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Renew the Zoo

Volunteering has traditionally been under the makeups of the young explorers and idealistic singles. A few years ago volunteering as a family was a foreign concept. Today, numerous organizations are catering to families who want to give back through Love and Service. Since high school I worked in a combination of mental health and non-profit organizations. My motivation to help others has given me purpose, and now, I have the opportunity to teach my children skills they will use later in life – compassion.

As soon as my children can ask for a toy, they were taught to think, “How can I earn that?” instead of “But, I want it!” As parents, we take pride in what we teach our children. Unfortunately, even though we teach many important lessons, certain areas of knowledge are overlooked sometimes – financial responsibility and charitable involvements. Children learn from their parents/guardians first – we are their role model.

So how can you begin this process?

My children perform chores to learn Responsibility, but volunteer work teaches them they CAN make a difference. As a family we volunteered at the San Francisco’s ‘Renew the Zoo’ Project. Dressed in work clothes and garden gloves, this was certainly not their typical Saturday morning playtime routine. Approximately 200 participants showed up, and for the next three hours we were put to work to improve and maintain certain areas of the zoo. We were fortunate to be with a team of many to improve the Children’s Zoo area. And having visited this area and the animals numerous times, this specific project connected strongly with my children. This teachable moment was loads of fun, and by the end of the day my children were motivated to change the world. They repeatedly ask when we were coming back to “volunteer.”

Three vital steps to start your children volunteering in a momentous way:

Step 1: Pick a cause that is age- appropriate and meaningful to you and your family. State your goals for wanting to include your child(ren) in the volunteer activities.

Step 2: Explain how their work can make a difference to others. Keep your answers simple and concrete.

Step 3: Work together. The experience of working as a group gives your child(ren) a social incentive and the power to believe they are making a difference. You are empowering them.

Some service opportunities and ideas for young children:

*Ask your child(ren) to donate toys and clothes

*Clean the park

*Recyclables to recycling collection centers

*Participate in local races and walks that raise money for charitable causes that you think is important

*Sort food at a food bank.

Book Recommendations:

* Because of You by B.G Hennessy

* The Giving Book: Open the Door to a Lifetime of Giving by Ellen Sabin

* Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen by DyAnne Di Salvo

* Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

* Fireflies by Julie Brinckloe

* Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier

* The Shelter in Our Car by Monica Gunning

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