Twelve-year-old twins Brynn and Ella Peddy sit beside a display table bedecked with colorful bows, which they have meticulously handcrafted from duct tape. Inspired by a hobby, the girls are fundraising for the Maryland chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).
The charity holds a special connection for the twins’ family because Brynn was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 2 ½ years old. For many years, the family has volunteered during JDRF’s Walk to Cure Diabetes as Team Peddy and, to date, they have raised more than $120,000. Volunteering as a family comes second nature — especially for this cause near and dear to their hearts.
“It’s great to work for a common goal,” says the twins’ mother, Stacie Peddy. “We are so fortunate that we can give back to other people and to show the kids that we can give back.”
Volunteering together also allows siblings to bond. “It’s lonely if you just do it alone,” says Ella.
Their duct tape project provides “a good activity for the two girls to do together,” says Stacie.
Many nonprofits have opportunities for families volunteering with children.
Sarah’s House, a supportive program for homeless families located on the edge of Ft. George G. Meade Army base, is just one of many that fits the bill. There, eight buildings house 125 people, half of whom are children.
Last summer, single mother Monika Korff and her daughter, Emma, 6, volunteered at Sarah’s House through New Hope Adventist Church in Fulton. The Korffs and other families traveled to the homeless shelter for a week of outreach activities fashioned like a family block party, complete with yard games, singing, crafts, animal shows and more.
“I really wanted to get my daughter to see how other families live in need,” says Monika. Emma, who attends school at Atholthon Adventist Academy in Columbia, helped with set up, serving snacks, and doing crafts as she mingled with the children who live at Sarah’s House.
“She enjoyed doing the face painting,” recalls Monika, “but she liked the role of assisting the kids there. She had fun, but for the first time in the role of helper and leader. She enjoyed that quite a bit.”
More importantly, notes Monika, “it has sparked (my daughter’s) desire to be part of a team that serves, and not just be on the receiving end. Family volunteering helps your child realize that this world is not about them.”
Monika recommends family volunteering to other families. “For me, it really held so much joy. (Volunteering as a family) is such a meaningful activity that we can do together with our children to create memories and make an impact.”
Yet opportunities to volunteer with younger children may not always be easy to find. Often, charities put age restrictions on volunteer opportunities. But Mickey Gomez, executive director of Volunteer Center Serving Howard County says “be creative in seeking volunteer opportunities, especially ones that include young children. It can be challenging for agencies to provide an age-appropriate experience, so they may choose to promote only those opportunities open to older youths and adults.”
But that doesn’t mean opportunities don’t exist. Gomez urges families to create their own opportunities.
“If families can come up with projects — on their own or as part of a group — and approach an agency directly with the idea, it may be appealing. Among family volunteer projects: host a collection of needed items and drop them off; interact with and play games with residents at local nursing homes or community centers; or make cards for the troops,” suggests Gomez.
To find out about family volunteer opportunities many families tap Girl Scouts, churches, synagogues or a local volunteer center. Here are some upcoming opportunities.
GREAT CHOICE FOR VOLUNTEERING WITH CHILDREN
Art With A Heart
This organization aims to enhance the lives of people in need through visual art, including large scale mosaic projects that use family volunteers. The group makes ornaments at holiday time, as well as garden stones and schedules community days. Ages 7 and up recommended. No art experience is required.
JDRF, Maryland chapter
Founded in 1970, JDRF’s mission is to cure, treat and prevent type 1 diabetes. Upcoming opportunities include:
“Brynn and Ella’s duct tape creations.” McDonogh School’s Holiday Bazaar on Dec. 8.