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Family Volunteering During the 'Me-Centered' Holidays


by C.J. Renner

The holiday season is one of the best times to be a kid: the gifts, the vacation from school, the parties... it's no wonder they can get a little "me centered" that time of year. But the joy of spoiling them also comes with the guilt of spoiling them. Older traditions like caroling or seeing relatives during the holidays can help keep the holidays from becoming toy-getting days. And newer traditions like taking the kids to buy and drop off a gift for "Toys for Tots" or donating a portion of gift money to a charity are lovely and relatively low hassle ways to teach a lesson while having fun. If you felt that your family's holiday season got a little "me-centered," it's not too late to bring back a little perspective. There is a great way to foster your children's empathy and charity: explore the volunteer opportunities your community has to offer.

Here are a few tips to ease the process:

Volunteer as a family - Volunteer time can be valuable family time. Working together will allow you to set an example and your presence will enrich discussion about the experience later.

Give your kids ownership in the process - Depending on the age of your kids, many of the tasks associated with finding a volunteer opportunity can be delegated to the youngsters... a younger child may enjoy helping chose the organization from a few options, an older child could help by researching organizations on the internet or be in charge of calling for more information about available dates and times.

Don't get too heavy - The ride home after volunteering doesn't have to be a time for lectures about "those less fortunate" or "being thankful for what we have." These concepts often come through very well in the experience itself; instead, leave the time open for sharing things you each noticed while you were there. Volunteering can be one of those times where your kids are learning without being spoon-fed, so do your best to foster a desire in your kids to volunteer again, even if it means letting the kids open up to the heavier questions when they're ready instead of pushing them right after your first experience.

Here are some local family volunteer opportunities:

Alexandra House
Locations in Blaine and Anoka
Services provided: Provides 24-hour emergency shelter, support services and advocacy to battered women and families.
How to help: One time and on-going volunteer opportunities available for religious groups, civic groups, students and families.
Contact: Call 763-780-2332 ex366 or alexandrahouse.org.

United Way of Central Minnesota
Help wanted in areas around Elk River, Zimmerman, Becker, Big Lake and Clear Lake.
How to Help: Provide companionship, and help clients with, housekeeping, transportation, shopping and errands. Website contains a variety of volunteer opportunities.
Contact: Visit www.unitedwayhelps.org or call 320-252-0227.

2504 Columbus Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55404
Services provided: Kaleidoscope provides a safe place for children in the Phillips Neighborhood of Minneapolis to meet friends and participate in fun activities during the out of school time.
How to help: Create (purchase or prepare) a healthy snack for 65 kids.
Contact: www.kaleidoscope-kids.org or call Katie Knopff at 612-871-9268.

Benedictine Health Center of Minneapolis

618 E. 17th St. Minneapolis, MN 55404
Services provided: Benedictine was founded to help those in need with a variety of medical services.
How to help: Provide moral support to patients through activities, games, reading, music, or art.
Contact: Call Dave Brennan at 612-879-2811.

Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery
5400 Glenwood Ave, Golden Valley, MN 55422
Services provided: Works in partnership with parents in crisis,
and the community to strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect.
How to help: Cook for Kids is a volunteer program for all ages where teams of 4-6 volunteers plan the menu, purchase and donate the ingredients for a meal, cook the meals, serve, eat with the children and staff, and clean up.
Contact: E-mail volunteer@crisisnursery.org or call 763-226-2066

Jeremiah Program
1510 Laurel Av, Mpls., MN 55403
Services provided: Assists low-income mothers and their children to help themselves complete their education and achieve economic self-sufficiency.
How to help: Cook for kids: Groups provide and prepare meals for resident families.
Contact: E-mail http://www.jeremiahprogram.org or call 612-259-3011.

The Ronald McDonald House -Charities of the Upper Midwest
621 Oak Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
Services provided: Provides a home-away-from-home for families with children who have life-threatening illnesses.
How to help: Assemble "breakfast bags," tie polar fleece blankets, or knit or sew hats or scarves for the residents. Families can also raise money by collecting pop tabs and dropping them at your local McDonalds's restaurant.
Contact: Call 612-331-5752 or go to www.rmhmpls.com.

People Serving People
614 South 3rd Street Minneapolis, MN 5541
Services provided: Provides a safe shelter and meals to homeless families.
How to help: Serve cafeteria-style meals and do light clean up. Minimum age of 12.
Contact: www.peopleservingpeople.org or call 612-277-0256.

5925 Highway 7, St. Louis Park, MN 55416
Services provided: Assists eligible residents of St. Louis Park meet basic needs of food, housing, transportation, health care and clothing.
How to help: Help organize the food shelf, and pack food bags for delivery.
Contact: Call 952-925-4899 or e-mail info@STEPslp.org.

Also, check out www.VolunteerMatch.org to find a full list of volunteer opportunities in your area!

Editors note: Find more articles about the holidays on MomTalk.com

Categories: Family, Newsletter,

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