Every year during the holidays Jonathan and I look for meaningful volunteer opportunities that we can do as a family. It's not easy to find something that's age-appropriate for a little one. Yet we know there are many people and organizations who need extra support at holiday time.
This year we struck gold with our idea, so I want to share it with you. It checked all the boxes: easy, fun, meaningful, and great for Aspen.
There is a medical rehabilitation center for low-income seniors in our town. We frequently see the elderly residents going in and out, some in wheelchairs, others brought by ambulances. On a warm day you might see several of them outside enjoying the fresh air, but they sit alone, not with each other. We've often remarked on them, and sent a silent blessing their way as we drive on by.
This year we went in to ask how we could brighten the holidays for the 50 residents, many of whom don't have family.
Our original idea was that we'd bake cookies, and make a little bag of goodies for each person. But the director explained that the staff dietician wouldn't appreciate that sort of sugary elfin meddling. (And wasn't I relieved not to have to take on that huge task? Yes, Virginia, I was.)
So instead, we promised to deliver a holiday card for each resident, to help each one feel more seen and connected.
Aspen loves making art. So instead of buying cards, she threw a party, and got her little friends to join in on the homemade card-making. (See how I committed myself to making 50 cards, then quickly schemed up a way to outsource the work to little kids?)
They gathered around our dining room table with a plate of fresh Christmas cookies and got to work. We had simple card-making supplies laid out, and holiday music setting a festive mood. In about 90 minutes they'd made 54 cards, each one hand-written and signed by a little girl.
What was so great about this is that -- all disguised as a party -- the girls had an opportunity to reflect on how it must feel to be alone at the holidays, and then to reach out to a real human being with her words and artistry.
If you like this idea for yourself, but don't feel artistic, buy some cards at the store and hand-sign them with warm wishes. And if you want to make cards, but your kids are too young to write the text, do it for them and let them draw pictures on each one.
Here's how you can easily put together a holiday card-making party like ours for people of any age:
- Reach out to a senior center or hospital in your town to ask if cards would be welcomed. Find out how many they'd like.
- Set the date for your party.
- Invite guests. (8 was the right number for us.) I used E-vite, but next year I'll just email parents directly to make it even easier.
- Purchase blank cards and matching envelopes. Target had packs of red ones that were perfect.
- Purchase Christmas/holiday stickers. (Target)
- Purchase festive paper plates, cups and holiday napkins to set the mood (again, Target for the win.)
- Put out blank cards, stickers, colored markers and pencils.
- Create little cheat sheets kids can use if they are still learning to spell. For example: Happy Holidays! You are loved. From your neighbor, Aspen, age 8.
- Put out snack foods, plates, cups and napkins.
- Put on holiday music.
Of course, making a financial donation is also a fabulous way to help, and volunteering shouldn't just be a holiday gimmick. You've got resources to share all year round, so don't miss the opportunity to make a difference in your own way.
Tell me your family volunteering ideas so I can help share them with others.
Happy holidays to you!
P.S. Make it a double party by inviting the parents to stay while their kids make cards.