|Doing Good Together Newsletter|
Experts say that the key to keeping our New Year's resolutions is to set realistic goals and take small steps towards integrating those intentions into our lives. In case you have a resolution to engage your family in community service, we rounded up our favorite ideas from the past year. These simple projects require no sign-up, no ongoing commitment - just an extra hour or two, right in your own home. Yet each activity can make a real difference in someone's life and could begin a rich tradition of service in your family.
Jenny Friedman, Executive Director
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Photo: Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming; illustrated by Stacey Dressen-McQueen
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher
With four young children, including a newborn, Jennifer Swanson is busy. She writes a monthly e-newsletter and homeschools her children. Although teaching her kids the importance of giving back was a priority, she was having a hard time finding volunteer ideas for young children. After attending a Doing Good Together workshop last year, she and her husband developed some simple but effective ways to integrate giving traditions into their lives.
For example, each week before the three oldest shop for food with their dad, the 7-year-old goes online and reads the list of foods most needed by their local food shelf. A couple items from that list get added to the Swansons' grocery list. At the store, the kids find the items, purchase them along with their other groceries, and add them to a bag in the kitchen. When the bag is full, the family delivers it to the food shelf.
When Swanson was pregnant with their youngest, a new giving tradition took hold. Swanson's older daughter created a small, no-sew fleece blanket to give to her baby sister when she was born. A nurse at the hospital commented that the maternity unit could use donated blankets of that size (one yard of 60-inch fleece) for their newborns, many of whom left the hospital with little. Now each member of the Swanson family has committed to making a small blanket on his or her birthday (with assistance from mom and dad) to donate and deliver to the hospital where he or she was born. "Making blankets for others helps them think about things they take for granted (like their own blankets), allows them creativity and ownership of a project, and gives them a sense of accomplishment," Jennifer says.
These small traditions are adding up to a new outlook for the family, with each family member thinking up new ways they can make a difference. Jennifer believes that by starting these simple traditions at a young age, reaching out will become natural for her children. "We've learned to accept help from others, and the kids see that. It makes sense to them to find ways to share. They love being involved in every part of family service projects. We give them general guidelines, but they get to choose the details. In the end, the kids are the ones that make it happen."
Photo: The Swanson children making a fleece blanket
If you live in the Twin Cities, join Doing
Good Together at the Minnesota Children's
Museum on Monday, January 19,
for the Martin Luther King, Jr.
Day of Service,
After exploring the museum, children can take part in a variety of fun service projects, such as creating special cards for children who are in the hospital or decorating placemats for people who receive deliveries from Meals on Wheels.
Doing Good Together staff will be on hand to
tell you about lots of new ways to serve
together. The address is 10 West Seventh Street, St.