This post is sponsored by the American Red Cross who hosted me for a visit to their headquarters. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Several things have changed in the school system since I graduated more than a few decades ago and one of the most significant changes is the requirement of community service hours for middle school and high school students. And we’re struggling a bit.
Giving money is hugely important to supporting causes you believe but giving of your time is a new level of commitment. And it’s something I haven’t done a lot of over the past few years.
I’ve served as a social media ambassador to the North Carolina Food Bank, championed the causes of [email protected], and lobbied against the Puppy Mill bill in North Carolina. Online advocacy is a valuable use of time but it doesn’t show my son the things he can do and how he can make a difference.
Volunteering with my son
Volunteering in the real world is a tangible way to give back, make a difference, and set an example for your kids. That’s why I roped my son Evan into volunteering with me to raise money for Tails of Hope, an organization that provides resources for shelters to help eliminate the need for euthanization.
And most recently, I realized we hadn’t spent much energy on finding a cause that would make him feel good about volunteering for his community service hours. After reading about an opportunity on the local PTA Facebook page, we volunteered with Johns Hopkins Healthcare to welcome home returning soldiers from deployment.
After his experience, he told me he really liked participating and definitely wanted to do it again. He was struggling to put it into words but what he was trying to say is that he felt good inside, which is ultimately why people volunteer.
Volunteering is at the heart of the community – helping others, setting an example for your kids, and just generally making the world a better place.
My recent visit to the American Red Cross headquarters in Washington, DC reminded me that there are HUGE volunteer opportunities and small volunteer opportunities everywhere. You can hop on a plane to give aid and relief to a disaster-stricken area or you can curl up with your computer on your couch as a digital volunteer – there are volunteer opportunities for just about everyone.
Volunteering with the American Red Cross
The American Red Cross is an organization that prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies. That’s a pretty simple mission statement. But the ways in which they help human suffering is vast and varied. Here are just a few of the volunteer opportunities at the American Red Cross I recently learned about.
1. Blood Donation
You can always donate blood (or platelets or plasma). It’s always needed. ALWAYS. But if you already donate and feel passionate about the cause, you can organize and host a blood drive at your school or workplace. Or you can volunteer at another blood drive by registering donors or answering questions.
2. Disaster Action Team and Disaster Services
When I worked for the fire department, I became acutely aware of how many house fires occur every day (1 occurs every 8 minutes). The American Red Cross is there at every single-family fire to ensure the basic needs are met immediately.
Thinking bigger? Have a special skillset? Disaster relief is needed across the country at any given time – think Hurricane Dorian victims both in the U.S. and in the Bahamas (American Red Cross participates in international relief as needed).
Disaster Volunteers are a huge part of the American Red Cross!
3. Installing Smoke Alarms
You’re not handy? You don’t know how to use power tools? Don’t worry – installing a smoke alarm is easy! I even did it! American Red Cross volunteers canvas neighborhoods ensuring homes have smoke alarms. If not, they provide one and install it on the spot.
4. Digital Advocacy
Not really a people person? You can still help people from the comfort of your own computer. Digital Advocates share Red Cross content and calls to action across social media platforms.
5. Reconnecting Families
Imagine being in a war-torn country and being separated from your sister. Or think of major international disasters where families are torn apart. Reconnecting Families is a service that helps find people and reconnect them across time and distance. In fact. They’ve even helped reunited sisters after 68 years apart.
Those are just a sampling of what kind of volunteer opportunities you can find American Red Cross. If you’re looking for something else, there’s probably a job for you there – from medical services to clerical work to mapping out remote villages in Cameroon (I did that!).
I hope you feel inspired to find a way not only for you to volunteer your time but to get your kids involved as well – there’s no age limit! To get started, simply visit the American Red Cross website to connect with your local chapter.
I’d love to hear more about how you volunteer your time and how you’re inspiring your kids to do the same.