Find Your Family Volunteering Fit
Inclusive community service ideas for kids and caregivers of any age
By Kat Love, Senior Manager, Digital Marketing, Healthier Generation
Spending quality time together as a family can improve social skills, boost children’s confidence, and increase feelings of happiness.
Volunteering unlocks even more health benefits. According to Gallup scientists who have studied the essential elements of well-being for more than 50 years, doing kind things for others “promotes deeper social interaction, enhanced meaning and purpose, and a more active lifestyle – while keeping us from being too preoccupied with ourselves or getting into harmful emotional states.”
At a time when mutual care and mentorship are so vital, COVID-19 has transformed what volunteering looks like in communities across the country. Many organizations were forced to significantly adapt their volunteer programs, while seasoned helpers had to find new ways to contribute their time, talent, and expertise.
This was my family’s experience when my 84-year-old father, John, had to suddenly stop tutoring five days a week and serving meals at a men’s shelter on a monthly basis. Finding ways for him to direct his commitment to service while staying safe during COVID-19 has required research and networking, but we feel great about the options that we've found so far.
What’s more, my sons Malcolm (10) and Jonas (8) are among the millions of young people who are maturing through this pandemic with greater awareness of interconnectedness and individual impact.
In honor of National Volunteer Week April 17-23, Kohl’s Healthy at Home is sharing fun and meaningful volunteering options that support a wide range of ages, abilities, schedules, and COVID-19 safety precautions.
Read about some of my family’s recent experience below and share your own on social media! Tag @HealthierGen and #KohlsHealthyatHome to inspire others with your creative acts of community service.
Larger projects can be broken down into simple steps just right for different age groups. Our three generations spent a weekend helping the Diaper Bank of North Carolina while watching the NCAA Tournament. Each of us played a part in unboxing hundreds of diapers, counting stacks of 10, and wrapping each bundle for easy distribution by dozens of different partners throughout the region.
Self-Paced and Home-Based
Gathering and preparing food donations is another option that can be done on a flexible schedule with minimal contact. The third Friday of each month is "Costco chicken day" for my dad, when he picks up several rotisserie chickens to carve and deliver to a local shelter for serving by a separate team of volunteers. He can work mostly from home, at a pace that feels right for him.
It's important to consider everyone's comfort level with personal contact or indoor activities. In the first year of the pandemic, my dad volunteered to deliver school meals to students at home. Similar options are available on a regular basis with Meals on Wheels and many other mutual care organizations, like Heart of Dinner in New York.
Playtime with Impact
A phone call or social media search can uncover volunteer opportunities related to your family’s interests. Jonas has a big heart for dogs, but we're not yet ready to take on responsibility for one of our own at home. Recently, we began visiting our local shelter to read and play with the animals awaiting adoption. It's fun and meaningful time together that helps Jonas learn about dogs while they get practice socializing and staying fit.
Sharing Skills and Showing Up
Share what you know and help create a consistent space for kids to connect with one another and develop their creativity. I grew up sewing thanks to my mom, and recently became a 4-H leader for our county sewing club. While I’m by no means an expert, I’m grateful for the support and training 4-H provides volunteers to help us facilitate the experience, as do many coaching, tutoring, and mentorship programs nationwide.
One Day at a Time
Keep an eye on local organizations calling for help at special events like litter collection or staffing the water table at a charity fun run. Small, even spontaneous acts like picking up trash during a park playdate help to start conversations about each person’s potential to make a difference in our communities.