by Melissa Buonanno
Our family has always been very involved in the community and our children are no exception. As a parent, it’s my job to teach my kids social responsibility. I am a firm believer in Gandhi’s statement that “you must be the change you wish to see in the world”; it’s a philosophy I try to impart on my children every day.
We want them to know that with privilege comes responsibility; being a member of humanity is in itself a privilege. My kids have a lot but I never want them to be so caught up in what they have they forget about the world around them.
My son (now 12) has had the opportunity to buy and wrap gifts for domestic violence shelters. Raising money and picking out toys for kids at Seattle Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, he was even given the opportunity to serve Thanksgiving dinner at a few soup kitchens.
My girls (2 and 4) love spending time at a local community center visiting the elderly and the people they visit love it too. It’s a win-win situation my kids feel great and are learning lifelong lessons while helping others who are truly grateful. The look on my oldest face the first time he got a thank you card from a hospital told me that we had made the right choice getting him involved.
Volunteer work isn’t about giving up time – it’s about helping others and you get so much out of that. I think it’s important for people to remember that volunteer work isn’t always about helping the less fortunate – it’s about making things better. It could be helping someone get food or it could just be a few minutes of time to show them they still matter and aren’t forgotten.
Getting my kids involved in their community early on has made helping others a way of life for them and they enjoy being a part of something. It’s important when picking a volunteer activity you find the right one based on you and your child’s needs that won’t be an inconvenience or a bore.
Things to consider when helping your child choose a volunteer opportunity:
- Your child’s interests
- Your child’s age and attention span
- Your child’s talents and abilities
- The agency and atmosphere
- Location, length and frequency of work
- Your schedule and commitments
Before committing to a volunteer experience explain to your child what you will be doing and why, then find something your child will enjoy doing; they are more likely to want to keep doing it if they’re having a good time.
Some great beginner activities for new volunteers are:
1. Planting flowers at a school or park.
2. Serving meals to shut-ins or at a shelter.
3. Collecting food, toiletries or clothes for emergency relief.
4. Cleaning up a playground or community area.
5. Raising money for a charity they believe in.
6. Gathering or sorting food for a food bank.
7. Visiting the elderly.
8. Tutoring or reading with younger children.
9. Helping out at an animal shelter.
There are countless local shelters that love to see kids come in and help out. The holidays are a great time to get involved but there is no shortage of needs during the rest of the year either.
Teaching kids the importance of getting involved in their communities at a young age will help them learn to be an active participant in the world around them and show them that one person can make a difference. The rewards will last them a lifetime.
Melissa Buonanno is a wife, mom and business owner trying to navigate mommy-hood in Hollywood, busy with three kids in the entertainment industry and loving every minute of it. Melissa is well known in the Beverly Hills social circles and active in the community. She enjoys shopping, cooking and traveling and is a self confessed coffee enthusiast. To find out more about life if Beverly Hills visit me on Twitter.