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Doing Good Together Newsletter )
Helping strengthen kids and communities through family volunteerism... August 2008
in this issue
  • Kindred Spirits Contribute
  • Scheme for Sure-fire Conversation Starters
  • Inspiration
  • Happy Campers
  • News From DGT

  • In the last 25 years there's been a 43% drop in family dinners and a 35% drop in having friends over. That's surprising, since spending time with family and friends is proven to make us happier and healthier. And it's not only individuals who benefit from these connections. For a community, an increase in "social capital" means faster economic growth and a decrease in crime and violence. If you want to reap the multiple benefits of these social bonds, getting together with other families to serve others might be an ideal way to begin the process. Here's how to get started.



    Jenny Friedman, Executive Director

    Kindred Spirits Contribute

    Make a Difference...
    Gather a group of like-minded families to contribute time to your community. It could be a one-time event: getting together to make 100 sandwiches for a local homeless shelter, hosting a fundraiser for a cause, or spending a Saturday morning raking the yards of elderly people. (Your local senior citizens center would have the names of folks who need your help.) Or, if you're ready to make an ongoing commitment, find a group of families - through your faith group, your child's school or in your neighborhood - who would enjoy gathering monthly to perform community service projects. Take turns choosing a project. This can be a wonderful way to build community for your children while teaching them the values of giving and serving.

    Scheme for Sure-fire Conversation Starters
    The Giving Family: Raising Our Children to Help Others

    Talk About It...
    Whether your family volunteers together regularly or just occasionally, it's important to reflect with your child on the project(s). Here's a framework, developed in the field of service-learning, that can help get those conversations going, no matter what kind of service you undertake.

    1. What? Talk about what happened by asking questions like: What did you do? What did you observe? How were you of service?
    2. So what? Discuss the consequences of your service work by asking: What did you learn? What difference did the project make? How was it different than what you expected?
    3. Now what? Talk about whether you want to learn more about the issues (poverty, climate changes, animal rights) that arose, which information your child feels like sharing with others, and what your family might do next to make a difference.

    Learn About It...
    To learn more about how you can teach your kids about volunteering and charitable giving, read The Giving Family: Raising Our Children to Help Others by Susan Crites Price. She outlines eight easy-to- implement steps to creating a more philanthropic family.

    Photo: The Giving Family: Raising Our Children to Help Others. by Susan Crites Price.

    Inspiration

    "Give, give, give - what is the point of having experience, knowledge or talent if I don't give it away? Of having stories if I don't tell them to others? Of having wealth if I don't share it? I don't intend to be cremated with any of it! It is in giving that I connect with others, with the world and with the divine."

    Isabelle Allende, author

    Happy Campers
    the Witherspoon Family

    In July the Witherspoons embarked on a "mini- mission trip" right in their own backyard. This suburban Minneapolis family signed up for LOVE IN [DEED] Family Impact, a program sponsored by Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota with the assistance of Doing Good Together. It was essentially a "camp" in which six families, including children ranging from 7 to 15 years old, spent a week doing projects that demonstrated love for hungry and homeless members of their community.

    To open the week's activities, Beth and Don Witherspoon, along with Clayton, 9, and Grace, 7, attended the LOVE IN[DEED] "solidarity meal" a simple spread of beans and rice for all participants. This represented the average fare available to the half of the world's population, which lives on $2 or less per day. Amid discussions of disparity, families were encouraged to eat every meal that week in solidarity with the less fortunate-even at home. In the meantime, a food drive was planned for later in the week.

    Next, Jenny Friedman, executive director of Doing Good Together, educated adult participants on how to successfully plan, execute and evaluate family volunteering experiences. Meanwhile, the children split off to work on making no-sew blankets for Families Moving Forward, a local program that provides shelter and support for low-income families. (These were so much fun that Clayton, Grace and other junior campers took some home to finish.)

    Each evening that week, families met to work on a different service project and to learn more about issues surrounding hunger and homelessness. In all, the Witherspoons helped make over 250 sandwiches for Simpson Housing Shelter, packaged food at Feed My Starving Children, and helped deliver the collected food donations to Community Emergency Services. On Friday, the final evening of camp, they all ate supper with homeless guests staying at an Edina, Minn., church. Clayton and Grace had such fun playing with their new friends that it was a highlight of the whole program.

    The Friday gathering served as a living example of all the Witherspoons had learned that week about their faith, themselves, their family and their community. Although each grappled with the challenge of imagining life as a homeless or hungry person, Beth says, "we all learned meaningfully how families can tackle these problems together."

    Photo: Beth and Don Witherspoon, along with their children Clayton, 9, and Grace, 7.

    News From DGT

    LOOKING FOR A WAY TO CREATE A TRADITION OF SERVICE FOR YOUR FAMILY AND OTHER FAMILIES YOU KNOW?

    If you live in Minneapolis/St. Paul and would like to organize a group of families with children from your school, neighborhood or faith group to meet regularly to do community service projects, we want to help you get started. Doing Good Together is looking for a group of committed families to launch a pilot program with our support and assistance. Please contact Jenny Friedman at 612.822.6502 or jenny@doinggoodtogether.org.

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