongside their parent has a lasting positive affect.
There is an abundance of need in every community. While that can be daunting, it should be easy to choose a volunteer activity that sounds interesting. Below are a few kid-friendly volunteer opportunities in the Houston area:
Sheltering Arms Senior Services is committed to the health and well-being of older adults and their family caregivers. It offers many opportunities to members of the community who want to make a difference in the lives of the elderly. Here are a few of the volunteer options good for kids and parents:
Day Center Activities: Assist with programs, activities, and operations of the Center such as reading, arts and crafts, gardening, exercise, and entertainment.
Birthday Club: Select a month to make phone calls or send birthday cards to seniors with birthdays in that month. For many seniors this is the only birthday wish they will receive.
Holiday and Birthday Celebrations: Host holiday or birthday parties for a client in the Sheltering Arms dementia care Day Center. Provide activities, refreshments and fun!
Talent Show-Off: Showcase your talents to senior clients in the Day Center. Seniors can judge groups and give out awards for the best talent showcase.
One of the last tributaries of Buffalo Bayou that hasn’t been covered or channeled, Japhet Creek was once a dumping ground for trash and waste. But thanks to the hard work of the Buffalo Bayou Partnership and hundreds of volunteers working tirelessly to remove several decades of trash, Japhet Creek has been cleaned up and will remain wild and undeveloped for many generations to enjoy. If your child loves the outdoors or helping the environment, this is a wonderful opportunity to make a difference! Activities include picking up trash, planting native trees and bushes, clearing the paths of vines and limbs, mulching around trees and in the pathways, removing non-native plant species, and other similar tasks.
Interfaith Ministries’ Meals on Wheels for Greater Houston program provides home-delivered meals to homebound senior citizens. By having nutritious food delivered to their home, seniors are able to remain independent and in their own homes. Along with delivering meals, volunteers take a few minutes to chat with the senior to share stories, pictures, and provide a much needed friendly face. In conjunction with Meals on Wheels, IM also offers an aniMeals on Wheels program where volunteers deliver pet food to seniors along with their daily meal so everyone in the home receives food from a friendly face.
Spark your creative side by making no-sew dog toys for animals in shelters using inexpensive fleece remnants or old torn jeans. Use old blankets, pillows, or fabric remnants to make pet beds for shelter dogs and cats. If you’d like to take a more active volunteer role, ask to walk a few of the dogs or help clean cat cages. Encourage your kids to set up a lemonade stand and use proceeds to buy food, litter, and other items the shelter needs. And of course, consider adopting a rescue animal if you’d like to add a new member to your family.
Your children can learn life-saving skills and knowledge when volunteering for the American Red Cross. Understanding proper response to emergencies helps not just your child, but the community and company around him/her. Both you and your kids can experience the personal benefits of channeling your energy to help improve the lives of people in your community and around the world.
Don’t see anything that makes you want to run out and volunteer? Not to worry! Check out these great websites for more volunteer opportunities in your area.
Every chance you get to help out is a good one. Start making a positive difference today!