Traditions of Service and Giving for Children

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Operation Turkey

On Thanksgiving morning, my daughters and I will be volunteering at Operation Turkey, an effort that provides the homeless of Austin and other cities with a hot Thanksgiving meal. While this will be 7-year-old M and J’s first year participating, I went last year and had a great time. Will you be there? Come and say hello!

turkey1This group has their process down. Around 8:00 am, they take hundreds of milling participants and I-have-no-idea-how-many pounds of food and funnel the people into different tasks. Last year, by noon, 5000 people had been fed and I was headed home to prepare my own meal.

turkey2I wasn’t sure how kid-friendly Operation Turkey would be, so I decided to check it out last year while my girls were at Daddy’s place. I was pleasantly surprised. The children are tasked with decorating the Styrofoam boxes with messages and pictures of seasonal cheer. They’re busy, out of the way, and genuinely contributing. Once all the boxes are decorated and things are started to slow down, they’re welcome to rejoin their parents. I can’t wait to see my kids give of their time and creativity on Thursday.

Why Volunteer

Generosity and gratitude are among my core values and I hope to pass them on to my children. Events like Operation Turkey will set my kids up to know that joy that comes from giving and help them see that they’re not alone in wanting to share the privileges that have come to them. As we have discussed many times, we may not be rich as the world sees it, but we have enough for our needs and many of our wants and we are rich in love. Since we have enough for ourselves, we have enough to others too.

What Can Kids Do?

Our community is filled with opportunities for children to volunteer. M’s best friend volunteered at the local food pantry with her mom last weekend, using the Spanish she learns in the dual language program at school to direct Spanish-speaking families to the bags and food that will help ease their burden a little. Last winter, our Girl Scout troop took cookies and Christmas cheer to the residents of a local retirement community. J donated every penny she’d saved up from her allowance to her school’s Coats for Kids drive. I didn’t even know that until she mentioned it in passing.

We’ll probably go to our local Children Giving to Children Parade and donate toys and books to the Austin Blue Santa effort. Live music and floats are plenty of fun without the added warmth of helping out another child, but the donation is what really makes the event for us. The first time my girls donated at the parade, they were 19 months old. They understood that they were helping out a baby who didn’t have toys and they were old enough to feel good about it. The first time we went, they were 7 months old.

blueSanta

The weather won’t be quite so nice this year, but they’ll probably cooperate better for photos.

blueSanta2Do your kids volunteer or donate during the holidays? What opportunities are there for them in your community?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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Sadia

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 10-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX suburbs, where Sadia works full time in information technology. She contributes to a number of parenting websites and magazines and also runs The Mommy Blogging Guide, where she answers mommy bloggers' technical questions.

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