Volunteering with kids: COVID Style

Guest post by: Pamela White, Children’s Center Development Director

In the United States, the time between Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day is traditionally thought of as the “holiday season”. Depending on your family, cultural, and religious traditions, volunteering could very likely be part of what you do to give back during this time.  As the parent of five-children (who are now all adults), volunteering has long been a big part of our family life year round and during the holiday season.

When my kids were young, we did things like food drives, collecting pop cans, singing Christmas carols at nursing homes, and some years we were able to adopt a family during the holidays. As my kids got older, we began volunteering to building houses with Habitat for Humanity, worked weekly at a local Kiwanis Thrift store, and helped organize school-wide volunteer projects like food or toy drives. My kids also participated in week-long service trips to volunteer at orphanages in Mexico, paint houses on a Reservation in New Mexico, and work in “soup kitchens” and homeless shelters in San Francisco and San Diego.

Unfortunately, all of these “hands-on” kinds of experiences have been put on pause due to COVID-19.

I know how important volunteering is for my family, and I’ve done a lot of thinking about how to help parents keep the spirit of volunteerism alive during a worldwide pandemic. So, I did some doing research on volunteering during COVID, and wanted to share some ideas with you.

Make cards to send to local long-term care and assisted living facilities:

  • All facilities for seniors have been on lockdown for visitors since mid-March. Needless to say, many seniors in these facilities are feeling very lonely; you may also have neighbors or family friends who could use some encouragement. Having your kids draw or paint pictures and write a few words of encouragement is a great way to send some sunshine during this difficult time. Doing Good Together offers tips on how to become a Senior Angel. To find a senior facility near you, Google “Senior living facility near me” and give them a call, and ask how you can help!

Support our troops and their families:

  • Soldierangels.org offers the opportunity to provide “Holiday Stockings for Heroes” or “Adopt a Military Family”. There is still time to do either one of these great projects, however, you need to sign up right away and plan to send off your package by December 18.  Include your kids in choosing what goes in the package, and if possible, shop with them online rather than taking them into a store. As an alternative, check with local stores you love – they might let you shop online and then do curbside pick-up.

Help local Oregon families and individuals who are struggling:

  • Clackamas Women’s Services (CWS) offers services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence. They are looking for $25 gift cards from Fred Meyer, Target, Walmart and Amazon.com which will be distributed to the women and families they serve. While I don’t encourage you to take your kids into a local store to buy these cards, perhaps you could have them write a letter to include with the gift cards when you mail or deliver. You can mail gift cards directly to CWS or reach out for delivery instructions by contacting  Josie Greer, Administrative Coordinator, at josieg@cwsor.org or (503) 557-5830.
  • Northwest Family Services (NWFS) works to reduce poverty through health, education, employment, and social justice services. They also need gifts for the families they serve.  You can shop their Amazon Christmas Wish List here or go to  your Amazon account and put “NWFS Christmas Wish List” into the search bar. Talk with your kids before looking at this list, give them a budget, and think about what age group they would like to support with the toys they choose.  This might also be a great time to talk about how grateful you are to be able help others and to talk about what they are grateful for.  When you shop Amazon from NWFS Amazon list, anything you buy will be shipped directly to NWFS.
  • Clackamas Service Center is an organization serving our community’s homeless population. Normally they would accept in-kind donations directly, however this year they are asking that you buy something from their online registry instead. Check out the list provided here with your kids, again, plan a budget, talk about why each of you think any given item might make a difference to someone who is homeless. If your children are young let them take turns pushing the buttons needed to order these items. If they are older, perhaps they would like to take part in the ordering process. Just because we have to do things online doesn’t mean our kids can’t get involved!
  • Here at Children’s Center, we always give children who have an assessment a new stuffed animal and a child size quilt or knitted blanket. We also try to keep books available for kids in our waiting room. This tangible comfort means we always need these things.  We welcome NEW stuffed animals, child size quilts or blankets (ideally handmade), and books. For more information please email me directly; Pamela White at pamela@childrenscenter.cc.

Organize a Food Drive:

  • Help or encourage your kids to hold a food drive. I have listed below pantries I could find in each community that are accepting food donations right now. In your neighborhood, you can be COVID savvy and contacting your neighbors through a paper “invitation” left at the door for them with a request for them to drop donations off at your home on a certain day and time. Kids can create these by hand or on the computer and then you all can walk door to door to deliver (make sure they wear masks where age-appropriate).  You and your kids (depending on their age) could also do this through social media and again provide a time and place for the drop-off.
  • Help your kids arrange a “curbside” drop off and hang out with them while the donations come in. You could create bins or even collect the food directly to the trunk of your car or pick-up and be already for delivery. Then, check the directions on the website as to drop-off times at your preferred food bank.
  • Local food pantries currently accepting food donations:

Regardless of what, when or how you and your child volunteer this year, remember to talk with them about how to be safe and remind them you will always listen if they are uncomfortable with a situation or don’t feel safe. Check out Darkness to Light’s information on how to understand more about this issue. And we encourage you to take Children’s Center’s Stewards of Children® training, offered throughout the year to learn how to become an advocate for children’s safety in every part of your life.

I know so many are in need and if you are so fortunate as to be warm, dry and fed this holiday season I join you in gratitude. Please consider helping someone less fortunate than yourself, and if you have kids or grandkids, help them learn to do the same!

– Pamela

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