Holiday Volunteering in Los Angeles with Young Kids

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Volunteerism has been a part of my core being since I was a young elementary school kid visiting the nursing home in my neighborhood. I don’t remember how I got started – maybe through holiday caroling or because I wanted to earn a Girls Scouts patch – either way I kept doing it well after I no longer needed to.  It felt a bit weird at first to go hang out with elderly people since I was just a kid, but the joy and excitement that I saw on their faces was all I needed to keep me coming back each week. And what more could a kid want than love and the full attention of lots of adults!

I have continued volunteering throughout my life, most consistently since I was in college. I have always felt the desire to help other people in whatever small ways I could. From the nursing home to feeding tiny stray kittens hidden in the gutter to helping development organizations after the tsunami in India, I have always found a place to give a helping hand.

It is this love for helping others and being rewarded with a smile, hug or just knowing in my heart that I made a difference that I hope to extend to my son. He is only 4, but we already have done several volunteering projects. And trust me it is not easy to find places that will allow toddlers and preschoolers to volunteer. He really wants to volunteer with animals, so we are waiting patiently for the day that we can go as a family out to the Best Friend’s Sanctuary in Utah to volunteer with their amazing array of animals while also enjoying some spectacular scenery (you must be at least 6 yrs old). We also can’t wait to visit LA Rabbits where we can give much needed love and petting sessions to abandoned bunnies (must be 5 yrs old).

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Until then, we find projects closer to home, such as local clean up initiatives or volunteering with TreePeople on their planting days. However, one of the only hands on volunteer projects around the holidays that we have found for children of any age is with One Voice. And this is one of our absolute favorites! Their holiday program has multiple times/days to volunteer, which is great even for busy families. As for the volunteer experience, the most rewarding for us was the final day of handing out food and gifts to needy families throughout Los Angeles.

Even at 3 yrs old, my son really enjoyed himself. It’s not the easiest thing to volunteer with a small child, but it is definitely doable. Remember that their attention span is short and expect to flip flop between work stations. This wasn’t a problem at our site and it was fun for the adults to also be able to explore all the different activities on offer as well. Typically one of us adults would continue working in one station while the other took our son to assist in the other areas.

Last year we were able to make boxes for pies (with our son and another kid stacking them up for us), moved frozen turkey’s from one area to another (hard for a toddler, but he enjoyed the challenge) and worked with children on different craft projects. Here my son mostly did his own projects along with the other kids, but I envision he will be more helpful this year, especially with the younger kids. And finally we were able to hand out toys to families in need. He really enjoyed this part. Of course he was very interested in the toys we were handing out, but he really liked handing the kids their gifts. He still talks about one of the gifts from last year that he wants on his wish list!

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The way it works is that you (or your representative if you go with a group) show up at the air hanger in Santa Monica at 8 am. on the Sunday before Christmas. Once you are there, work locations are assigned to each group. For us, our location was in South Central LA. Many people had been doing this for years, so knew which location they wanted right away. We didn’t have a clue, so just took what they gave us.  From there, you head out in your own vehicle to your location site to help with set up before the families start to arrive.

It is a long day, but you are free to stay as long as you can. We stayed at our location until around 3 in the afternoon, helping clean up at the end.  There are many volunteers there, so there is a lot of flexibility though, so don’t feel that you have to power through nap time or whatever. Not expecting lunch or snacks, we had brought our own, but One Voice did have snacks, drinks and even a pizza lunch for volunteers.

This was such a wonderful day for us as a family. We met some really great people – even a teenager who had been doing this since he was around our son’s age. It has been a holiday tradition for him all of these years. And now one for us as well.  We left feeling so grateful for everything that we have, but also feeling so energized knowing that we were able to help make a small difference in someone else’s Christmas.

We would love to share this experience with our friends and see some familiar faces out on our job site. Let us know if you would like to join us!

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2 Responses to “Holiday Volunteering in Los Angeles with Young Kids”

  1. Alan Fairchild Says:

    I live in a small town in rural Appalachia, USA (Tri-state area of OH, KY and WV). I was homeless for two years, including two winters, I’m now back on my feet and want to give back to my community. So, I started a GoFundMe Campaign to help the homeless in my area.

    Homeless Winter Survival Kits

    Goal: Buy 25 backpacks and fill them with essential daily supplies and survival gear for the homeless in the Tri-State this winter.

    Please visit and ‘share’ my GoFundMe Campaign. Thank You!

    http://www.gofundme.com/brrr_its_cold

    Reply

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  1. Things To Do in LA over Winter Break - No Back Home - December 13, 2014

    […] with, but the Christmas event held by One Voice is the perfect holiday volunteer for all ages. See our experience from last year to get a better idea of what the day is like.  We will be there again this year […]

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