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What types of volunteer work have you done, or are you doing now? What's the best part about it?

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If you think volunteering as a single person sounds like a blast, think how much better it would be with the people you know and love best-your family!

Here's why you and your loved ones might want to get involved as a group:

  • It can bring you closer together as a family and help you work out problems and tensions.

  • Teams can accomplish more than people working on their own.

  • Family volunteering can start you on a path to be a volunteer for life.

  • New challenges seem less scary when your relatives are right there with you.

  • It's way better than sitting around the house doing nothing on a Saturday.

Find a Family Cause
Call a family meeting to talk about what types of volunteering interests all of you. Use IML for ideas and inspiration, or check out the Web links we've provided in each section. Are people in your family interested in a weekend project? A long-term goal? Something local? Something national?

Almost any volunteering idea we've already talked about can be good for a family, but here are a few more project ideas:

Adopt a grandparent
Give a lonely elderly person the "family" he or she may no longer have. Spend time getting to know one another, going out, or just visiting. As you make a new friend and hear stories of his or her life, you and your family might get as much out of the relationship as your new "grandparent" does. Contact your local senior living center to see what kinds of family volunteering programs they have.

Adopt a family
Your family can sponsor a less fortunate family at holiday time or year-round. You can visit, offer food and clothing, and just generally lend a hand to make sure that this other family can get through tough times. Your place of worship is a good place to start looking for a family that needs a little extra help, or check out The Box Project at http://www.boxproject.org.

Make emergency kits
Work with your family to put together bags or boxes filled with bottled water, flashlights, batteries, energy bars, first aid supplies, and anything else that people might need in an emergency. Drop the kits off at a senior home, church, or charity group.

Make toys and gifts
Everyone in the family can use his or her creative specialty to make holiday toys and gifts for people who need them. If someone in your house is a great carpenter, you might make wooden toys or birdhouses. If someone's an ace with a sewing machine, it may be fun to make stuffed animals or clothes! Donate your creations to a hospital, family shelter, or "Toys for Tots" program.

Baking day
Get the whole family together and spend the day baking in the kitchen. Make breads, cakes, pies, cookies, and anything else that's fun and yummy. Then, deliver them to food co-ops, soup kitchens, or elderly homes. You could do this on any day of the year-not just at the holidays!

Raising guide puppies
If your family is full of dog lovers, and you're all looking for a longer-term way to help animals and the disabled, this might be a good choice. Volunteer to raise guide dogs from the time they are little puppies, and give these special pets love, care, and training they need to grow up and do their important jobs. Start by contacting Guide Dogs for the Blind at http://www.guidedogs.org. You can also help by adopting an adult guide dog who's getting too old to keep doing its job. These animals deserve to be taken care of and loved in their later years. By volunteering to adopt a former helper animal, you will keep it out of a shelter and give it the honor and respect it deserves.

Volunteer vacations
Another awesome way for you and your family to get involved is to plan a vacation around a volunteer activity or group. You might think the best way to spend your vacation time is to relax and take it easy, but working with a volunteer group can be an amazing adventure that nobody in your family will forget! After your trip is over, you'll come home knowing that you made a real difference. Here are some ideas:

  • Instead of spending a week sitting on the beach, you could work to clean up a beach and help save the animals that live there.

  • Instead of staying at a cabin in the woods, you could go to a rainforestcv and help deliver medicine to local tribesmen who need it.

  • Instead of another summer at Grandma's house, you could help build houses or a community center in another city or country.

Surf to it!
To learn more about family volunteer vacations, check out these Web sites:

Here are some sites that have more information about family volunteering:

Next up: How To Be A Good Volunteer


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