The Power of Family Volunteering: An Interview with the Howards

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.

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l to r: Jonathan, Patty, Sydney and Tim volunteer at the Children’s Services Council of Broward County’s Back to School Extravaganza.

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.

Sydney Howard and Patty Howard sort donations for the church's food pantry.

Sydney Howard and Patty Howard sort donations for a local church’s food pantry.

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.”

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Sydney Howard helps paint homes at a rehabilitation center for local veterans.

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.”

Jonathan Howard (left) helps build a picnic area for a church as part of generationOn's 'What Will You Bring to the Table?' initiative.

Jonathan Howard (left) helps build a picnic area for a church as part of generationOn’s ‘What Will You Bring to the Table?’ initiative.

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!

Local Nonprofit Receives Boost to Aid Youth Gardening Program

State Farm® Youth Advisory Board grants $29,075 to local program

State Farm Agents Stephen Sloan and Michele Greene; HandsOn Broward's Sander Schrantz and Cheryl Uhl; and State Farm's Public Affairs Specialist Jose Soto

State Farm Agents Stephen Sloan and Michele Greene; HandsOn Broward’s Sander Schrantz and Cheryl Uhl; and State Farm’s Public Affairs Specialist Jose Soto

BROWARD COUNTY, FL (October 28, 2014) – HandsOn Broward received a $29,075 service-learning grant for a youth gardening project from the State Farm Youth Advisory Board (YAB). The local volunteer mobilization hub is one of 65 community organizations across the United States and Canada and one of 5 programs in Florida to receive the grant.

HandsOn Broward will use the funds to expand the scope of its youth gardening program to include 15 new schools and youth centers. The program will provide an opportunity for 3,000 local students to learn about and engage in nutrition education and environmental stewardship through the creation and maintenance of a vegetable garden.

Pompano Beach Elementary School Student Estefania Ortuno waters vegetable plants in the new school garden provided by State Farm and HandsOn Broward

Pompano Beach Elementary School Student Estefania Ortuno waters vegetable plants in the new school garden provided by State Farm and HandsOn Broward

“We’re grateful for companies like State Farm and the great work that they do to make service-learning possible,” said Sander Schrantz, HandsOn Broward’s Director of Special Programs. “Because of their support, we’re able to involve kids in hands-on learning experiences that will expand their knowledge of healthy and sustainable food options.”

The group broke ground on the first garden of the grant period on Tuesday as HandsOn Broward volunteers and representatives from State Farm gathered at Pompano Beach Elementary School. The new garden will be used as a teaching tool for the school’s science programs.

“State Farm supports service-learning because it integrates service to the community into classroom curriculum using a hands-on approach to mastering subject material while fostering civic responsibility,” said Jose Soto, State Farm community specialist for the Broward County area. “Service-learning is an excellent way to engage students outside of the traditional ‘chalk and blackboard’ model, and the YAB really liked this project’s core goals.”

HandsOn Broward's Sander Schrantz helps Pompano Beach Elementary School students Carl Cherenfant (front) and Wesley Duroseau water vegetable plants in the new school garden

HandsOn Broward’s Sander Schrantz helps Pompano Beach Elementary School students Carl Cherenfant (front) and Wesley Duroseau water vegetable plants in the new school garden

The State Farm Youth Advisory Board has granted over $32 million in grant money since its inception in 2006, empowering youth to implement service-learning in 520 communities.

About HandsOn Broward: HandsOn Broward inspires, equips and mobilizes people to take action to positively effect change in Broward County. To learn more about HandsOn Broward’s upcoming service opportunities or to schedule a volunteer orientation at your organization or place of business, please call 954.233.1300 or visit us online at http://www.HandsOnBroward.org

About State Farm®: State Farm and its affiliates are the largest provider of car insurance in the U.S. and is a leading insurer in Canada. In addition to providing auto insurance quotes, their 17,800 agents and more than 65,000 employees serve 81 million policies and accounts – more than 79 million auto, home, life and health policies in the United States and Canada, and nearly 2 million bank accounts. Commercial auto insurance, along with coverage for renters, business owners, boats and motorcycles, is also available. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company is the parent of the State Farm family of companies. State Farm is ranked No. 43 on the Fortune 500 list of largest companies. For more information, please visit http://www.statefarm.com or in Canada http://www.statefarm.ca.

About the Youth Advisory Board: The State Farm Youth Advisory Board is a diverse group of 30 youth, ages 17-20, who were chosen through a competitive process to lead and oversee this $5 million/year signature service-learning initiative. The Youth Board identified the issues, issued competitive grants and will now provide technical assistance, communication and oversight to site grantees.