Try Volunteering as a Family

Three 12-year-olds lined one side of the table, three parents on the other side. After five minutes, we had our system worked out. The first child put mustard on the bread, the second put mayo, and a third added the turkey. Next was lettuce, added by a parent, and the sandwich was done. Each sandwich was placed in a zip-lock bag then into a big cardboard box. We were reminded, "Make sure the sandwiches look neat. No meat hanging over the sides. It's important that everyone who gets a sandwich feels respected and cared for."

This was the scene in the synagogue's kitchen as a group of volunteers prepared food that would be delivered to the homeless poor on the streets of New York City. My husband and I, along with Molly, our 12-year-old daughter, were spending Saturday evening preparing food and sorting clothes and toiletries for Midnight Run, a volunteer organization dedicated to finding common ground between the housed and the homeless. Although we would not be part of the team handing out food from the van during the night, we were contributing what we could—and doing it as a family.

Why volunteer as a family? As Molly says, "Volunteering as a family is more fun. It shows that we care and like doing things together. It also lets us know that our parents want us to learn to be thankful for what we have and help change other peoples' lives."

I agree with Molly. Not only is volunteering as a family fun, it's a great way to give back to our community. Plus, as a parent, I'm nurturing a lifelong volunteer. In her article, "Family Volunteering: The Ties That Bind," Kristen Porritt writes, "Volunteerism is an important ingredient of the glue that binds the family to its community. It allows the family to serve the community and pass on important values to its children, youth, and other adults, and to experience a shared sense of accomplishment — all at the same time.”

Family volunteering doesn't need to be a huge commitment of time — but rather a commitment of the heart. How do you begin? Check out the tips and resources below and discover how your family can make a difference all year. Remember to check with your Girl Scout council to find out about family volunteering opportunities.

Tips and Resources for Family Volunteering
Five tips to get you started:

  • Talk with your family about why it's important to volunteer.
  • Discuss which activities or causes each family member is interested in.
  • Identify volunteer activities family members may already be involved in.
  • Determine how much time each family member wants to commit. Make it work for you—volunteering can take 15 minutes, one hour, or the entire day.
  • Choose an activity/cause that works for your family.

For more ideas on family volunteering, visit GSUSA's Volunteering section.