Giving back to others is a moving and beautiful way to overcome the winter "blahs." Here are some ideas for how to give back this winter with volunteer activities for the whole family.
There are all kinds of veterans groups out there that need volunteers. Do an online search to find one in your area. Your local YMCA may also be in partnership with veterans centers, and can provide information on where you and your family can volunteer. At http://www.volunteer.va.gov/, click on "Volunteer or Donate!" to be directed to a volunteer form you can fill out.
Whether you have a loved one in nursing care or not, taking your kids to volunteer at a home like this is an unforgettable experience. According to various sources, more than half of nursing home residents never have visitors! Being in contact with other people is healthy, and you and your family can be those "other people." You can spend time with individual residents by playing board games or cards, eating a meal with them, or bringing them something you've created (such as cards and drawings). Some residents might like to be read to.
This is considered another unforgettable experience. Check your local yellow pages to find a list of homeless shelters in your area, and ask them what kind of volunteer work they need (there will always be something your family can do!). Serving might include helping serve meals and/or cleaning up afterward. If you do this, see if your family can sit and eat with the residents of the shelter. Everyone will learn a lot.
Depending on the age of your kids, you might consider teaching a class at a homeless shelter. Maybe it could be a Bible study, or business classes, or even art.
Yet another way your family can volunteer at a homeless shelter is to donate items, especially food, blankets, and clothes. Check with your local shelters to find out specific needs in this area.
This is a great way to mobilize your local community! Organizing and implementing a neighborhood clean-up day is a great way for your kids to learn how to organize people and they will also see actual results in the form of a cleaner neighborhood. It's a good idea to arrange for food and/or snacks and drinks for the volunteers, even if it's not going to be an all-day event.
Volunteer tutors are springing up all over! Your local United Way is a great place to start. Find out what ages can volunteer, and in addition to the adults in the family, see if your kids can help other kids.