BY DIANE WOLEEN, RETIRED ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PRINICIPAL
As our children grow it is important that we make available to them opportunities to be of service to others. Offering a wide variety of volunteer opportunities encourages children to be more caring, kind and considerate to others. Recognizing that helping others should be an integral part of who we are and who we become broadens the horizons of every life.
But how can children find volunteer opportunities. There are many places to look. Very young children can be exposed to volunteer experiences along with their parents. Helping out in church or in your neighborhood is a great start for you and your child together. Volunteering can be as simple as taking a garbage bag and gloves along on your neighborhood walk to pick up trash. You must tell the child that this is service to the community and to the Earth so that they can make the connection.
As children grow, they can become more independent and selective in their service. Some people find they work well with the elderly. Volunteer at an adult day care facility or share your talents at a residence facility. A short piano, dance or vocal recital can be the highlight of someone’s day. Check first with the facility but when my boys were young and their grandmother was in a residential care facility, we brought our cats (on leashes) to the facility on Sundays for all the residents to enjoy.
Sometimes, people feel more comfortable volunteering with animals or children. Often times, I have Honor Society members or Confirmation candidates who call me to ask if I have any idea what they can do for volunteer service. I always try to find where they are comfortable and steer them toward that area. Youth agencies, after school programs, and churches are just a few of the places that need volunteers to work with children. One year we had a very successful program that recruited star high school athletes to teach our members the basics about their sport. We had sessions on basketball, cheerleading, golf, tennis, bowling, baseball and soccer. Each athlete ran a short clinic that taught the basic skills of his/her sport. The youth members at our club enjoyed this so much.
There are several places you can volunteer if you enjoy working with animals. The Humane Society loves volunteers to walk the animals or brush them.
The point is that the more often you give your children volunteer opportunities the more they will look forward to doing service. Our Honor Society at school looks for volunteer opportunities and wouldn’t think of missing the Hands on Jamestown Clean Up. The Junior Staff at our club logged over 850 service hours this past year and are such an important part of keeping our club running smoothly.
It’s a joy to work with these young people and see their enthusiasm. They look forward to helping and it becomes a part of who they are. As they grow older, the ingrown enjoyment of volunteering helps teens as they apply for Honor Society and college scholarships. It shows that they care about their community and about others and this added dimension is a definite positive insight to those who are on scholarship committees.
Volunteerism is an important trait to help develop in your child, one that helps out the individual as well as the community.
Diane has been married to her husband, Randy, for twenty-six years. They have three sons. She is currently the Director of Religious Education of Holy Apostles Parish and teaches religion and math at the Catholic Academy of the Holy Family. She is also the Program Director at the Boys and Girls Club of Jamestown.