Doing Good: Create a Sustainable Volunteer Opportunity With Your Family
At FamilyWorks, where I work as a Volunteer Coordinator, I have been getting lots of questions like:
"Can I volunteer with my kids at the food bank?"
"Do you have any volunteer opportunities for my family to participate in together?"
I tell people their kids have to be 16 years or older to volunteer at our food bank. It’s a busy place, with heavy items constantly being moved around, and kids cannot really be supervised.
Because of the numerous requests like these, particularly during the holidays, we are working on developing a program for FamilyWorks that makes it possible for families with young children to volunteer together doing different things.
And, as the holidays hurtle toward us, I find myself in the usual quandary of trying to figure out how to avoid getting consumed by consumerism and at the same time, create ways for my family to focus on giving rather than receiving. Sometimes the anxiety sets in and I find myself paralyzed, overwhelmed by Internet research and the obligation to make the time to figure it all out.
In the back of my mind I am keenly aware that it is easy to want to assuage my guilt at not doing “enough” for others by participating in a one-time volunteer act. I know that volunteering once, while it helps others in that moment, does nothing for their long-term comfort. I wrote a blog post recently on philanthropic colonialism that articulated some of my concerns.
As the years go by, though, I find that my family and I are able to do small things to create a sustainable culture of giving. We have created daily family activities and experiences for each night of Hanukkah instead of making it all about giving presents each night. And this year the kids are going to donate some of their savings to their favorite charities (Wolf Haven, you just got lucky!). When my youngest is a little older, I’d like for us to find a regular opportunity to volunteer in our community. These actions are not much, but they are a start.
Recently I heard about Seattleite Barb Smith's effort to create a regular volunteering opportunity for her family and I thought, OK, this is meaningful and totally doable.
Smith is a part-time grant writer for Solid Ground, which, by coincidence, owns the building that FamilyWorks is in, and she is also co-owner of Space to Create, an art studio in Ballard. Smith had been wondering how she and her family could volunteer together on a regular basis as opposed to only once a year during the holidays. She, as I have been, wondered how to make these efforts more sustainable.