Season of Service Kicks Off with Family Volunteer Day

Guest Author: Alison Doerfler, Executive Director of HandsOn Network

This past Saturday, November 21st, thousands of families across the nation were brought together through volunteering for the 25th annual Family Volunteer Day, brought to you by generationOn and Disney Friends for Change. It seems that there are quite a few silver anniversaries in my world this year!  

Family Volunteer DayOn Saturday, I took the opportunity to have a day with my daughter as a part of HandsOn Atlanta’s Family Service Saturdays Program. It was a perfect way for us to celebrate the power of our family to work together to support our community. Jordan and I also befriended a new family in the process; a powerful benefit of volunteering includes meeting other changemakers in Atlanta. 

In addition to the many benefits volunteering already provides, an event like Family Volunteer Day, held the weekend before Thanksgiving, provides families with an opportunity to make meaningful connections and engage with their community at a time of year that many choose to give back. I chose to use Family Volunteer Day to kick off the Thanksgiving week and our family’s season of giving to both each other and to our community. I was inspired by the 10 exemplar families chosen as Daily Points of Light Award Winners last week leading up to Family Volunteer Day.  

As a parent, I know how important lessons of compassion and caring are for children, and I know they learn them at home, at school and through experiences like the one we had on Saturday. In her book Tomorrow’s Change Makers, author Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell links the latest research on civic engagement with positive youth development, stressing the critical roles we all play in raising and mentoring tomorrow’s citizens. 

Showing children at a young age the importance of volunteering increases their willingness to engage in charitable activities, and I have learned that if I follow up with another volunteer event within the next month, we can build on their momentum and excitement. I already know our next family volunteer project will be on December 12th through Family Service Saturdays again, and we are going to pledge to participate in generationOn's Joymaker Challenge!

Small, simple actions like cleaning up a local part or writing cards to military personnel or victims of disaster can and do eventually lead to greater acts of volunteering and philanthropy. By starting a tradition of volunteering in your family, parents can instill positive values in children, provide teens with purpose and direction, empower youth with real-world skills and give their family a consistent communal experience to look forward to together.  

What better gift could you give for the holidays than to participate as a changemaker in your community?