Holiday spirit, pledge to give as a family

Kim Wright

Island Forum

The holidays are a great time to volunteer and an even better time to do something meaningful as a family. But did you know that many non-profit organizations are overwhelmed with requests to volunteer in December? It's true but it doesn't mean they don't need your help. Serving at a food kitchen, passing out food at a food bank or helping with meal programs are experiences I think all people should have in their lifetime.

During the month of December however, don't get discouraged if you call the local food bank and they can't use your help on the line. You can still lend a hand and provide meaningful service during the holidays. Here are some ways you can give back and involve the whole family.

Hunger. There are many organizations and food banks in need of food such as Northwest Harvest.Organize a food drive in your neighborhood. Be creative and have a theme or let your children decorate the bags. Go deliver the food as a family and ask for a tour so you can see the important work they do and all of the people behind the scenes who volunteer their time to make food easily accessible to the public.

When you are there, ask the volunteer coordinator if there is a special event that your family can help with in the future and then make a pledge to be more active together. Nonperishable donations are always needed at the local food pantry at MIYFS.

Literacy Sit down with your young people and go through your books. Literacy programs always need reading materials. Donate your favorite books, dictionaries or other educational reads to Books to Prisoners; you can drop them off at the Youth & Family Services. Page Ahead provides new books to at-risk children. Have your kids find their favorite books and then go out and buy a new copy to give, www.pageahead.org.

Giving Trees are all over this time of year and they represent real needs for people of all ages. Connect with an organization and adopt a family or young person and buy much needed items to make their holiday special. The gifts you give to Treehouse help foster children feel valued and worthy and can make a big difference in their lives. Check out their wish lists at www.treehouse4kids.org.

Homelessness.You might make lunches for Tent City 4, currently located in Bellevue. Keep in mind that it is winter and it might be a nice surprise to include items that provide warmth such as cup of soups, hand warmers, gloves or socks. If you like sewing, go to the fabric store and let your kids pick out some fleece. Show them how to make an easy blanket or a scarf. Winter is cold and people can always use blankets, socks and items to keep warm.

Plan. As a family, sit down and plan time to volunteer together in the spring. The greatest need for volunteers happens outside the holiday months. Make a commitment to volunteering every month and make sure that everyone in the family can be involved. Write a pledge as a family and hang it somewhere you can see. Search the volunteer center at the United Way, at www.uwkc.org, for organizations your family would like to make a commitment to helping. Get everyone's opinions and then decide together.

Great service experiences don't always happen on the front line. When choosing the projects that are right for your family, remember a couple of things. Be active, make a visit, ask questions and make a pledge to volunteer in the future.

Support other volunteers. If you have resources or want to support MI youth in their efforts this holiday season, donate to the Mercer Island Youth and Family Services Foundation. Island teens will be helping at NW Harvest, cooking and serving at Tent City and packaging books for Books to Prisoners. We provide monthly meals to homeless young adults in the University District through Teen Feed, and financial assistance is always helpful.

For more service ideas contact Kim Wright MIYFS Youth Development Coordinator. 236-7293 or kim.wright@ci.mercer-island.wa.us

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