Service Projects for Kids

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By Jennifer Halter

As we kick off the holiday season this month with Thanksgiving, it’s the perfect time to teach children about the importance of gratitude and giving back through acts of kindness. Here are ideas for service projects you can do with your family this month and beyond.

Organize a Food Drive

Many churches and organizations host food drives throughout the year to serve the community through
food distribution events or to stock year-round food pantries. Select an organization to donate to before you start your drive and find out if they have any special requests. Next, set a date and share with family and friends. Children can draw their own fliers to share. If you have a tech-savvy kiddo, allow them to get creative and design graphics to share on your social media pages and distribute via email. A fun way to encourage donations is to set a goal to collect a certain number of items or, in this case, you can decide on a certain number of pounds of food. Once your drive is over, coordinate a drop off date with your organization of choice. Don’t forget to share successes with those who participated and helped your family make a difference.

Help Those Who Have Served

Since Veterans Day is recognized this month, it’s a great time to teach children about the importance of
supporting those who have served our country. Children can create cards or make crafts to send to those in VA hospitals. If you know a veteran in your neighborhood, offer to do simple tasks such as raking leaves in their yard, walking their dog, or washing their vehicle.

Help the Homeless

With colder months upon us, our vulnerable homeless population needs more assistance right now. Check with local organizations who help in the community, such as those who provide meals and clothing distribution. You can also work as a family to make Blessings Bags to hand out to those who may need a little extra assistance. To make a Blessings Bag, use any size plastic zipper bag (this will help keep the contents dry in inclement weather). Fill the bag with helpful daily essentials like toiletries, such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, or deodorant.

Non-perishable, portable snacks such as nuts, crackers, or jerky are great food options. You could even include a pair of socks or gloves and handwarmers for the colder days and nights.

Keep some Blessings Bags in your vehicle to give to those you may encounter. Explain to your child that not
everyone may be willing to accept your gift and not to be upset if that happens.

Assist Our Furry Friends

Although the Prince William County Animal Shelter requires volunteers to be at least 18 years of age, there
are other ways you can support them any time during the year. They have a list of items on their website (pwcva.gov/department/animal-control/donate) that you and your family can donate. Some items on the list include canned cat and dog food, kitty litter, liquid laundry detergent, and gift cards.

Donate Toys, Books and Clothing

It may not always be easy to part with items they no longer use, but getting your kids excited about giving
can make the process a little bit easier. Make purging and donating a game by setting a timer and seeing how many toys, games and books your child can purge in 10 minutes, for example. You can also give them fun challenges, such as, “find three blue items” or “find one toy with wheels” to donate.

For books and games, you can always check with local daycare centers, preschool and churches (for their
nurseries) to see if they are able to use your donations. And you can search for a nearby Little Free Library
(littlefreelibrary.org) to leave a few books.

It’s also a great time to purge clothing and shoes your child may no longer be able to wear. Have a try-on
fashion show to see what can be kept and what can be donated to local shelters, churches, and other
organizations serving families. Gently used coats, gloves, and boots are in particularly high demand at this time of year.

If you need more inspiration and ideas about how you can help in the community, check out sites such as
Volunteer Prince William (volunteerprincewilliam.org) and Just Serve (justserve.org) for local opportunities.

Jennifer Halter (jenniferh@macaronikid.com) is a contributing writer and the founder of Macaroni Kid in
Woodbridge and Gainesville.

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