It all started with a casual conversation with a friend about teaching our kids to give back that inspired me to really research the topic. My kids see us donate our old stuff to Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army, Volunteers of America, and many other charities around Columbus and they've seen us donate to Toys for Tots, but they don't ever see us actually give back with our time or skills and mainly because they are too young for that, or so I thought.
In my research I've found ways our little ones can volunteer with us that is age appropriate and a great learning experience. While giving back through Toys for Tots, or donating our old stuff is great (and I really do believe those things are great and we will never stop doing them) I truly believe that it's so abstract for the younger children. I've done all the research and I've complied a list for you, in no particular order.
Patches Of Light is an incredible organization that has been so dear to my heart since I was in 6th grade. Patches of Light helps families with seriously ill children with their expenses while they are going through, what is arguably one of the toughest times in their lives. Not only are medical bills high but you have to factor in traveling expenses, parking, dining, etc. A lot of the families that are refereed to Patches Of Light have one or more parents on unpaid leave and find it hard to pay for basic every day expenses. There are many ways as an adult that we can contribute and I am happy to share all of that with you if you'd like. One of the really cool things coming up is the ambassador program with Patches of Light. The founder, Mindy Atwood, believes that children can help and that with assistance all ages can learn to help. Applications and more details on this program will be sent out in January. If you'd like to know when it becomes available, subscribe to the 614 Mom Newsletter and I will send out all the details.
NC4K is an incredible organization here in Columbus that was founded in 2007 by 16 year old, Nellie. When she lost her grandmother to cancer she decided she wanted to help others with the disease and through her research found that childhood cancer is the least funded cancer and the number one leading cause of death of children by disease. She founded the NC4K Fashion Show and throughout the years NC4K has raised over 1 million dollars for childhood cancer and they continue to grow every year.
I reached out to Nellie to discuss ways that children could help out with NC4K and the one thing that immediately came to mind was walking in the fashion show. The show this year is July 30th at the Columbus Convention Center and sign ups start in February. The children who sign up to walk in the Fashion Show are required to raise a minimum of $250 that goes to NC4K. Look for updates on sign ups on their Facebook page or our the 614 Mom Facebook page - I will be sure to keep you in the loop.
Meals on Wheels is a program that makes sure the elderly have a nutritious meal, companionship, and a safety check. This is another great opportunity for children to do with their parents, the program in Columbus that I spoke with require you to be 16 to help in the kitchen but younger children can help their parents deliver the meals. See their website for more details.
Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio is located directly across the street from Nationwide Children's Hospital and they provide a home away from home for families with seriously ill children. There are many way for older children to help, cleaning, organizing, donating, collecting pop tabs, and more. The younger children have about one option and that's baking for the families. We are going the week of Christmas to bake for the families and I will let you know all about it. I have spoke with Sarah from the Ronald McDonald House and a few of the guidelines that she laid out are as follows "Baking groups must supply their own ingredients but there is no minimum amount of treats you need to make. Please label items that contain nuts.All treats should be bagged into individual serving sizes and placed on the kitchen counters so that families may grab and go on their way to the hospital. We have zip-lock baggies at the Ronald McDonald House but baking teams are always welcome to bring extra. We welcome all types of baked goods; cookies, brownies, rice cereal treats, etc.Please make sure your group is 12 people or less (include children in your total) as to not overwhelm the families staying with us. There should be at least one group member who is 18 years or older.While you are in the House remember that our families are under a great deal of stress. Please keep noise to a reasonable level and keep in mind that you are entering a 'home'.Anyone who has a fever, cold, or other virus that may be contagious should stay at home for the safety of our families."
Emmalyn, Riley, and I can't wait to go down there and bake for these families. Riley and I have volunteered here before and can't wait to take Emmalyn there to get her involved in an organization that is so close to our hearts.
Salvation Army of Central Ohio helps those in Franklin and Delaware county by providing warm coats, clothing, food, bill assistance, and so much more to those who need it. There are many ways to help the Salvation Army you can donate your old stuff, new stuff, donating food, or toys at Christmas time for the little ones. I held a toy drive for the Salvation Army while I was pregnant with my daughter and it was an amazing experience. I would love to host another one. One of the ways that our kids can help give back is by ringing the bell at Red Kettle. I'm sure you've seen them at many grocery stores this holiday season, the people standing next to the Red Kettle ringing the bell asking for donations. Those donations go towards the warm coats, and clothing for our neighbors. They don't have an age requirement so our kids can go with us to ring the bell and say Hi to those who walk by us. It is cold so that's something to consider and the shifts are two hours long. Still a really great opportunity for our kids to learn about giving back because during those two hours you can fully engage and talk with your child about why you give back and answer all of their questions while you're in the moment.
If you volunteer or have any suggestions on what could be added to this please share! I'd love to hear your thoughts!