It doesn’t take long to realize how fortunate we are to have warm meals to eat, cozy beds to sleep in and homes that provide shelter. Thanks to local volunteer organizations like Tonka Serves, Doing Good Together and HandsOn Twin Cities, we have an opportunity to use our good fortune to help those who have fallen on hard times, both citizens around the world and our neighbors here at home.
Volunteerism has an equally amazing personal benefit: It allows families to spend quality time together; it teaches children strong, personal values of kindness, compassion and empathy; and has shown to correlate with longer lifespans and better overall health. You can make your mark locally by giving back through one of these three local organizations.
For those not in the know, there’s a lake-area organization connecting students in Minnetonka Public Schools with local volunteer opportunities: Tonka Serves. They offer a wide variety of opportunities for individual students and student groups, including a rake-a-thon each fall, backpack tutoring in south Minneapolis elementary schools, and Feed My Starving Children packing shifts to provide nutritious meals to third-world countries.
Though the growth in student volunteerism has grown immensely in the past few years, there are still opportunities available every day. The school district even offers a varsity letter for active student volunteers, and each year Tonka Serves awards an exceptional student the President’s Volunteer Service Award, something that will surely capture the attention of any college admissions officer.
Doing Good Together is a resource center connecting families to organizations with a wide array of volunteer opportunities. One example is their recent work with Meals on Wheels, helping get more young people involved to deliver food to those in need and working with families to decorate lunch bags. By including young people in the process, the response from the meal recipients has been nothing short of amazing.
Jenny Friedman, a blogger, mother of three, and founder and executive director of Doing Good Together, stresses that “volunteerism doesn’t have to be time consuming and impossible to fit into your life.” She has loads of ideas for all ages to start getting involved, many of which can be done in 5–10 minutes at the kitchen table. One meaningful activity is making cards for kids at the children’s hospital.
Sign up for their free e-newsletter online or look for them at their annual family service night, now called THE BIG GOOD, a wildly popular free family outing similar to a carnival with stations providing service projects.
Lucky for us lake dwellers, the oldest volunteer center in the country has a branch here in the Twin Cities. For 92 years, HandsOn’s mission has been to promote volunteerism and connect people to meaningful opportunities, promoting projects focusing on improving education, opening doors for underprivileged youth, and helping those who lack basic needs like food and shelter. Along with linking families to volunteer opportunities, they place a strong emphasis on corporate collaboration.
This Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, HandsOn asks that you make it a day on instead of a day off. Their hope is that people will join together to make a difference in the community. And on February 18, you’ll find HandsOn Twin Cities at the Mall of America where they’ll be holding a volunteer expo. If you’ve ever had thoughts of volunteering, you’ll find an organization to fit your service goals at this event. If you aren’t able to attend, give HandsOn a call; helpful people like Kristin Schurrer can help you find a match for you and your family.