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Friday, April 18, 2014
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Volunteering as a family has numerous benefits

Last Modified: Friday, October 04, 2013 6:52 PM

By Warren Arceneaux / American Press

Families working together on community service projects can make a big impact on both fellow residents and the participating children.

Melissa Hill, marketing and event coordinator for United Way of Southwest Louisiana, said families doing volunteer work together can provide many benefits.

“It helps families learn more about social issues in their community. It is a platform for parents to talk to their children about other children that don’t have the same things or live in the same situation,” she said.

“It is seeing that they can make a direct impact on the community. They see putting other people first; they get a lifelong ethic of service. Children who see their parents volunteer will probably volunteer in the future. Setting an example early can make a big impact on children while improving the community as a whole.”

Hill said children can also inspire parents.

“We see so many examples of kids starting the change,” she said. “We have partnered with schools so they can start at a small level and make an impact that way. Abraham’s Tent does not have an age limit; they can go and help prepare food or help serve or clean up. That is a direct way they can help feed the community and help people in need.”

Beverly McCormick, director of the Volunteer Center of Southwest Louisiana, said getting children involved in volunteering teaches an important life lesson.

“It teaches them about the importance of citizenship and contribution,” she said.

“I just a read a quote from Steven Covey, ‘The key to life is not accumulation, but contribution.’ We can teach our children from a very young age that there is more to life than just having things and accumulating things, that it is much more important to work in life to contribute, to be of service, to be a good citizen.”

McCormick said there are several easy and fun ways families can get involved in serving the community.

“Families can go around their neighborhood and have a food drive, collect food and take it over to Abraham’s Tent or another organization that distributes food to people in need,” she said.

Families can get together and have a winter coat and clothing drive, collecting coats, jackets, gloves and scarves to donate to the Salvation Army, Goodwill or a different nonprofit organization that can distribute them to people in need.

Families can make hand-made items, contact the local hospitals, and give them to children who are hospitalized. Or they can make Patriot Pouches for veterans and take them to a veterans home or hospital.

They can pick up litter at a park or in a neighborhood to make them clean. Children can help with animals by participating in the Black Cat Brigade with Halloween coming up. The organization’s goal is to help more black cats get adopted.

Families can visit nursing or assisted living homes, where children can sing, dance, recite poems or bring little gifts.

Families looking for volunteering opportunities can call 513-4616 for referrals and more information.

Some service projects children can take on, according to the Points of Light website:

“Decorate reusable grocery bags and fill them with ... non-perishable food items.”

“Decorate holiday cards for soldiers overseas.”

“Box up ... gently used clothing to donate to your local family shelter, refugee center or charity thrift store.”

“Donate ... gently used books and DVDs to a local children’s hospital.”

“Make holiday decorations and cards and then sing carols for nursing home residents.”

“Collect used towels and pet toys for the local animal shelter.”

Online: www.pointsoflight.org.

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