Volunteering With Your Family Can Be Year-round Activity

Karen Overstreet, Merrill, Thomas A., LaFleur, Kara D.  |  12/22/2006 11:55:28 PM

News You Can Use Distributed 12/22/06

If you are looking for ways to spend quality time with your family during the holiday season, volunteering together can be beneficial to your family as well as someone in need, says LSU AgCenter family resource management expert Dr. Karen Overstreet.

But the holidays aren’t the only time you can take part in such activities, Overstreet points out, saying community groups also need volunteers and donations all year long to perform worthwhile services in your area.

"During the holiday season people are in a more generous spirit and good will seems to flow easily," Overstreet said. "It’s great when people donate or volunteer during the holidays, but you shouldn’t forget it’s something they also can do throughout the year."

Many organizations depend on the holidays for special drives for donations of all kinds including time, money or material goods such as food or clothing, Overstreet said.

But for those who find it hard to squeeze in one more activity or to donate money this time of year, the LSU AgCenter specialist has good news. She said waiting to volunteer just after the holidays is just as good an idea.

"After the decorations are packed away, people return to their normal routines, but the needs do not go away," she explained. "Waiting to volunteer until after the holiday season or making a special donation later in the year may actually help an agency spread out their resources."

For example, food pantries often run low in the summer when students are out of school. The elderly may need help with basic tasks all year long.

"The trick is to make a commitment and then follow through and do it," Overstreet stressed.

If you are trying to encourage your children to take an interest in community projects, include them in any discussions about potential volunteer activities, Overstreet advised.

For elementary-age children, you can select several possibilities and then let the whole family decide what they would like to do together. Older children can be asked for suggestions, Overstreet said.

"Some agencies are more ‘family friendly,’ so check to be sure that children are welcome and that there will be meaningful tasks for them to do," she advised, adding, "Children should not be brought along just to hang out while parents work."

The LSU AgCenter specialist also said it’s best to make arrangements ahead of time.

"Around the holidays, your family can send a holiday card to the agency letting them know you will be volunteering," Overstreet explained. "But no matter what time of year it is, you should make the actual arrangements with the agency ahead of time."

The volunteer activity also can be a learning experience, according to Overstreet.

"Encourage your children to learn all they can about the agency and the problems it addresses," she said. "You could even start a scrapbook with news clippings or explore the demographics of the problem."

If your child has a community service project at school, you also can check to see if your family activities can build on it.

"Volunteer activities are a good way for children to explore different career options as well as learn more about the community," she pointed out.

For more information on family life, 4-H youth development, nutrition, health and a variety of other topics, visit www.lsuagcenter.com or contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office.

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Contact: Karen Overstreet at (225) 578-6701 or koverstreet@agcenter.lsu.edu
Writer: Kara Lafleur at (225) 578-2263 or klafleur@agcenter.lsu.edu
Editor: Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or tmerrill@agcenter.lsu.edu

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