By Jennifer McCool, professional organizer and experienced NWA volunteer
As we raise the next generation, there are so many values we want to instill in our kids: to be kind, to be appreciative, to value experiences over material things, and to help others in need. Many parents want to expose their children to other cultures and life circumstances through volunteer work.
While this is a great idea, how do you go about it? Where do you start?
Each month I’ll focus on all the opportunities in the Northwest Arkansas community that can include children. I’ll review a different organization, explain how it contributes to the community, and detail ways you and your children can get involved.
Before you make a commitment to volunteer, there are a few things you should consider to get the most out of your experience and maximize your efforts to the non-profit organization:
- Motivation: Why do you want your children to volunteer? Are you trying to expand their horizons? Expose them to people less fortunate in the community? Do you want to teach them kindness and sympathy? Whatever your motivation, make sure it matches the kind of help you will be offering and the work you will be doing.
- Skill Set or Passion: Do you or your child have a particular skill you want to enhance, or conversely, do you have a skill you want to develop? Some projects are great for expanding someone’s basic knowledge for things like construction, animal care, or cooking. Some undertakings are a labor of love. The sweet spot is when you can meet both of these.
- Length or Amount of Time to Volunteer: Consider carefully how much time you have to commit fully to an organization. Some volunteer projects have a minimum number of hours and should disclose this upfront; whereas, other projects are simply a one-time volunteer opportunity. Discuss this and decide as a family so everyone can have some input.
- Have patience: Sometimes a volunteer project does not turn out the way you thought it would, or organizations may not be compatible to you and your goals. That’s okay; keep looking! You will find a way to contribute to your community, but it may take some effort. That experience is itself beneficial for your children to see.
Northwest Arkansas has so many non-profits, and volunteering can be so very rewarding and meaningful. It’s also a great way to meet people with the same values and heart that you have.
So get out there! Your community needs you.
Jennifer’s interest in helping non-profits comes from her extensive background in volunteering. She served as Assistant Treasurer, Treasurer, and Board Member during her membership in Fayetteville Metro Kiwanis from 2008 to 2011. With her husband, Jennifer participated as a Big Couple with Big Brothers Big Sisters for one year. The most important part of her volunteer efforts has been with Komen Ozark and Race for the Cure. For the past five years Jennifer has served as the Chairman of the Survivor Committee.
In addition, Jennifer has volunteered consistently for the Children’s Safety Center, Open Avenues, Community Development Block Grant Program, and Single Parent Scholarship. Also a member of Womenade NWA and the Vice-President of the Board for Purr Catfe, Jennifer believes deeply in giving back to her community.