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July 6, 2018
Recently, a speaker to whom I was listening posed a poignant question: If I don’t make the time now, to do things with my children geared toward developing socially responsible people, why expect them to make time for those things when they’re on their own? If I constantly put parties and recreation before community service, can I expect them to be civic-minded adults? Children benefit from engaging in community service, and parents must lead by example.
Kids’ and parents’ schedules are full. What am I teaching my children if I brush community service aside because I’m busy? Teaching how to create time for service is better. Grocery shopping takes time, but kids can choose foods for a food bank while shopping. A stop while driving home ensures people in need receive donations. Instead of tuning each other out with music, talk about why donations are important.
Cris Kwan, mom of two, started volunteering because she noticed needs. “The experiences are rewarding. It feels good to help,” Kwan says. Having volunteered at soup kitchens and hospitals, she eventually became involved with her daughters’ schools—working with PTAs and assisting teachers. Kwan’s daughters saw her in action and enjoyed the benefits of her help. “Organizations like Metropolitan Ministries and the Humane Society have online scheduling, allowing volunteers to align their schedules with the organization’s needs. There’s flexibility, and you can make things work,” Kwan explains.
Children as young as 3 years old can participate in community service. Kwan’s daughters, now in high school and college, started young. “They were impacted by how grateful people were for the help, food, and supplies that we often take for granted,” says Kwan. Kari Adams, who’s long engaged in community service, is ensuring her 3-year-old grows with a mindset and heart for service. “It’s important to choose organizations kids can connect with based on age and experiences,” says Adams. “High Risk Hope is that organization for us. They supported us when I was on hospital bed rest and our son in the NICU. We talk about preemie babies with him and he recently pointed out the fact that he was in a ‘hospital box’ when born.” The family has also volunteered for Jersey Mike’s Day of Giving, and Adams’ 3-year-old is a knee-tapping pro for getting people’s attention and giving them a sticker. It’s difficult to gauge how much community service is impacting him, but Adams is confident that her son shows concern for others.
Mom-of-three Lisa Reeves is active with the Junior League and Rotary Club. Her 5 and 10-year-old sons have attended many service projects and she enjoys taking them to interactive ones. “We love Metropolitan Ministries’ Faith Café because we serve attendees lunch and talk with them,” Reeves says. She believes the interactions help kids understand that we’re all the same, despite varying backgrounds. “It’s key to encourage talk,” Reeves says. “We explain what events are about, who we’re helping, and why we’re doing it. I know they’re growing socially and emotionally because they now ask to help. When teachers note our sons’ empathy and selfless actions, we know they’ve learned to stop and think about others.” They’ve done clean ups, fundraising walks, and food-sorting events. Also good for their development is the team effort displayed by their parents. “My husband understands my drive and supports me,” Reeves says. “Both of us have to be involved at some capacity.”
From developing organizational and public speaking skills to empathy and emotional intelligence, kids and parents benefit from community service. From community service, kids learn about the power of personal contributions. Rather than viewing community service as something we do instead of attending parties, we can teach kids to view community service as simultaneously impactful and fun.