Getting kids involved in supporting local charities over the holidays
By Amy Brazda
The holiday season is always marked with twinkling lights, excitement in the air, traditions shared with family and friends, religious activities, and joyful gifting. This year, due to the devastation that Harvey brought to our city, Houstonians will face a different type of holiday. It may not include all that a typical season brings.
Giving to others will be essential in helping to make this year’s holidays seem just as special as in years past. For the young, it is important for we, as parents, to teach and guide our children in ways that will instill in them a giving spirit during the holidays and show kindness, generosity, and compassion for others, especially those hit hard by the flooding. How can we demonstrate this to our children?…by teaching them to GIVE. In this way, our kids will know they have the ability to help turn pain into hope, devastation into happiness.
Giving means participating in so many different ways. Of course, donating money to charities at the holidays means the ability for those organizations to purchase needed supplies to their clients. However, teaching kids to give of themselves through their time and efforts for those less fortunate will bolster their pride and self esteem, and when giving directly to the less fortunate, will put smiles on their faces and create happiness in knowing their help is appreciated greatly by the recipients of their work.
Here’s how I recommend Houston families can GIVE this holiday season:
G…get out! Get out into the community with your children. Thousands of kids across the area have been impacted by the storm. In some neighborhoods, clean up is still ongoing, and even though it is difficult to see (especially for those not affected), if your kids see firsthand what the effects have been, they will want to do their part to help those in need.
Beyond the scope of the hurricane, getting out means seeing our city and its diversity. Citizens of all ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds call Houston home. Take your kids to neighborhoods not similar to yours. Take them to community centers, shelters, elderly care facilities, fire and police stations, libraries, museums, city parks, and art installations. It will be worthwhile for them to gain a sense of not only all that Houston embodies, but also where they would most want to spend their time giving to others who frequent those places and make the holidays special.
I…investigate charities to give to. It is important to give to charities to which your kids can relate. Together, search online for organizations and groups that your children will feel most comfortable lending their “giving” to throughout the holiday season. Are they animal lovers? Do they enjoy creating art? Do your children like reading to younger kids? Are your kids athletes, musicians, dancers, artists, chefs, thespians? Do they enjoy organizing? Educating your children on which charity best would fit with their interests will help them have a much more meaningful experience in giving, as they can associate, interact, and relate to the recipients and what the charity has in common with their beliefs and interests.
V…volunteer! Volunteering means the actual “doing,” making time for others and actively participating in “giving” activities and events. Taking kids to volunteer shows them that working does not involve receiving an “allowance” or money; that it means giving because you genuinely want to make a difference in the lives of community members. Schedule times during the holidays for volunteering that you know your children will be “up” for the challenge and ready to assist. Extremely early hours are not best, nor are much later hours, when kids are usually neither awake or tired after a long day. Time on the weekend is usually good so kids can focus on the volunteering tasks at hand, and be most efficient in taking on these opportunities.
E… empowering our kids to be “givers” means all…getting out, investigating, and volunteering! Help be your kids’ resource of giving! Communication is key! Have your kids put away all of their electronic devices, and spend quality time talking to them about how meaningful it is to give. Ask them their perceptions and feelings and allow them to voice their concerns and goals in assisting others. Encourage them to want to help others. Let them know that it may be difficult to see how others who are less fortunate live, but that doing for these citizens will bring them, and the recipients, much joy and gratitude.
You and your children can help make the holidays special this year. Listed below are places I have personally been and volunteered with my children; stellar organizations that are helping Houstonians, places where your kids can make a difference and feel how “giving” truly matters during the holidays!
• 18th Annual Holiday Cheer tennis tournament sponsored by Houston Ladies Tennis Association and Houston Tennis Association and National Junior Tennis and Learning of Houston Parks and Rec. Be a participant of the tournament by registering online at tennislink.usta.com and “serve” others by bringing food items, gifts for the needy, or $5 cash donation for local shelters. The tournament is scheduled for December 9, 2017, at Memorial Park, 1500 Memorial Loop Drive 77007. Contact Emily Schaefer, tournament director, at 832-395-7561 for more information.
• Special Olympics of Texas. Give your time and energy to special athletes throughout the month of December. What a great way to give! Youth ages 15 years and older are able to volunteer by themselves, ages 8-14 with a chaperone, and 7 and under (with chaperone) can be involved by acting as cheerleaders! Visit the website at sotx.org where registering is easy. Look for Area 4, (Greater Houston) events, that include bowling competitions, fundraisers, and even a Polar Plunge during the holiday time to raise funds for Special Olympics, an incredible organization that brings happiness to the mentally disabled in our community.
• The Beacon. The mission of this nonprofit is to provide services to “restore hope and help homelessness in Houston.” Located at 1212 Prairie Street, 77002, The Beacon is a comforting and lovely site to take your kids to volunteer. 65% of work there is done by volunteers, individuals, corporate groups, and families. Contact the volunteer coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 713-220-9675 for more information about “giving” during the holidays.
• City Wide Club. The 36th Annual Christmas Eve Big Feast will occur on Sunday, December 24, 2017, at the George R. Brown Convention Center. There are different times and shifts for volunteering. Volunteering to serve citizens a hot meal is a great way for your kids to “give” during the holidays. Visit citywideclub.com to register online.
• Interfaith Ministries AniMeals. AniMeals is a branch of Meals on Wheels. It is a great way for kids to “give’ to the pets of Meals on Wheels clients by delivering items and food that those pets are in need of. “I love volunteering for AniMeals because the work I do makes people’s lives easier and it makes me happy to know I can make a difference in someone’s life.” -Sophie, age 13 (as quoted on website) Go to www.imgh.org to register to be an AniMeals volunteer and give to animals in need. Your kids will thoroughly enjoy!
• Houston Food Bank. The staff and volunteers of the Houston Food Bank are constantly assisting those in need of food. There are several locations where you are able to take your children and make a difference by giving your time either sorting, bagging, or even preparing meals for the needy. Visit houstonfoodbank.org for locations…either the Portwall Warehouse or Keegan (kitchen) or off-site to distribute food. Phone the volunteer services hotline at 713-547-8604 for more information.
Giving should not just be a seasonal occurrence. As parents, model “giving” behaviors every day and as much as possible. Show affection towards family members…a daily hug or “I love you” is the best for showing how much you care. Allowing your kids opportunities to bake with you and delivering goodies to neighbors, friends, and other family members will be fun for them to do. Promote writing activities that will allow your children to share their thoughts with others. Fill their desks with writing supplies and take your kids to local craft stores so they may pick out unique and fun stationery to write letters on, or make cards for nursing homes’ residents, patients at hospitals, or police or firemen. Purchase small gift cards to give to others to brighten their day, so they can enjoy a smoothie, small lunch, or coffee treat. “Pay it forward” while in drive thrus and pay for the car behind. You will receive many honks of gratitude! Provide a meal, movie tickets, or museum passes to your friends so they are able to spend quality time together, and they will be most appreciative of your “giving.”
Being able to touch someone else’s life is so important. Teaching our kids to be giving will allow them to be more empathetic, compassionate and caring towards others. Enjoy your holidays and the spirit of giving this holiday season, and everyday of the year!