Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Big Chill and Our 12 Days of Charity Wrap-Up

It's been Artic cold around here the past few days. The kind of cold that makes you not even want to leave the house. So, I haven't.  I think the high yesterday was 7 degrees but with the windchill it felt like -20 or something like that.  I don't remember. My brain is frozen.

Our gas bill is gonna be a million dollars.

Anyway, today was nice and toasty compared to yesterday which means it just barely made it out of the single digits.  Man, Florida is looking better and better to me.

I can't believe this entire blog post is going to be about the cold.  I just can't bear that.  Has that been what I've been reduced to?  I sound like my grandparents.

Okay, something of substance... something of substance.

Oh yes!! I can recap our family's commitment to do our "12 Acts of Kindness" at the holidays! (Phew!)

So here is how we spread some love and charity in our own small way. Perhaps you can adopt some of these ideas for your family next year and start your own charitable holiday traditions! The best kinds of activities are the ones where kids don't sit on the sidelines and watch you donate stuff.  However, when you do donate to drives and collections, try to talk to your child about what they are doing and why and involve them in the shopping/packing/delivery of the stuff.

The best is when they can get REALLY get involved in the activity or deed.  Those opportunities are harder to come by for the younger guys, particularly when they are under 12.

Hopefully these ideas will help jump start your own creativity and places to look in your own town! Most of these fell into my lap.  I only had to search for the Holiday Cards project.  I didn't have to organize anything, just respond to the opportunities that came our way.  Plus, we spent very little for our good deeds.  It's not about spending a ton of money. If lots of people do something small, it all adds up to something big.

12 Days of Kindness

1. Holiday Mail for Heroes - The girls made a slew of holiday cards with handwritten notes for US soldiers in combat and recovering in hospitals. It's a great way for young children to get hands-on with a charity project! Want to do it next year? Mark your calendar at the end of November because the deadline is always VERY early in December to ensure Christmas delivery. Visit the American Red Cross to learn more about this activity.

2. Volunteered at Santa's Workshop sorting toys in their toy drive. My husband's non-profit organizes a huge, extremely successful holiday shopping experience for the families who receive their services.  Set up like a store complete with wrapping paper, batteries and stocking stuffers, parents are able to "shop" for their own children (up to 3 gifts per child) and pick out what they know their child would like. There are literally thousands of gifts donated!  This year I volunteered to do some counting and sorting. In the past, I have been a volunteer helping parents shop on the day of the event.

3. Volunteered at the Wreaths of Remembrance Ceremony - Our county has a huge veterans cemetery where 1100 vets are buried. People For People is an incredible organization who hold this Remembrance ceremony every year. Anyone can sign up and volunteer with either a small monetary donation of $5/wreath and/or to be a wreath layer.  Families are encouraged to help. We will make this a family tradition every year - it was a great experience for the kids and we talked to them about the sacrifice of soldiers and the hardships of wars.

4. Spread some Holiday Cheer with 'Kids on a Quest' at a local nursing home - We are fortunate enough to have a Young Philanthropy group in a nearby town. They meet once a month and orgainze charity and community betterment projects for young children.  This month, we made Christmas-type crafts and distributed them to the residents.

Don't have a group like this in your area? You can still visit a nursing home with a small group.  Also, charity opportunities exist within girls scouts, cub scouts and religious organizations so check there OR make a suggestion to those groups!

5. Pink volunteered to sing in the Children's Christmas Choir which involved 4 weeks of rehearsals and singing in the Christmas Eve Mass.

Any volunteer work at your school or religious organization would work! Or something like shoveling snow in a neighborhood or cleaning up in a park or beautifying your street in some way.

6. We donated new books to the book drive helping underprivileged children. Our collection was at the library but Barnes and Nobles does these collections too.  Our school also had a gift card tree in the lobby for children at the holidays, so we contributed a Walmart Gift Card to that.

7. We sponsored a child to attend a local Holiday Rollerskating Party. A local charity (who also organize the Young Philanthropy Group) hold a big rollerskating party complete with food, games, activities and a visit from Santa! It is $15.00 to sponsor one child, so that's what we did and just the thought of that child having such a fun time still warms my heart.

8. Donated old toys and games we don't play with anymore to a local charity. Every year around this time we move out the old in anticipation of the slew of new toys!

9. Donated a new toy to a toy drive at CB's school which distributes them to chronically ill children spending the holidays in the hospital. Another idea is to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House around the holidays (just google the organization in your area).

10. Donated items to a girl scout troop's Pet Drive for a local animal shelter. This time of year there is always a Scout Troop collecting pet items. They drop a bag off right at our house and we set it out at a specific time on a specific day and they pick it up - the easiest thing ever!

11. Donated food to a local Food Drive. - Tink's Girl Scout troop had a little food drive and also made "Snowman Soup" to distribute to the shelters too and decorated a little stocking to go with it.  Our church also holds a food drive which we donate to basically year round.

12. The girls made "Rainbow Loom" bracelets as part of a fellow 5th grade student's service project. This girl is having her school make as many bracelets as they can and they will be shipped to children who survived the typhoon in the Philippines to lift their spirits and let them know children all over the globe CARE. I thought this was a great project that kids could get very "hands on" with. Very creative!

Want more inspiration?  Visit some of these sites for ideas and encouragement.

Kids Care Clubs 
The Grow Love Project 
Learning To Give


Elizabeth said...

You guys are more than admirable --

kario said...

Such great experiences for your kids!

I hope it keeps getting warmer in your neck of the woods. We are so lucky to have dodged all of that Polar Vortex stuff!

Anonymous said...

You are an amazing woman with all that you do. I think you needed to hear that.

My friend has a daughter in her late twenties with autism and epilepsy disorder. She also had two other children. One whom since passed very tragically. The other who had a severe case of ADHD. She too instilled the value of giving in her children. When her daughter was around 11 or so she started up a program in her church for the homeless. She brought her daughter along to teach her basic skills such as setting table or picking up trash. Both were hard to come by. Her daughter is also on the lower side with significant cognitive impairments. But she taught her daughter every week after school while she ran this program at church for many years. Eventually her daughter learned how to set the table. Hand out food. Clean up after people. Be able to put a VHS tape in by herself so others can watch. It became a job to her. In fact her first volunteer job.

That and delivering turkey dinners to needy families every thanksgiving became a norm for her daughter. It wasn't surprising when her daughter became older she became more interested in helping others. She learned to take her dog who was apart of this therapy program to nursing homes. She even helped out at our local children's hospital helping with other disabled children.

She has become one of the most giving individuals I ever met. Will hold the door for anybody. If you fell, she would be right there helping you up. If you were sad, she gave you hugs(as a child and teenager, she loathed being touched. Over time she learned to give hugs.) if you dropped something, she would run over to pick it up for you. Nobody thought you could teach this girl anything. She was extremely aggressive and self injurious. With little to no language and severe sensory issues. Her mother never gave up though. And between both of their perseverance that girl is all around giving gal.

It's important to teach children the act of kindness and giving including those with special needs. I'm sure CB even if she doesn't show it is aware and learning too. Your daughters are going to grow up with a brighter future because of you. God bless.

Alicia D said...

@Anonymous - thank you so much for sharing this story about your friend and her daughter. It means so much to me! I hope CB is getting something out of our philanthropy efforts :) Your kind words mean the world - thank you!!! :)

Tanya Savko said...

I am amazed you fit all that in! Very inspiring, as is what Anonymous said about her friend's daughter. Hope it warms up soon over there!

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