The fall season and upcoming holidays are a great time to teach your children the beauty of serving others. Holidays are a time of fun and a time of sharing. However, we too often get wrapped up in the commercial side of gift giving that we forget to share the very best gift we have been given… God’s love. This fall and holiday season, I challenge you to explore ways that your family can show love by helping those in need.
Fall Service Opportunities
- Stuff new, warm socks with water bottles and granola bars to give to homeless men and women you pass on street corners.
- Dress your little ones up in their Halloween costumes and visit a nursing home. Many nursing homes will have a set Trick or Treat time for the kids to come in. However, I have asked to come in at a separate time so that it spreads out the resident’s visitors and it gives us one-on-one time to interact with them. I have done this with our boys for the last two years. The boys love it. They love the attention they get. They love handing out their postcards. And I love that they recognize how happy it makes the residents and that it makes them feel good too!
Tips to make your retirement home visit a success:
- To aid in the interaction between the boys and the residents, I print Halloween postcards (simple pictures of pumpkins and a black cat with the words, “Happy Halloween. Love, Connor, Dylan, and Ethan.”) for the boys to hand out to the residents.
- Prepare the kids for the visit. I tell the boys as we are getting ready to go, “While we are there visiting, you may not ask the residents for any candy. If you get candy, that is okay, you can take it. However, we are going to go visit the ‘old people’ at the retirement home to help make them happy today. Your job is to make sure everyone gets a postcard.”
- When we are with a group of residents, I will ask questions to the boys like: “Which one of you is Connor? How old are you? What did you just get to do fun for your birthday party last week? Dylan, do you go to preschool? What is your favorite thing to do there?” The residents love hearing about the boys and this way the boys only have to answer the questions once and it helps them feel more comfortable with the residents.
- Make holiday decorations and cards and then sing carols for nursing home residents. Call ahead to schedule a visit. Use the above tips to make your visit a success.
- Box up gently used clothing and toys to donate to your local family shelter, refugee center or charity thrift store.
- Donate gently used books and DVDs to a local children’s hospital. Ask your children to pick out the items you are going to donate. (Make sure to explain that sharing means you are letting someone use your things for a little bit, but you’ll get them back. Giving means that you are gifting that item to someone else and it will be theirs to keep. This may help with them in making choices that will not cause separation issues later.
- Engage a team of friends to rake leaves or shovel snow for an elderly neighbor.
Holiday Service Opportunities
Decorate holiday cards for soldiers overseas. Every year the Red Cross-sponsored Holiday Mail for Heroes collects cards between October and early December and then distributes them at military installations, veterans hospitals, and in other locations. Holiday Mail for Heroes is being conducted at the Red Cross office in your local community. Check with your local Red Cross for times and locations of events and for opportunities to get involved. For more details and letter guidelines at http://www.redcross.org/support/get-involved/holiday-mail-for-heroes
We will be doing this project on Veteran’s Day as our way to thank the brave men and women who are defending our freedom. No special supplies needed… just paper, your kid’s favorite craft supplies, and hearts full of gratitude.
Decorate reusable grocery bags and fill them with your family’s favorite non-perishable food items to share with families in need. Feeding America offers a Food Bank locator at www.feedingamerica.org, searchable by zip code.
Last year at Thanksgiving our small group partnered with a local food bank to provide a family in need a Thanksgiving meal. Did you know that there are often an overabundance of families asking for assistance and not enough meals provided? Between the three families in our small group, we provided 6 meals to families. Additionally, I was the coordinator for a local MOPS (Mothers of PreSchoolers) group and the leadership team felt this opportunity would be an easy service project for our moms to get involved in. Each table of moms had a sign-up sheet for the 1-2 food items they were to bring and contribute to the box. From this activity, we were able to provide the food bank with another 5 meals!
Likewise, at Christmas, the food bank did the same food drive, but added on the request of providing the family gifts. We were assigned a family and given the children’s wish lists. We shopped together as a family to find the perfect items to fulfill these children’s gift requests and then enjoyed wrapping up the special surprises and included them with the meal we put together for them.
These are two special times when food banks do meal drives to provide their families nice holiday meals. However, please remember that food banks need your contribution all year long to help families in need.
Pack a box of toys, school supplies, and hygiene items for Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse that provides Christmas boxes to needy children around the world. The mission of Samaritan’s Purse is to follow the example of Christ by helping those in need and proclaiming the hope of the Gospel. Since 1993, more than 100 million boys and girls in over 130 countries have experienced God’s love through the power of simple shoebox gifts from Operation Christmas Child. Samaritan’s Purse works with local churches and ministry partners to deliver the gifts and share the life-changing Good News of Jesus Christ. National Collection Week is November 17-24. Visit Samaritan’s Purse for more details.
Brad and I have packed shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child for at least 8 years. It was already a rewarding service project, but since having children and involving them in this project, the joy and sentiment in doing this project has increased. The boys and I go shop for the items to include in our shoeboxes and talk about our purchases. Then we sit down together as a family and pack them. As much as our boys love Christmas and receiving gifts, they want to share this joy with other kids. This is a great beginner service project to teach kids about giving since they can relate to getting gifts at Christmas.
Join Children’s Hunger Fund in their mission to alleviate the suffering of children in impoverished regions across America and around the world. Serving and giving opportunities include:
Participate in Toy Wrap 2014. Help wrap the tens of thousands of toys for children who might otherwise go without Christmas this year.
Shop their Gift Catalog filled with amazing gifts designed to provide individualized care to hungry children and introduce them to the gospel. Give a Bible $5, help provide orphan care from $21, supply a Pastor Pak for $100, or provide Food Paks starting at $12 (greatest need).
Donate Food Paks. Our family is participating in this as our church is hosting a Food Pak drive. The boys will have the opportunity to shop for the groceries that go into these boxes and together as a family, we will be packing them and praying over them.