7 Ways Busy Families Can Volunteer

Volunteering together is a fantastic way to spend time as a family. Volunteering

--teaches kindness, compassion and respect.

--deepens family relationships. --gives kids a sense of empowerment.

--promotes learning about areas of interest, such as hunger, homelessness or human rights.

--doesn't require a lot of time.

--is fun.

--changes lives.

An excellent resource for finding volunteer opportunities is "The Busy Family's Guide to Volunteering" by Jenny Friedman (Robins Lane Press). Visiting www.volunteermatch.org can help you locat volunteer opporunities in your area.

Here are my favorite family volunteering opportunities:

1. PREPARE A MEAL FOR A HOMELESS SHELTER OR SOUP KITCHEN. Even young children can help with shopping, washing vegetables, pouring and mixing. Older children and teens can handle more complex tasks. Our family loves this one because it's personal. Get large-quantity recipes at www.angelfire.com.

2. WALK, RUN OR SWIM FOR A GOOD CAUSE. We like our local CROP Walk, which fights hunger in our area and abroad. Other events fight such diseases as cancer and cyclic vomiting syndrome.

Kids can ask aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and neighbors to sponsor them -- just don't sent kids door-to-door without you! With hats and sunscreen, little ones can ride in a stroller or back-carrier.

3. ENGAGE IN E-ACTIVISM.

Many organizations' Web sites help you write to government officials or heads of corporations to support a cause. Examples include www.aiusa.org (human rights), www.cec.sped.org (children with disabilities) and www.maketradefair.com(helping farmers get fair prices for such crops as chocolate and coffee).

Young children can make phone calls, help send a fax, or dictate while parents or older siblings type. Enjoy great family discussions, too!

4. CLICK FOR CHARITY. One-click charity websites let you "donate" by clicking a button. For each click, sponsors featured on the page contribute to a charity.

Examples include www.rainforest.care2.com, www.povertyfighters.com and www.clearlandmines.com. You can find one-click charity ratings at http://kimberlychapman.com/charitycheck/list.html

Make the charity your home page, or add it to your favorites and click when logging on or off the Internet.

5. CLEAN UP TRASH ON YOUR BLOCK OR AT A LOCAL PARK OR BEACH. Pick a day with pleasant weather and put on protective gloves. Treat the family to a picnic or ice cream afterwards.

6. HAVE A BACKYARD CARNIVAL FOR A GOOD CAUSE.

Invite neighborhood kids for simple games and fun activities (www.familyfun.go.com/parties has great ideas). Put out a can on the refreshment table for donations.

7. JOIN THE BOX PROJECT.

Sponsor a fmaily in need in the rural U.S. Each month, send a box filled with clothes, school supplies, food and other essentials. You can exchange letters, too. Visit www.boxproject.org for details.

THERE'S A VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY TO FIT EVERY FAMILY. It may take a few tries to find the best fit, but the effort will pay off. Enjoy!

(c) 2004 Norma Schmidt, Coach, LLC

Norma Schmidt, Coach, LLC, specializes in helping women who are both professionals and parents to create balance. She offers teleclasses,workshops and individual and group coaching. Norma publishes "The Balance Point," a free e-zine, every other Friday. Visit http://www.NormaSchmidt.com

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