family volunteerLooking for service opportunities for the whole family? Volunteering is a profound way to teach your children about gratitude, empathy, and selfless giving -- especially around the holidays. Helping out at a soup kitchen is one of the first ideas people get, and that's definitely a worthy cause. But there are many other ways for you and your family to give back. 

Here are a few suggestions. Keep in mind for all of these: Don't just show up! Always call ahead and find out what the organization actually needs, whether they'll allow kids to help, and what other groups you can work with to organize a volunteer day.

1. Animal shelter. Some shelters welcome a few extra hands caring for the animals and helping with adoption events. You can also open your home to foster pets, if you have the space.

2. Crop mob. This is a new way to volunteer, but its roots are old. Some farms, urban and in the country, will organize days when people can come and help out. It does need to be organized by or with the farm -- no good just randomly showing up one day.

3. Roadside cleanup. This may not be the most glamorous way to volunteer, but it's definitely needed and appreciated. You can join one of many groups who do this regularly or start one of your own.

4. Sorting and delivering collections. Lots of groups like to hold food, coat, and toy drives around the holidays. But then? All those donations need to be sorted and delivered. Next time there's a drive in your area, find out if they need help behind the scenes dealing with all those donations.

5. Shovel brigade. Think of people in your neighborhood who might have trouble shoveling their walks and driveways and commit to shoveling their walks all winter. Maybe you could coordinate with your neighbors to take turns.

6. Care for the elderly. My (almost!) 95-year-old grandmother lives all alone far across the country from me. I am forever grateful for the neighbors who regularly check in with her, bring her meals, and help take care of her home. Adopt someone's grandparents! Or pay visits to your local senior center -- all year long.

Check out The Volunteer Family for more ideas.

How else do you volunteer with your family?

 

Image via U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District/Flickr