volunteerI’m going to challenge you to volunteer with your kids before the end of the year.

If you’ve already done so, give yourself a pat on the back and keep going! If not, this is your chance. As I said in my last post, gratitude and service go hand in hand. When we share in the bounty of life, connect with those around us, and give of ourselves, we are practicing gratitude. And Charlotte is a city of both bounty and need, filled with people, animals, and places that need your help.

I’m ashamed to admit that while I feel volunteering is very important and fulfilling, for the last several years, I haven’t really made it a priority. I always had an excuse; Too far, too much time, too busy, etc. But now that I have kids, I know that my actions, especially when it comes to helping others, speak louder than my words.

The best way for our children to learn about being kind, grateful, generous, and loving is to watch us doing it, and, even better, do it with us.

If your children are very young like mine, the best options often involve doing a project at home (cooking, creating cards or tags, raising money, collecting food, buying supplies, etc) and then delivering those items to people or animals in need. If your children are a bit older, many website have age restrictions and “family volunteering” categories to help guide you.

So, here’s my challenge: Pick just one thing to do with your children this holiday season to improve our local community and give back.

10 Places to get you started…volunteer 2

  1. Friendship Trays. This local organization delivers food to people in the area. Your kids can ride along in the car as you pass out trays. For more information, e-mail Volunteer Coordinator Lani Lawrence.
  2. MiraVia. Interested in helping other young mothers? MiraVia is a organization with both an outreach and residential program for moms and moms-to-be. You can donate items (for a list of items most in need, click here) with your child or you can make or collect holiday gifts or treats for their clients and their children. Their residential program is located in Belmont, NC at the Belmont Abbey College Campus. Call the Program Manager, Lucy Rubio at 704-525-4673 x12.
  3. Room in the Inn. The inn provides shelter and food for Charlotte’s homeless population in the winter months. There are many ways to volunteer but for children, the easiest may be to make cookies or donate food. You and your children can bring the food directly to the shelter. For more information on their needs this season, check out their Holiday Support page.
  4. Bright BlessingsThis organization was started by a family interested in helping their own children learn how to give back so there are so many great opportunities to volunteer here. They providing help and hope for homeless children in the Charlotte-area, and you can make treat bags, snack bags, or gift tags.
  5. Loaves and Fishes. This organization provides groceries for families in short-term crisis. To help, you and your child can collect and deliver canned good or even start a lemonade stand to raise money and donate to the organization. For more ideas, look here.
  6. Visit a nursing home. Many local homes have toddler days or family opportunities. Contact your nearest nursing home to see if there are visiting times.
  7. Walk or run to fight a disease. Locally, Isabella Santos Foundation is an organization fighting childhood cancer. You can push your child in a stroller or 5+ can walk at least a couple miles.
  8. Levine Children’s Hospital provides a great list of items you can your child can collect and put together to drop off at the hospital. Donate an activity box or gifts for sick children this year.
  9. Make holiday cards for soldiers or veterans and deliver them.
  10. Volunteer at the Humane Society or donate dog/cat toys, money or time to local shelters.

None of these work for you? Maybe you belong to a church or group that has opportunities. Or, check out VolunteerMatch.org, HandsOnCharlotte.org, or Idealist.org, with lists of many other local options. And check out this great PBS Kids link for ways to get your kids involved in volunteering.

Do you work with a local organization or volunteer? Please share other opportunities with our readers. We would love to hear from you!