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Catching the Volunteer Spirit
By Susan Hines-Brigger


Step Up and Get Busy
For Teens: Not Off the Hook
For Kids: Ways You Can Help Too

A few weeks before the end of last school year, my kids brought home the annual large packet of papers in preparation for the next year. Many of the school papers had to do with volunteering for various activities, such as room parent, coaches for sports teams and the sign-up sheet for working the required five days in the cafeteria.

My husband, Mark, had always handled the last job—thanks to his more flexible work schedule. But then he got a new job, and suddenly I was responsible for fulfilling our cafeteria requirement.

So when this year’s sheet came home, I debated whether I would sign up to be a room mom again, and I was most happy to discover that I could simply write a check for what seemed a minimal amount and be done with my cafeteria obligation.

But just as I was about to send back a “Thanks, but no thanks” reply to the volunteer sheet and whip out my checkbook and relieve myself of any cafeteria duty, Maddie and Alex walked into the room.

“What days are you going to sign up for in the cafeteria, Mom?” Maddie asked.

“Are you going to be my room mom next year?” inquired Alex, who pointed out I owed him equal time that I had already given his sister.

So much for taking the easy way out. But, you know, I’m kind of glad I didn’t. In hindsight, I realize that all the things I love about my kids’ school are because of the many people who do say yes when those volunteer forms come home.

In fact, I’m reminded of why I need to volunteer by St. Paul’s saying, “For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another” (Romans 12:4-5).

One look around my children’s school—from the library workers to the maintenance staff to those who serve healthy, good-tasting meals for the kids every day—is certainly a testimony to that.

So now, as we head back into another school year, I am gearing up for my next go-round as room mom, soccer coach, Girl Scout leader and cafeteria worker.


Step Up and Get Busy

There are many volunteer opportunities available if you search them out. Some of them may even be closer to home than you think. Here are some suggestions to help you get going:

Make a call. Call your parish office or an organization with which you feel a connection and ask what types of volunteer opportunities are available. Then determine which ones best fit you and your family.

Lend a hand. Once you or your family find a volunteer activity that interests you, get started. For instance, if you love animals, perhaps you could volunteer to work at the local animal shelter. Or some hospitals have volunteer opportunities for people to come and hold premature infants who need feeding and some extra cuddling. Like building things? Seek out a local Habitat for Humanity project.

Think small. Oftentimes we tend to think of volunteer projects as massive undertakings. We become overwhelmed and just give up. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Even the smallest acts can make a big difference to someone. For instance, volunteer to watch a friend’s child so he or she can go grocery shopping alone. Or offer to run some errands for an elderly neighbor or relative.

Make a list. At one of our Girl Scout troop meetings, my co-leader and I had the girls come up with a list of possible volunteer activities we could do as a troop. Seeing them written down on paper gave us a good kick-start to get moving on a number of them. We were both amazed at the broad range of ideas the girls came up with. Have everyone in the family suggest some ideas for a family volunteer project. Here are a few ideas from our list to help get yours going:

• Serve food at a soup kitchen.
• Collect food to donate to the local food pantry.
• Pick up litter at a local park.

For more ideas, visit


If you think volunteering is just for adults, think again. You can use your talents many ways to help out. If you play an instrument, offer to provide lessons to younger children, or go and play at the local nursing home. If sports are your thing, offer to help coach a local team. Don’t have time to coach? Come to some of the practices and work with some of the players to improve their skills.

If you feel like taking on something a little more challenging, ask your parish’s youth minister or your school counselor for any volunteer opportunities of which they might be aware. Limitless opportunities exist for you and your friends to help out those in need.

While you may not be able to do some of the volunteer projects older people can do, there are still ways you can step up and help. For instance, the other day I was trying to get some things done and my three-year-old daughter, Riley, kept trying to get my attention. Her sevenyear- old brother, Alex, offered to take her in the other room and read some books to her. Alex is always lamenting the fact that he can’t help out as his older sister, Maddie, can. But on this day what he volunteered to do made a world of difference to me. So be on the lookout for little ways you can help, such as putting the groceries away, raking leaves or cleaning up after yourself. 


Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to

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