Guest post by Trevor’s mommy, Cindy: As a child, my family was very active volunteering in our local community. We visited with convalescent patients, joined clean-up events, participated in walk-a-thons, assisted with weekly bingo games at the VA hospital, and much more. But my favorite of all was sorting food donations and filling baskets to give to those in need. Now that I am a mother, it is important to me that my son Trevor learn the value of volunteering in our community. I want him to know the joy that comes from helping others and making a difference.
When Trevor was 2, I started researching volunteer opportunities with the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. I learned that they hold Family Volunteer Day events several times a year… but children must be 5 years old to participate. For three years, I have repeatedly checked the website to make sure the minimum age was still 5. The week my son turned 5, I contacted Lauren Strouse and asked to be notified when the next Family Volunteer Day was scheduled. Finally, after waiting for years, we attended our first Family Volunteer Day.
I was very impressed with how well the event was run. After a brief orientation, we were split into four groups and rotated through the different activities. We started with a tour of the warehouse, where we learned all about the Food Bank, who they serve, and how they have grown and changed over the years. We were amazed to hear how many millions of pounds of food the Food Bank distributes each year.
Trevor’s favorite part of the tour was looking in the giant refrigerator that holds the perishable food.
Our next station was art. We learned about the “Have a Heart” budget advocacy campaign. Then we each made valentines to send members of the Assembly and Senate. These will be hand-delivered to Sacramento.
Next, we donned gloves and approached giant container of pears. Our job was to count out 12 pears and bag them for easy distribution to the recipients. This was Trevor’s favorite part of the day. (Mine too!) It was very satisfying to watch our stack of bagged pears growing and growing as we worked. The pears looked delicious- I was very happy to know that they would be going to people who might otherwise not have access to the fresh produce that some people take for granted.
At our final station, the children worked together to create an imaginary family. (Ours had a mom, dad, son, daughter and cat.) The kids took turns spinning the “Wheel of Life” to see what would happen to our fictional family and what financial implications each event might have. The first spin landed on ”Refrigerator breaks.” This really hit home, as our refrigerator stopped working right after my husband was laid off and we found ourselves living on unemployment that covered our mortgage and nothing more. Fortunately for us, we had savings and were still able to afford food, but I could truly understand how devastating a broken appliance could be to a family that was barely surviving financially. The next spin was “Christmas.”
Our fictional family could not afford gifts or a nice meal. Thank goodness for the Food Bank and other organizations that help those in need.
Family Volunteer Day is an outstanding event. We all learned so much and had a great time. On the drive home, Trevor asked when we could return to bag more produce. Very soon, I hope!
If you are interested in the next Family Volunteer Day, please let us know.