Family Volunteer Day, traditionally held on the Saturday before Thanksgiving in the U.S., is a day of service that celebrates the power of families who work together to support their neighbors and neighborhoods. Each year, thousands of families use this day to teach valuable life lessons about compassion, empathy and the power of helping others while strengthening the bonds between each other and their communities.
We know that families come in all shapes and sizes and so do the actions each person takes to improve their community. While some might prefer to change their purchasing habits, and others might choose to donate, volunteering together is a great way for kids, adults and aging parents to make new friends, develop compassion for their neighbors, gain health benefits and even pick up a new skill or two!
According to Peter Levine, who directs the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning at Tufts University, children who volunteer are more successful in school overall and are statistically more likely to graduate from high school and college. This may be because most service opportunities teach kids essential skills like “long-range planning, working in groups, interacting with people who are different from yourself and defining and solving complex problems.” Young people are more apt to thrive when they are involved in their communities – by gaining new knowledge, satisfaction, social networks and a sense of purpose. Kids are often witness to our communities’ greatest problems. Giving them an outlet to help others in need reminds them that they can make a difference.
Families that include aging relatives might be surprised at the myriad health benefits that come from serving others. Studies have found that volunteering helps reduce the effects of stress and anxiety and can combat depression. It can also minimize the symptoms of chronic pain and reduce the risk of heart disease. Volunteering can provide a sense of purpose to older volunteers who have retired or lost a spouse, and even increase cognitive abilities.
If those proof points haven’t sold you yet, then consider ten more. Providing opportunities through the workplace for families to volunteer together:
- Supports employees’ work-life balance, which increases feelings of well-being and builds a positive attitude in the workplace.
- Enhances quality time for families by expanding learning opportunities.
- Provides an opportunity for family members to develop skills in such areas as leadership, problem-solving and organization.
- Improves and increases communication among family members.
- Promotes family cohesion and builds stronger families. Research has identified several qualities that make strong families, including establishing routines such as shared activities, meaningful traditions and connecting to the community — all of which can be gained through volunteering.
- Gives children positive role models.
- Demonstrates to children and youth the values of kindness, empathy, respect, friendliness and tolerance.
- Contributes to healthy family connections by offering ways for family members to develop or act on a common interest or issue of concern.
- Offers employees the chance to learn more about their community and the issues that impact their neighbors.
- Inspires a lifetime of service.
In advance of Nov. 20, 2021, encourage your fellow employees to take time out with their families and those they care for to help others, whether that’s safely in-person or virtually from home, and support them in making a positive difference in the world.
Visit www.pointsoflight.org/familyvolunteerday/ to find resources to share with your workplace, like ideas and instructions, DIY project videos, sample newsletter and social media content, and more! You can also check out each edition of our Civic Life Today digital magazines for action plans that will help employees discuss with their family members the actions each individual can take to make a positive difference!