Around the holidays, local soup kitchens and other charitable organizations are inundated with volunteers. Families want to do something special to help others for the holidays; corporations encourage their employees to get involved. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, awareness of problems and a willingness to help increase, but when the holidays are over the needs of your community don’t disappear. It’s a great opportunity to teach your children that volunteering and donating time is a lifestyle not just a holiday tradition.

The great part about volunteering is that it is a very family-friendly activity and the needs in your community are so varied that it is easy to find some way to help that allows you to use your skills and talents – or perhaps working in an area of interest you and your family might have. For example, if you have members of your family who have been touched by cancer, there are several organizations who would love your help. The American Cancer Society hosts the annual Relay for Life, an overnight family event that raises awareness and funds for cancer research.

Nursing homes and hospices are always seeking volunteers of all ages. Younger kids can decorate cards and pictures for residents while older members of the family can provide respite for caretakers or become caretakers themselves. Food banks and soup kitchens need help year-round sorting food and serving meals.

Other family-friendly community activities can be things you do on your own with your family, like taking a trash bag and cleaning up a park or playground, or things you organize, like a local blanket or coat drive. The need is there; you don’t have to wait for a holiday or an organization to direct you. Just pick a weekend, include your kids, and make a difference. With luck, it will become a regular habit!