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Volunteer work for the whole family

Are you looking for a new way to spend quality time with your family? Is there a cause one of your relatives cares about that you'd like to support? Would your family enjoy meeting new people in your community? Does it feel like your family's priorities are getting out of whack? If so, volunteering together as a family might be perfect for you.

What are the benefits of family volunteering?

When families volunteer together, communities and families benefit. Communities get more hands put on important projects, and family involvement often translates to dedicated, reliable attendance. Also, when one family volunteers, it can be a tremendous example to other families, fostering a sense of community responsibility and perhaps even mobilizing others to contribute their time and skills toward improving the community.

Meanwhile, families themselves get a whole slew of benefits from community service. Volunteering can draw family members closer together, forging new bonds through shared experiences that are outside the normal daily routines. Parents, children, and other relatives who volunteer together also learn more about each other while experiencing new activities. New friendships can be made and new interests may be awoken that can stay with the family for the long haul. At a basic level, volunteering as a family is a concrete way to apply and demonstrate shared values and beliefs while making a positive impact in the world around you.

Some common family volunteering opportunities

There are a number of common volunteer opportunities that lend themselves quite readily to family involvement. It's a good idea to convene a family meeting and discuss what areas you are all most interested in working with each other on. Day-long environmental clean-ups give you and your family a chance to enjoy the outdoors together while also doing something positive for the planet. Volunteering at a homeless shelter, a food bank, or a soup kitchen can not only help the needy in your community, but can also remind your family members how fortunate they are to have each other. If a member of your family is planning to participate in a walk-a-thon or another charity fundraising event, there may be openings to get the rest of the family involved (handing out water to racers or programs to attendees at a dinner ball, for instance).

Many schools, nonprofits, churches, and community groups offer countless opportunities for the whole family to volunteer together in a range of activities, from coaching sports or playing music to visiting the residents at a retirement home or assisting a toy drive. These local resources may also be able to assist you in coordinating an "adopt-a-family" relationship, in which your family helps a recently arrived immigrant, refugee, or less fortunate family to adjust to the ins and outs of life in your community.

Your family can also take the initiative and create your own volunteer activities: perhaps you can rake leaves from an elderly neighbor's lawn, or help a low-income family paint their house. While some volunteer positions may involve a longer commitment, many opportunities suitable for families are short-term or one-time events.

Define family as you see fit

One important thing to remember about family volunteering is that you and your loved ones should decide what you call your family. Volunteering with an organization that doesn't accept your definition of family will likely create a situation that's unacceptable for your family as well. And although there's nothing wrong with your whole nuclear or extended family coordinating a volunteer outing, other combinations are also possible and may be easier to manage—especially if your family wants to take on a recurring role in the community. For instance, a grandmother and grandson might join each other on a project that's all their own, or a group of cousins might team up once a month. Members of divorced families may find a renewed sense of continuity in their relationships by regularly volunteering together in some capacity.

There are volunteer opportunities out there to fit families of all shapes and sizes. And why limit it to one family? See about getting your neighbors and friends involved, too.