We all want our kids to become the kind of people who contribute to their community and the world beyond. You can get them started now by volunteering as a family.
We chatted with Michelle Carter, who established Little Helpers of Dallas/Fort Worth, about her organization and how to get kids involved in doing good.
What’s the mission of Little Helpers of Dallas/Fort Worth? We’re a family volunteer group that holds monthly service projects. The program is designed to help young people understand the value of volunteering, recognize the blessings in their lives, broaden their perspective and feel the sense of accomplishment from lending a helping hand. Our ultimate goal is to raise confident children who see giving back to the community as a normal aspect of their lives.
How did Little Helpers of Dallas/Fort Worth get started? We are a chapter of the national Little Helpers group. My oldest daughter and I used to volunteer with Little Helpers of Memphis, starting when she was about 4. When we moved here, we started looking for ways to help. Hurricane Harvey hit, and we couldn’t find any ways kids could help.
My daughter was always asking about homeless people and how she could help them. We discussed it, and then I posted on Facebook asking if there was any interest in starting the group. I got hundreds of responses saying “Yes!” We created an amazing team of five moms and held our first event in 2017—supplying Thanksgiving dinner for Christ Haven for Children. We had about 50 families attend! In our first year, we impacted the lives of more than 2,300 people.
What are some ways families can volunteer during social distancing? How have Little Helpers participants been giving back these days? It’s been such a different experience for Little Helpers, not being able to hold our monthly events. We started with a Facebook group where families could upload messages to seniors in retirement homes that were in lockdown. Caregivers were sharing the kids’ messages with the seniors.
We are also making care baskets for foster kids who are graduating this year. Our group has collected cards and gift cards. We are working with Stepping Stones out of Keller to make sure these graduations are recognized.
In June we have two activities that families can do at home and drop off to us. The first is to make no-sew cat and dog toys that will be donated to local shelters. The second is painting “kindness rocks.” We are hoping to place them at a senior home to sprinkle them with love.
We are also doing “kindness bingo.” We will have prizes for anyone who completes five acts of kindness in a row and a drawing for a special prize for anyone who completes a bingo blackout. Kindness acts are things like writing a letter to our troops, complimenting a friend or doing something for a neighbor.
There are so many ways to give back right now as a family. You can write letters or color pictures for residents of senior homes, clean out closets and donate, or bake treats for neighbors and mail carriers. You can also take some gloves or a grabber on a walk or hike and pick up trash. Our group has an adopted area at Lake Grapevine. As people are out enjoying the lake more, the amount of trash is growing fast—so that’s a great way to volunteer.
What are some ways kids can make a difference in their own homes? We were talking about this as we planned our June kindness bingo. Kids can do a sibling’s chore or take on another chore they don’t normally do to help their family out. They can leave fun messages for their parents or siblings to find. Maybe give an extra hug to a family member or give them a special compliment. Little acts of kindness go a long way.
How old are your volunteers? I think kids as young as 2 or 3 years old can start having hands-on experiences. My youngest was 3 when we started the group and was quite capable of helping. After making sandwiches for people who are homeless, she discovered she can do this at home and loves making us lunch.
We also have older kids, kids of all ages at our events. We tend to see our older, high school kids more in the summer.
How important is it for kids to see their parents participate? We set the examples for our kids. Kids watch us and learn. Volunteering can open up conversations about things kids may not normally be aware of. We try at least once a year to feed the homeless. That gives parents an opportunity to discuss the issue of homelessness and why and how we can help. We also volunteer at Christ Haven for Children a few times a year. Our kids can learn about being a foster kid and be more aware of different situations a family may have.
What does volunteering do for kids? What benefits have you seen in your own children? I just hope my kids know how blessed they are. I want them to always want to help those in need. As kids see more than what’s in their own bubble, they can work to make a change in the world. I hope these kids bring a new generation of kindness to the world. I want my kids to be socially aware. They really are our future, and I hope that with kindness now they will grow to be kind adults.
How can parents get their kids excited about volunteering? Keep them involved. My kids seem to be more responsive if they are hands-on in the decision making. My older daughter comes up with a lot of ideas that I take to our planning team, and I’m sure my younger one will too as she gets older.
Also, show children the impact of what they’ve done. My kids love to know they were part of making over 1,000 sandwiches. They know that can feed a lot of people. And you can do projects with friends. We love when friends join us in volunteering!
What areas does Little Helpers of Dallas/Fort Worth typically serve? Most of the families who participate are from the Colleyville, Southlake and Keller areas, and that’s where most of our events are. But anyone who is willing to come is welcome!
Search “Little Helpers of Dallas/Fort Worth” on Facebook to connect with the group or find inspiration for your own volunteer projects.
Photo courtesy of Michelle Civale.