Your New Holiday Family Tradition: Volunteering Together

- Lauren Miura



…the season of gratitude and giving, of togetherness and traditions. This holiday season, why not cultivate a practice of giving back as a family?

Whether it’s serving a meal to the hungry or collecting items for people in need, there are tons of ways to volunteer together this season. No matter what you do, you’ll be doing good for your community and your family.

“Volunteering as a family is a powerful, hands-on way to share your values with your children,” said Jenny Friedman, executive director of Doing Good Together. “You’re not just telling them to be caring and involved, you’re actually doing it with them. Almost every family I’ve talked to who does this has said it makes their family stronger.”

Serving others is good for all of us, and kids in particular benefit. Volunteering often introduces them to people who are different than them, but allows them to see the commonalities, too -- we all deserve shelter, food, support, and kindness. Volunteering helps kids develop empathy and practice gratitude -- a nice balance to the materialism that often comes with the holidays. 



…Friedman said, volunteering can empower children. “Whether you’re 3, 5, or 7, you see that you’ve done something that makes a positive difference, and that’s pretty impactful,” she said. 

After you volunteer, Friedman encourages having conversations with your kids to reflect on the experience. “Talk about why it matters and the difference you made,” she said. “It’s important to say, ‘there aren’t givers and receivers. We all have times when we need help, and we all have something to offer.’” 

Convinced? Here are some volunteer opportunities you can do with the whole family. Just be sure to sign up in advance and check for any age restrictions!

  • Doing Good Together sends out a list of family-friendly volunteer opportunities in seven major U.S. cities every month. Sign up here.

  • Visit Volunteer Match and click on the box for “Kids” or “Teens” to find opportunities in your community that are appropriate for younger volunteers.

  • Find your local food bank on Feeding America’s site and check if they have family-friendly volunteer opportunities.



…holidays are busy -- we get it!  So here are some super easy ideas from Friedman to incorporate helping others into your holidays: 

  • Call a local homeless shelter and ask what their most needed item is. At your next holiday party, ask guests to bring one of the items. Whether it’s socks, winter hats or cans of food, display the items at the party as a visual reminder of the impact your gifts will have.

  • Bring friends and their kids together to make cards for patients in a local veterans hospital, a nursing home, or a kids’ hospital. Pick a date and deliver them together!

  • Gather friends and assemble hygiene kits with travel-sized toiletries for a homeless shelter. Or, make homeless care kits (ziplock bags with sandwiches or snacks) to keep handy when you see people in need. 

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