One of the joys of the season is the increased focus on charity and
generosity, which is why-as you may have discovered-nonprofit
organizations are inundated with volunteers this time of year! That's
great, but this might also be a good time to consider how you can
extend your feelings of goodwill beyond the holidays-after the gifts
have been unwrapped and the decorations taken down. We describe some
possible traditions you can weave into your family's life in 2008, so
that time spent with your children truly reflects your values and
ideals. Wishing all of you a holiday season filled with delight.
Jenny Friedman, Executive Director
||Make Motions to Incorporate Service this Year
Make a Difference...
Along with your new exercise plan, think about a New Year's resolution
that will begin a family tradition of giving and serving. Here are some
simple (and fun!) ideas:
Designate one Saturday morning (or Sunday afternoon or
weekday evening) each month as your "Doing Good Together" time-an
occasion set aside for reaching out. Your family can clean up your
local park, make
a blanket, pack
a hygiene kit, create
a card for an ill child or deliver food to a food shelf.
Actively engage your child in the service opportunities
already offered at your school, faith group or in your community. For
example, if your child's class sponsors a food drive, contribute food
but avoid the temptation to root out some unused canned goods from the
pantry and toss them thoughtlessly into your child's backpack. Instead,
go to the grocery store to personally select donatable items together.
Talk about how important it is for everyone to get adequate nutrition
and which foods would be most helpful.
Post a list on your refrigerator of 12 service projects that
your family plans to accomplish in 2008. When you complete one,
recognize your efforts by placing a star sticker next to the item or
adding a page to your "Doing Good Together" scrapbook or photo album.
Find an ongoing project your family can be involved in each
week or each month or each season. It might be a Meals
on Wheels route, a monthly visit to a nursing home, or a seasonal
Create your own family tradition. Then tell us about it. We'd
love to share your idea with others.
||Consider the Meaning of Service Initiatives
Talk About It
No matter which tradition of volunteering your family adopts, have
conversations about how to make the project valuable. You want it to be
truly helpful to those you serve, and meaningful and educational for
you and your children.
Discuss how to reach out in ways that are respectful and meet
real needs. Tell your children to imagine being in the other person's
shoes, and then ask how hey would like to be treated.
Help your kids understand the broader issues that are at play
when we all volunteer, whether it's for homelessness or global warming.
Encourage your child to be actively engaged by allowing them
to help decide where to volunteer. Also let them assist in developing
solutions to problems that may arise.
When talking with your family, direct your conversations more
toward the similarities that exist between people rather than the
differences, such as when discussing your family and the family you
sponsored for holiday gift giving, or your child and the children at a
battered women's shelter.
Learn About It
In Under the Lemon Moonby Edith Hope Fine, the theft of lemons
from Rosalinda's lemon tree leads her to an understanding of generosity
and forgiveness. The story deals with the pain of being robbed of a
treasure, and also, by showing the thief with his impoverished family,
conveys the need for compassion. Rene King Moreno's watercolor and
pastel drawings of the Mexican countryside are delightful.
Photo: Under the Lemon Moon by Edith Hope Fine
A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under
whose shade they will never sit.
||One Family's Story
When Stephanie Zahrbock was gathered with family after the
holidays one year, they made a dramatic discovery: "We realized we had
very little need for Christmas gifts," says Zahrbock, of Edina, Minn.
The group of 19 family members ultimately decided to pare down to two
gifts: a pooled extended family "giving gift" and a gift-exchange
present. Since then, Zahrbock and her relatives have pooled money each
year to fund one or more different agreed-upon charities. Their
list of choices reads like a who's who of family volunteerism. The
first year they sponsored a holiday family through a local Community
Action Program (www.capagency.org
). Each individual family was assigned to buy a specific gift
for a member of the sponsored family. The next year they all
sponsored a family again, but they also split some reserved funds to
aid a local family in crisis and provide food for their local community
food shelf. The third year they participated in the Toys for Tots
toy drive (www.toysfortots.
org). Recognizing the strong enthusiasm among family members
for the hands-on aspect of the toy drop, last year they opted to fund
Feed My Starving Children (www.fmsc.org)
and to spend a family group evening packing food to send to hungry
people worldwide. That event was so popular with the children that
the group is hoping to repeat it again this year.
Photo: Stephanie Zahrbock with her husband, Greg Loxtercamp,
and their children Sabrina and Quentin
||News From DGT
News from DGT
This story in the
White Bear Lake community newspaper describes a project from one of
our most recent school partnerships. It is a great example of the kind
of success (and fun!) Doing Good Together has enjoyed as we've worked
with organizations around the Twin Cities.