April is National Volunteer Month!
“The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.” Proverbs 22:9
According to the website National Today, April is National Volunteer Month. So, what better time than now to consider looking into volunteer opportunities to pursue with your family and children. There are many wonderful organizations looking for volunteers, and volunteering is great for the spirit and soul.
9 Volunteer Organizations
While looking into some opportunities for myself and my family, I found the following websites that list volunteer organizations based on your zip code or address:
- Habitat for Humanity
- National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (National VOAD)
- Global Volunteers
- American Red Cross
- Big Brothers & Big Sisters of America
- Points of Light – virtual volunteer opportunities
- Catchfire – volunteer opportunities based on your skills or profession
These are just a few of the organizations around the nation that provided information on volunteer opportunities. In addition, you can talk to your child’s school about how you may be able to help or you can volunteer through your church or synagogue. You can even volunteer at your local animal shelter or nursing and assisted living facilities. For five years, my husband was a volunteer firefighter in his hometown. Wherever you decide to find volunteer opportunities, volunteering is a great way to give back to your community and help others.
Story of the Apple Tree
While doing a little research on Bible verses about giving to others and volunteering, I found this awesome anecdote about a teacher talking with his students about the purpose and meaning of our lives here on Earth.
The teacher asked his class, “Does an apple tree eat its own apples?”
The answer to the question is obviously “No!”
The teacher went on to explain, “Apple trees grow to be large and beautiful and become so fruitful that others can come and enjoy the fruit produced from the tree. The tree also becomes a place of shade and shelter in its limbs and under the shadow of its leaves.” (Happier Human)
This statement is a beautiful example of the purpose of everyone and everything. In so many ways, Mother Nature provides for us without asking for anything in return.
Volunteering Serves God!
When we give of ourselves to serve others, we are also serving God. He desires for us to use our gifts from Him to provide for others and benefit those around us.
1st Corinthians 12:4-6 states, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone, it is the same God at work.”
In the example of the apple tree, most of the fruit produced will die on the tree or ground without being eaten. However, those fruits will return to the Earth providing food for insects and other animals that eat the fruit, nutrients to the soil, and seeds for future apple trees. Much like the apple tree, we all have different ways of giving of ourselves to provide for others and the world around us.
This past Sunday, we read from Mark 6:30-44 Jesus Feeds the 5,000. In this passage, Mark explains how the apostles returned to Jesus after teaching and providing for the various communities to which they traveled. At this time, all the apostles desired was a little rest and food. However, when they reached a solitary place to rest, they came across a large crowd. Jesus immediately saw that the people in the crowd were like sheep without a shepherd and He took compassion upon them telling the apostles to give them something to eat. The apostles were tired and did not have much food, and they stated that it would take more than half a year’s earnings to feed the crowd. To which Jesus said, “Give them something to eat.” All that was available to provide to the crowd was five loaves of bread and two fish – basically remnants. Looking up to heaven, Jesus took the five loaves and two fish and fed the crowd.
Jesus was not concerned with what they had. He took compassion on the crowd of people. Now, the passage actually ends by stating that 5,000 men ate that day, but there were more than just men in the crowd. Jesus actually fed more than 5,000 people when we consider the women and children that must have been among all these men.
From the apostles’ perspective, all they wanted to do was get some rest after traveling, teaching, and spreading the Good Word. However, Jesus told them to feed the crowd. By doing so, he was telling them to think of more than just themselves. By feeding the hungry crowd, the apostles were doing God’s work. He was challenging them to be like God.
8 Ways Volunteering Benefits Children
Including our families and children when volunteering teaches our kids many valuable lessons and how powerful they can be. Some of the lessons children can learn include:
- Instilling good values at a young age
- Teaching children that they can make a difference
- Builds self-esteem
- Teaches children new skills
- Teaches leadership
- Teaches empathy and compassion
- Provides for positive social interaction
- Establishes a lifetime of giving back
In addition, it is a wonderful way to spend time together as a family. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing the sense of accomplishment on a child’s face after they have done something good for themselves and others.
I was proud of my two youngest children this past Saturday. While riding their bikes on the local walking and biking trails, they came across two people sitting on the side of the path who looked in need of some help. Now, although, I have taught my children to not speak to strangers, I have also taught them good values. They were on their way back from CVS, and they had some drinks and snacks. When they saw the two people sitting on the side of the trail, they gave each a bottle of water and a snack bar.
When they told me what they had done, my initial instinct was to reprimand them for speaking to strangers when they know better. However, the spirit in which my children provided for these two homeless people got to me, and I realized that they were only doing what I have taught them. They were giving of themselves to provide for two people they saw as being in need. By doing so, they were serving the Lord, and, as a good Christian, I realized what they were thinking.
When choosing a place to volunteer with your children, I would definitely consider the child’s age and abilities. Younger children may not be able to spend a full day volunteering someplace, and they don’t share the same skill sets as older children and teenagers. Therefore, you may want to look into simpler ways to volunteer with younger children, such as visiting a local nursing home to distribute snacks or play games with the residents. Having worked in a nursing home, I know firsthand the joy this brings the residents when children come to visit. Even if just sitting and talking for a short visit. Many nursing home residents don’t have local family members who can visit each day, so a visit with an “adopted grandchild” always makes their day brighter.
Slightly older children can volunteer at the local animal shelter feeding the animals, taking them for walks, cleaning their cages, and giving them baths. Check with your local shelter for what types of help they may need.
Older children and teenagers, especially those who drive, are able to provide in many more ways. High school students can volunteer their time tutoring younger students or work with them teaching new skills for whatever sport they may play. They may also make great running or exercise partners for younger children. Older children can also volunteer with organizations like Habitat for Humanity and local soup kitchens.
Another thing to consider when looking at volunteer opportunities is whether it will be a one-time thing or a regularly scheduled event. Consider your child’s school schedule and extra-curricular activities. During the school year, you may only be able to volunteer time periodically; however, during the summer, more opportunities may be available. Many communities look for volunteers to help clean local parks in the spring as the weather gets nicer and more people will be visiting the park.
12 Ways Children Can Volunteer
There are so many ways that children can also volunteer and give of themselves without much stress or time, such as:
- Write letters to military personnel deployed overseas
- Make holiday cards to distribute at local nursing homes and assisted living facilities
- Write get well cards for hospital patients
- Give your trash collectors a cold bottle of water during the hot summer months
- Distribute toys and games at the local children’s hospital, as well as spend time playing with those children
- Deliver Thank You cards to your local police, fire, and first aid departments
- Pick up litter around your neighborhood and school
- Do a family car wash and provide the proceeds to a charity
- Volunteer at the local fire department to help clean up
- Mow the lawn for an elderly neighbor and help around their house
- Sell unused toys and clothes at a garage sale and give the proceeds to a charity
- Or, donate those unused toys and clothes to a woman’s and children’s shelter
Trust me, your children will enjoy volunteering and it will provide for them in so many ways. As we have always taught our children, giving is far better than receiving.
“I’ve left you an example of how you should serve and take care of those who are weak. For we must always cherish the words of our Lord Jesus, who taught, ‘Giving brings a far greater blessing than receiving.” Acts 20:35
Check out my other family resources on BBAD:
- How to Pick a Church to Attend – tips on how to find the right church home for your family
- Tips for Blending a Family – 5 tips to successfully bringing 2 families together
- Tips for Keeping Your Family Healthy – 5 tips for a happier and healthier family
- Make Family Meals a Priority – 7 reasons why family meals are so important
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10
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