Janet Fox | 12/18/2007 9:50:19 PM
The holidays bring a special time for individuals and their families to show others that they care. LSU AgCenter volunteer expert Dr. Janet Fox urges becoming part a growing force of volunteers who are making a difference in their communities.
“You can be a part of the 30-year high in volunteering as more people pitch in for their communities,” Fox says. Between 1989 and 2005, volunteering increased by more than 32 percent in the United States, according to a study released by the Corporation for National and Community Service.
The growth in volunteering is driven primarily by three age groups: teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19, Baby Boomers and adults over 65.
“Even with the increase, however, fewer than one-third of American adults give their time,” Fox says.
Many volunteer opportunities are available to remind others that they are special and not forgotten.
Gift-giving is one such opportunity. Several organizations offer gift drives to support foster children, disadvantaged families, senior citizens and adults with disabilities.
Most organizations rely completely upon donations from the community. Check with homeless shelters, churches, prison ministries and health and human service agencies. Gift-giving can be effortless when shopping by putting an item or two in the donation bin at the store.
The holidays are identified with food, but many families go without that special meal. You can donate food to a local food bank. Homeless shelters or soup kitchens can use donations as well as volunteers to cook and serve the meals. Meals On Wheels provides a special service that supports senior citizens’ need to maintain independence and dignity.
Animals might need support, too, now and into winter. Local animal shelters may host a variety of holiday-themed events to educate the public about smart adoptions and to help support the needs of animals in the shelter.
The holidays can be a lonely time for the elderly since families are often spread across the country. You can help out at a local nursing home by visiting older people who could use a little company.
You can bring gifts or meals to elderly who are homebound or lend a hand to elderly neighbors who might need assistance decorating their home, cooking for the holidays or wrapping presents.
Consider donating to causes that families and friends care about or offering gifts made by people with special needs. Visit the Web sites of charitable organizations for information on donating money for gifts whose proceeds go to the charity itself.
“At this time of year, give the most important gift of all – your time and talents,” Fox says, adding, “Although you may be giving, you also will be gaining fourfold in the process.”
For related family topics, click on the Family and Home link at the LSU AgCenter Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.