How My Family Grew Closer by Volunteering (in honor of Family Volunteer Day, Nov 21)
The New Generational Duo of Volunteers: Grandparents and Grandkids
It started with a rock.
Because it is all fun and games when Grandma shows up, the list of ideas of what to do with the grandkids needs to be long.
After the umpteenth bowl of ice cream and the millionth game of Uno, one day I handed out baggies to go on a nature hike to find “treasures.” Colored leaves, scattered flower petals, and even dried up worms were picked up. Then one of the grandkids found a painted rock.
The excitement that rock generated with the grandkids led us to paint and place our own rocks around the grandkids’ neighborhoods. They dubbed them “love rocks,” excitedly talking about who would find them. They hoped the rocks would bring them joy. The grandkids wanted to take a walk on the same route the very next day to see if the rocks had been found. This became our go-to project. It works for almost all ages and abilities and can be done almost everywhere. Even when all seven of my grandkids gathered for a family vacation at the beach, we painted our love rocks. We left them in the Outer Banks for residents and other vacationers to find and enjoy.
Today’s grandparents are playing a more active role in their grandchildren’s lives.
While we are finished raising our own children, this chance to be involved with the next generation gives us another opportunity to impart values and share a world that isn’t so me-centered all the time. Volunteering together also beats another round of Uno!
On a trip home to Indiana to take care of grandkids while their parents were away, I went looking for ideas to keep us busy. I stumbled across a request for help at a center for individuals with Down syndrome. I called to make sure the help they needed could be handled by kids ages eight to 17, and I made sure the grandkids liked the idea. They did.
Family Volunteering Project
To help keep the center’s clients safe from the flu, we spent three hours using wipes and sprays to disinfect every single toy the center had. That meant cleaning the ball pit and every single ball in it. We also cleaned the play kitchen, including every plastic piece of food, plates, cups, and utensils. More importantly, we learned about the center and met some of their clients.
We also saw an online idea for birthday kits: a bag filled with birthday balloons, streamers, plates, napkins, and other decorations. It would have been easy to shop with the grandkids and pay the bill. But I pitched the idea that they earn their own money to purchase supplies for the birthday kits. Earned money in hand, they went to the dollar store to buy their supplies!
We then assembled the kits and drove to a residential facility for foster kids and other youth to deliver the bags. My oldest grandchild was surprised by the nonprofit and its mission. She had no idea such a place existed in her hometown. We made sure to leave some love rocks behind on their playground, too.
Our grandkids are open to doing just about anything – as long as it is together with their grandparents.
Finding family volunteering opportunities
With an organization like Activate Good, finding age-appropriate family volunteering opportunities is easy.
There is always an opportunity available to help others! Even if the overall activity is adult-oriented, many times you can find a way to include your grandchildren in a portion of the project. Check out Activate Good’s page about family volunteering for more information!
When my Ladies’ Bible Group decided to make Christmas bags of needed items for homeless women in the Triangle, my grandkids chose to pick out the hats, gloves, and socks I had volunteered to purchase.
It gave me a chance to explain why we were doing this. These ladies were just like Grandma, but they had no houses to live in to play with their own grandkids. Now every year at the holidays, they ask what items we’ll be buying for the ladies.
I’m so happy to see them understand the concept of helping others and that, even at their young age, they can help make a difference.
Family Volunteering Reflection Time Is Important
1) Explain volunteerism to your grandchildren, and give examples of your personal volunteer efforts.
2) Let them talk about volunteer efforts they have participated in.
3) Decide on a project together. However, have a few ideas ready to help get the conversation started.
4) Make sure you and the grandkids have the time to devote to the project. We attempted painting a boulder outside their school, with fun planning and great ideas. But we spent nearly all day completing it. As we left, we said, “never again.”
5) Make sure everyone learns something about the organization and/or the people they are volunteering to help.
Another Family Volunteering Project
As I was preparing for another trip north to spend time with the grandkids, my oldest granddaughter, now 19, called me. She explained her best friend worked at a nursing home. My granddaughter thought we could make cards for some of the residents. The four grandkids and I decided we’d make six cards each for a total of 30. We set out gathering construction paper, stickers, glitter, etc.
However, after we had delivered the cards, we received a call from the facility saying that when some of the residents received a card and others didn’t, they had many unhappy people. My granddaughter assured them that it was no problem. We’d be happy to make cards for all the residents, all 150! The grandkids gathered more supplies, and we set a block of time to make the cards. My granddaughter’s friend took the finished cards, placing one on each meal tray at the nursing home. Surprised and grateful residents kept them and put the cards on their bulletin boards in their rooms to remind them that someone cares.
“Doing” vs. “Impact”
While I thought the fun would be in the “doing” of these projects, the grandkids were more excited talking about the recipients. “I wonder if the boy who got my birthday kit likes the Lego theme?”
“I think about the lady who got the pink socks I picked out for her.”
Recently, I was playing outside with my grandkids after delivering the latest round of love rocks. My neighbor stepped out and said, “Where did these lovely rocks come from?” My five-year-old grandson broke into a huge smile and said, “We painted those with my Grandma!”
That’s a lot of love and volunteer spirit right there!
Ready to start your grandparent/grandkids or your family volunteering project?
Seeking ideas that work for a wide range of ages? November 21 is Activate Good’s Family Volunteer Day, and this year it will be in a new socially distanced format. They will have do-it-yourself project kits and other goodies for families with kids of all ages to enjoy! Check it out HERE, and get started sharing the love of volunteering with your kids and grandkids today!