April is a month full of blooming life and new growth. The weather here in Maryland has been crazy as it usually is in Springtime. Still, there is a sense of renewed energy! Additionally, April is dedicated to recognizing the great feats of volunteerism. National Volunteer Month is a great time to take an opportunity to engage with your community. Consider how to seek out ways to give back. This week, we’ll explore how you can do this in your neighborhoods and how to involve the whole family!
Volunteerism in America
Before we get to present day recognition of National Volunteer Month, let’s first take a look at the past. Volunteerism as an idea isn’t entirely unique. Certainly, many cultures and countries have demonstrated opportunities of devoting time and energy to civic projects and to fellow neighbors in need. Volunteerism in America has had a considerable impact on American society since our nation’s founding. Neighbors and communities are able to join together for a common cause. Benjamin Franklin recognized the need for Americans to band together for issues great and small. In 1736, after a devastating fire on a Boston wharf that burned down warehouses and neighboring homes, he founded the first all volunteer based fire company. A concept that still stands today! The more you know.
In the 1800s, many issues underwent social reform in America. For example, issues such as poverty, women’s rights and the abolition of slavery experienced heavy attention throughout the American states. These social issues encouraged involvement from citizens who previously hadn’t had much of a hand in politics or decision making. Mainly, these were campaigns that were led by women and younger generations. Organizations such as The American Red Cross, The Salvation Army and the YMCA were founded during this time period. Thus, the stage for National Volunteer Month was set.
Benefits of volunteering
Oscar Wilde wrote, “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.”
Helping others is a sure fire way to just feel good. I can think of the times when someone has simply done something nice for me and how much it completely improved my day. Something as small as writing someone a nice note or giving a sincere compliment goes a long way. Consider how that positive impact can be when you’re working with a group of people for a greater good and to serve the community. An Ohio State University study from 2017 explored the mental health benefits to volunteering. They reviewed a gazillion (scientific term there for ya) papers they reported that volunteering is awesome. To quote, “Volunteering had a favorable effect on depression, life satisfaction and well-being,” and you can’t really find any fault with that.
The Ohio State study got me doing some further research especially as volunteering could positively impact families. As parents, we are always looking for ways to be engaged with our kids. Volunteering is a perfect option to explore, because kids of all ages can participate- in the right setting! Volunteering with your family is an activity that can be done at no cost to you, you just have to give your time and energy. The mental health benefits for individuals is multiplied by engaging in volunteer efforts together as a family group.
I know when I see my kids doing something nice for one another or a friend, it’s a positive experience for me. Yesterday, when I picked my daughter up from daycare, a little boy walked up and gave her a little purple flower and she was so psyched. “Mama! Gabey gave me purple flower!” She lovingly carried it home in her hand and placed it on her bookshelf. Just by witnessing that beautiful little baby act of kindness made my heart grow an extra size. Still riding that wave apparently. So precious.
Getting the fam onboard
Just like any other family activity, find something that matters to everyone during National Volunteer Month. Have a brainstorm session and ask your kids what they’ve noticed in the neighborhood and the community. Is there trash in the park? Who would they like to help and why? Maybe it could be brightening the day of residents in an assisted living facility, or donating gently toys and clothes to a family shelter. I try to have discussions, especially with my oldest who is 7 about why it is important to show generosity and support to others. I always encourage him to rotate out toys especially around Christmas and his birthday. This gives us a chance to take stock of what we have and consider what others may not have.
We created a Community Service tic tac toe “game”. The idea for this is to keep a visual of many (not all, obviously) ways your family can consider giving back in your community. Even though April is National Volunteer Month, that doesn’t mean you have to over extend yourself volunteering all month. April is just a jumping off point. Using the tic tac toe graphic, spark some discussions in your families. The fun of it is that you are doing it together and coming up with ideas that matter to your families!
Giving in action
If you opt to do something like having a yardsale, consider seeking out a cause to donate a portion or all the profits. My son loves dogs. We had two and they both passed away in recent years. It was tough on him, but it didn’t dampen his love for our four legged pals. We are always looking at pictures of pups in shelters and fosters. Shelters are always in need of funds and supplies. We recently gathered some unused bedding and blankets and donated to a local animal shelter. He said he was happy that a dog who didn’t have a family might get to sleep on one of his old bed blankets. I loved that he was able to look at the whole arc from the gathering of items, the donation and how it would impact the recipient.
What will you do for National Volunteer Month?
So, this April during National Volunteer Month, what might your family choose to do? Will you take an opportunity to spend time with the elderly, pick up trash or help out some animals? We would love to know what you are doing with your families in your neighborhoods and communities. Please leave us a comment and share with us all the good you’re doing in the world!
Happy Earth Day and Happy Friday!
Courtney is an MTT tutor, academic coach, and blog contributor for MTTES. If you check out our FB and Instagram pages, you might see her giving a storytime with her son Jack through the company’s Facebook Live service. Courtney’s love of the English language, learning, and creative writing inspired her to contribute relevant content to teachers, tutors, parents, and homeschoolers seeking support across an array of trending topics. She and her teacher husband have two small children and reside in Baltimore, MD with their dog Lottie May.