Kids can make a difference, too. Many parents look for ways for their children to give back to their communities, but finding time during the busy school year and identifying child-friendly volunteer opportunities can be a challenge. With warmer weather and a more relaxed schedule, summer vacation always seems to be a perfect time for my family and me to get more involved in community service projects.
Kids are welcome at SHIM’s bean-sorting events throughout the year, where families have an opportunity to visit a SHIM food pantry and help pack beans and grains. These items are a staple for many refugee families in the South Hills.
SHIM hosts events throughout the year for volunteering, but outside of SHIM and even just in your home, there are countless other ways for young people to support a worthy cause over the summer, while also having lots of fun.
Here’s a guide to engaging your kids in a charitable effort this summer:
A classic lemonade stand can be a great way to support any charitable organization. This can be as simple as setting up a table in the front yard with some pitchers of lemonade, cups, and a donation box, or it could be a more elaborate event with detailed information posters, neighborhood-wide promotion, and a wide assortment of refreshments. It all depends on the children’s ages, interests and budget.
Other fun summer projects could include a bake sale, car wash, yard sale or service (dog walking, yard work, etc.) with the proceeds going to support a favorite charity.
There is a job for everyone
Kids love to help. To help your kids put their plan into action, assist them in identifying ways to use each one of their interests to accomplish something meaningful for the project.
For instance, an aspiring artist might get excited about creating eye-catching signs to promote a yard sale; a budding chef may enjoy baking an impressive assortment of cookies for a bake sale; someone else might want to take charge of planning to be sure that the lemonade stand supplies are all in order; a confident communicator may take pride in crafting the perfect 30-second pitch to explain the important work of the chosen charity. Sometimes all you really need is some contagious enthusiasm to promote the event.
The more the merrier
Many summer service projects can also be done with friends, youth groups, scout troops or as part of a neighborhood event such as a block party. What better way to spend the summer than having fun with friends while doing something important and worthwhile? Community service is a great team-building activity.
Every little bit helps
Did you know that SHIM is able to purchase food through the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank at a substantially reduced rate? This allows SHIM to purchase approximately $5.00 worth of food (at grocery store prices) for every $1.00 donated. Help your kids understand that any type of donation is helpful.
For instance, $50 from a bake sale would allow SHIM to purchase 50 jars of peanut butter for the families who rely on the food pantries.
$200 from a car wash would provide food for one person for a whole year.
$75 from a yard sale would enable SHIM to purchase three days of fresh produce for SHIM’s three food pantries.
Even $5 from selling 10 glasses of lemonade one hour on a Saturday afternoon would be enough to buy $25 worth of food from the food bank.
Connecting the dots
Some organizations, such as SHIM, also provide young philanthropists the opportunity to see first-hand how their work is making a difference. A tour of the SHIM food pantry, for instance, is an unforgettable (and eye-opening) experience. This not only reveals the problem of hunger in our community but also highlights the opportunities (including for kids) to help fix it.
As children develop a greater understanding of the challenges and opportunities within their own neighborhoods and beyond, they start to develop into the next generation of community leaders.
By keeping them engaged and making it fun, we can help kids discover the joy of giving back. And summer is the perfect time for making memories while making a difference!
By Norma Schmidt, a South Hills resident who, along with her daughter Eva and their Girl Scout Troop, has been actively involved with SHIM’s Sack Hunger, Pack Hope campaign, food drives, and more.