One of the best lessons that students can learn from adults is the importance of giving back. Getting students involved in consistent service projects helps them to develop this “habit” that they hopefully will continue throughout their lives. Today’s most successful businesses are ones that are not only engaged with their customers but are also engaged with making their communities and the world a better place to live.
Lots of children’s activity centers adopt organizations or groups where they provide support through hands-on help, fundraising or donations. There are some really traditional approaches to this, such as working in food bank warehouses, donating purchased toys at holiday time and participating in fundraising walks/runs.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that took social media by storm was quite the phenomenon. More than 70 million dollars was donated to various ALS charities. It was brilliant.
But what is the next great idea? It doesn’t have to be dumping ice on your head – or even something similar. But one that the Ice Bucket Challenge proved – creative ideas get the best results.
The Ice Bucket Challenge was based on giving money. But that is truly one area where you can get creative with your service projects. Give of your time, extra diapers, snapshots, a good night’s sleep, hair, socks and sweatshirts. All it takes is understanding a need to get to the root of how you can creatively make a difference.
Reach Out to Make a Difference Locally
A wintertime project that some churches participate in collecting packages of athletic socks or sweatshirts for the homeless in the area. How simple would it be for everyone at your gym to pick up a couple of sweatshirts or a 12 pack of white athletic socks? Find out if the homeless shelter in your area takes donations like this and organize this simple-to-do project for next winter. Publicize this by having a box sleep over where kids and parent volunteers sleep outside your facility in cardboard boxes to experience how the homeless have to spend every night. This really gets the kids involved and increases donations exponentially!
One way to give back that is certainly not new but may be overlooked because it takes some scheduling to accomplish: Visiting elderly folks in nursing homes and elder care facilities. Many of them have very little contact with children and enjoy seeing children sing, dance or perform cheer and gymnastics routines – whatever show you want to bring their way! Mostly they just love talking to young people and knowing that someone made a special visit just for them.
Participate in Worldwide Initiatives of Large Companies
Here are some other unique ways folks make a difference:
For the Online Shopper- Amazon Smile
AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, and shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. You can choose from nearly one million organizations to support, including many local schools!
For the Instagram/Photo Lover- Johnson & Johnson’s Donate a Photo
The premise is simple. Everyday you snap a picture and save it in the app. That’s it. Could be a selfie, or a picture of your ceiling fan. It doesn’t matter!
Each day with each picture, the user decides what charity to donate a $1 to for the day. And, it’s not your dollar. Johnson & Johnson is footing the bill. Causes range from Save the Children and Operation Smile to World Wildlife fund and Keep America Beautiful. With my six photos, I have helped give two blankets to babies in the NICU with the Children’s Miracle Network. I let my kids decide on the picture of the day and who we help (they really like babies).
For the Mom with Too Much Stuff- Foster Closet
Do you have diapers around your house that are too small for your little ones or a few books that your children have outgrown? Foster Closet needs them! They are a fantastic non-profit started in 2009 to serve the Northeast Florida Foster parents and relatives by providing basic items for children in foster care.
Many times when a Foster parent is contacted to take care of a child, the child may arrive with nothing but the clothes they have on. Foster Closet provides them with everything from diapers, clothing, bedding, sippy cups, books, toys and DVDs. You can check out organizations like this in your area and start donating. See what types of donations are requested.
For those who want a direct connection: Families Against Homelessness: Family Promise of Jacksonville’s Cardboard City
Another local organization that may be similar to some in your area is Family Promise. It is a interfaith hospitality network providing temporary assistance, hospitality and case management for families with children experiencing homelessness.
With an 80% success rate of homeless to home transition, Family Promise of Jacksonville is keeping families together and helping them get off the street. Every year, they hold an event they call “Cardboard City.” They ask that participants make the commitment to spend the night in a cardboard box, a simple tent, or even in your car. They will provide a meal, entertainment, and prizes.
Family Promise asks participants to set a goal of collecting $100 in donations to participate. This is a great event for families, youth groups and anyone who wants to make a difference in the life of a child! This is an annual event.
Partner to Make a Difference for the Long Haul
You can also concentrate on making a long-term difference with one organization in particular. For example, Jackrabbit’s customers located all over the world and are very child-centric so the company’s owners found an organization that has the same focus and puts both financial and hands-on support behind it. The company has collected children’s soccer equipment for camps in struggling countries and packed hygiene items to be delivered to children who have never seen soap or a toothbrush. This organization (Grain of Wheat International) concentrates on helping children in the most impoverished areas get the basic necessities that they need.