The Joy of Giving

Volunteering opportunities for the whole family

By Melissa Wudzki November 9, 2017

The season of Thanksgiving is upon us, and what better way to encourage your family to show gratitude than by volunteering in your local community. Volunteering presents a great opportunity for children to learn the value of giving to others, while appreciating their own lives. Children, especially teenagers, benefit from the act of volunteering as much as the people they are helping.  As they recognize they are valued members of their community, they are also developing practical life skills and discovering their own strengths. The feeling that they are making a difference is invaluable. 

Volunteering as a family is a chance to build lasting memories while working together for a greater good. From preschoolers to teens, there is a chance for the whole family to get involved.  Color A Smile, a non-profit organization, asks volunteers to color one of the many coloring sheets that can be printed from their website.  Once colored, the colorful creations are sent all over to spread smiles throughout the world. Anyone from troops serving overseas to senior citizens can sign up to receive these colorful smiles.

Locally, the Community FoodBank of New Jersey's Egg Harbor Township location offers designated family days for children 6 to 11years old to volunteer with their families. Spots fill up quickly, so be sure to register. Participation in Students Change Hunger, a statewide food and fund drive, is open to children of all ages.  Younger children can participate with assistance from older siblings to collect non-perishable food items. Another opportunity for families to volunteer together is the Ocean County Library's Adopt -a-Shelf program.  For at least two hours a month, volunteers work on a specific "shelf" to keep the collection in proper order.

For the tween and teen volunteers, the opportunity to give back increases.  The age to volunteer without an adult at the CommunityFoodBank of NJ is twelve, as well as to Adopt-a-Shelf at the Ocean County Library. Other volunteer opportunities for teens at the library include Teen Advisory Board, Reading Buddies, S.A.I.L. and Teen Book Reviewer. The Community Medical Center in Toms River along with United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties accept volunteers as young as thirteen years old.

When it comes to giving back, children will understand the significance of it if we, as parents, make it an important part of our family. During the upcoming season, when your kids' thoughts are on receiving, don't forget to remind them of all the joy to be found in giving.