With Family Volunteer Day approaching on November 22nd, volunteers and organizations around the country are gearing up for hundreds of meaningful opportunities to make a difference. From park cleanups to mural painting and youth garden installations, the annual day of service will bring families together in projects that will make a lasting impact. In Broward County, HandsOn Broward will team up with 50 family volunteers to revitalize Cresthaven Elementary School in Pompano Beach. Earlier this week, we caught up with one of the families who will be joining the effort, to get their thoughts on the upcoming day of service.
The Howard Family first came to HandsOn Broward through the ‘Give a Day, Get a Day’ challenge – another innovative volunteering initiative brought to us by the fine folks at Disney – and they haven’t stopped volunteering together since. Through their work with HandsOn Broward and their church & school, Mom Patty, Dad Tim and kids Sydney and Jonathan have spent over 7,000 combined hours volunteering for their community. For their service, they were honored by the Points of Light Institute with the Daily Point of Light Award on November 26, 2013. We sat down with the Howards to talk about what serving together means to them and why they feel others should join them in making a difference on Family Volunteer Day.
When asked why she feels it is important to volunteer with her family, Patty explains that volunteering promotes acceptance of all and being an active contributor to your community. “It puts life in perspective,” she said. “When the kids don’t get everything they want, they are grateful for what they do get because they’ve witnessed firsthand others with less. In turn, it has reinforced in Tim & me the importance of quality time over material things. Our memories of volunteering together or vacationing together have outweighed any material gift we have given our kids.”
Tim Howard tells us that community service has changed his family members’ lives, each for different reasons. “It has given my kids an opportunity to see and experience many aspects of life that regular kids would never have an opportunity to do,” he explained. “For my wife, it has given her life a purpose – fulfilling a need to help anyone with a need. In my case, it has opened my eyes to what a difference a few people can make in the lives of many – and for little to no money. Volunteering has kept us together as a family, stronger than it could ever be without it.”
Each year, the Howards participate in the Boys and Girls Club ‘Adopt a Family’ program at Christmas time, helping the kids have a Christmas when they otherwise may not. The family receives a wish list from the kids – mainly consisting of underwear, clothes, shoes and a few fun items. “When most kids are asking for X-Boxes, PlayStations, iPhones and other expensive items, these kids are asking for basic necessities,” Tim says. “Together we shop for the kids, wrap the gifts, and even are able to deliver to the family. To see the kids’ faces when they receive the gifts – and the appreciation from their parents – makes it all worth it.”
And it’s not just the parents who appreciate the benefits that volunteering can bring. Kids Sydney and Jonathan know full well the impact that service can have on the lives of others. “I think it is important for families to volunteer together because it’s important to give back to the community and to help others,” said Sydney, 14. “Another reason I think it is important is because it makes you realize how grateful and fortunate you are for the things in your life. Volunteering as a family puts the idea of volunteering into a child’s mind at a young age so they will continue to volunteer throughout their life.”
Sydney’s brother Jonathan, 16, says that volunteering has helped him learn new skills like leadership, communication, teamwork, versatility, and planning. “It is also bonding time for the family, a way to come together,” he said. “It shows other people how strong a family is together and not just individually.”
Whatever your motivation for volunteering, National Family Volunteer Day provides the perfect opportunity for family members to come together to make a difference. Powered by generationOn and Disney Friends for Change, the day will gather family members from all walks of life to come together in support of their communities. Interested families can join the impact by visiting www.generationOn.com/fvd to select a project in your neighborhood. And to top it off, generationOn is offering a chance to win a prize pack if you head back to the site after your project and tell us how it went! By sharing your stories, families will be entered to win 1 of 20 generationOn prize packs, that include dinner and a night at the movies!