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Teaching Children How to Give Back

“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Volunteering is an excellent way for families to make a difference in their communities and offers lots of benefits to those who volunteer their time and skills. First and foremost, nothing is more rewarding than knowing you've made a difference in the lives of others. What's more, volunteering raises kids' sense of civic responsibility. It also makes for an excellent family bonding experience and provides valuable skill-building and socialization opportunities for kids and adults alike.

Regardless of where you live, countless volunteer opportunities are available—and there's something to fit every family's talents and interests. So, share these ideas with your kids to see what triggers their enthusiasm. Then make a family plan to put it into action.

Volunteer at a soup kitchen or food pantry. The poor and homeless are always in need of nutritious food and meals. Search online for local soup kitchens and food pantries. Then call and speak to the manager and offer your family's service. Be sure to mention the age of your children in case there are age restrictions. At a soup kitchen, you can help prepare and serve a meal or do kitchen cleanup. For a food pantry, help with stocking or putting together food baskets for families in need. Some pantries also need delivery assistance since many low-income families don't have transportation to pick up their food supply.

Help out at an animal shelter. Cats and dogs spend days, weeks and often longer cooped up in small kennels or crates with little opportunity to exercise or socialize. Offer to spend an afternoon walking dogs or playing with cats. You can transport a pet to a new home, clean kennels, donate supplies or help find loving homes through social media.

Send letters to military members overseas. Veterans, new recruits and deployed troops deserve and need to know just how much we appreciate their dedication and service to our country. For more information, visit OperationGratitude.com/WriteLetters.

Help an older adult by running errands. Do you know an older person who doesn't drive or own a vehicle? Offer to transport them to do their errands and grocery shopping. If it's too difficult for the older person to go out, you could offer to do the errands for them.

Offer your service to a domestic violence shelter. Coordinate with a local women's shelter to hold a clothing and toy drive. Or put together arts-and-crafts kits and spend an afternoon teaching a craft workshop for children at the shelter. Childcare is also often needed for working mothers staying at these shelters.

Rake, mow or remove snow for a disabled person. If you don't know anyone who's disabled, ask coworkers or friends if they know of someone. Or do an online search for disability organizations in the area. Then reach out and offer your service.

Foster a homeless animal. Animal rescues are always in need of families to foster homeless pets while awaiting permanent placement. Search online for pet rescues and animal shelters.

Perform for children in a hospital. Countless children suffer from diseases that require lengthy and sometimes indefinite hospital stays. If your family's got talent, what better way to put it to good use? Contact the local children's hospital or wing in the area and arrange a date to perform for the kids. You could put on funny skits, perform magic, dance, play music or do acrobats.

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