One of the most important conversations my husband and I have ever had was about what kind of people we hope our kids will be as adults. We decided to begin with the end in mind and brainstorm what we could do now that would stick in their hearts for good. For us, the goal is to raise “others-minded” people for whom helping those in need is automatic. To do this, we have to start now. But it’s super frustrating to find things we can do together as a family with little ones. After much searching and experimenting we have found four holiday opportunities in Oklahoma City that are great for families with little kids.
Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma: Family Give Back Nights
During this family night, you and your children will participate in helping package and prepare food for the one in six Oklahomans who experience hunger.
Time Frame: Every Tuesday night (Oct 17-19) 6-8pm
Best for Ages: 8 and up (this one is particular about age but the others are not)
Email: [email protected]
You will need to sign up all parties as a volunteer on their website ahead of time and then they can direct you to which shifts and times are available. They have lots of additional projects going on that you might like as well.
A Shoe box Full of Love
Here, you select an age group and decide if you will shop for a boy or a girl. Then you take a shoe box and you fill it (each organization has a specific suggestions list included below so make sure to check that out before you get started). What I love about this is that it is inexpensive, can be done on your own time, and can be completely child-led and directed as THEY select the items and put their personal touch on it. This project is very fulfilling for our kids, allowing them an ownership that other projects don’t. It requires them to place themselves in the shoes of another child and think about what they might like.
Box of Joy
Time Frame: Boxes are due to a local drop point during the week of Nov 4th-12th. In our area there is a drop off in Norman and one in Oklahoma City. You will need to include a $9 donation for shipping).
Best for ages: Any
Contact: The website contains the details and contact info for the two local drop points
Operation Christmas Child
Time Frame: Boxes need to be dropped at a local drop point during the week of Nov. 13-20 (include a $9 donation for shipping)
Best for Ages: All ages
Local Contact: The website is very user friendly and will allow you to search by your zip code for drop points/local contacts for help.
City Rescue Mission (CRM): Host a Thanksgiving and Christmas table
This will be our second year to do this and we are so excited. When you sponsor a table on Thanksgiving or Christmas, you agree to bring a dessert and decorate the table in thier dining hall. Some people go all out and do a theme (I saw Star Wars and Disney last year), and others just do a simple centerpiece and holiday decor. They will then bring a family in from the waiting area to your table for fellowship over a meal provided by CRM. We had a really lovely time getting to know our family last year and it was a great way to model true hospitality and love in an active way to our kids. Our children helped set up, decorate, and welcome our family, and they assisted with cleaning and throwing away trash and just had a lot of fun playing with the other kids. Some people bring extra little toys and treats to pass out around the dining hall but this is not required. We bought all our decorations at dollar and discount stores, so it was very affordable, and made a simple dessert.
Time Frame: Thanksgiving or Christmas day 11am-1pm
Best for Ages: All ages (babies and small toddlers should be worn/strollered)
Contact: Kristen Hopkins 405-232-2709, [email protected]
Email to request table: [email protected]
Tips: First you’ll sign up to be a volunteer here, then you’ll email your interest for a table to: [email protected] They will respond to you from there with all the information you will need. If this is something you want to do, CALL THEM RIGHT NOW as these tables fill up quickly. They have a waiting list so you can get on if the registration is full and you can get on that list so be prepared should they call you to tell you someone has given up their table. I would suggest bringing alternate foods for that day if you have picky eaters in case they need different choices.
Hot Dogs for the Homeless
This organization is run by a few individuals and is very close to our hearts. They prepare “sack lunch” meals every Sunday morning year-round, and then deliver them to an area where a large homeless population gathers. If you show up on Sunday morning at around 9:45, you can help cook/pack the hotdog lunches. Kids love to do this part as they get to stuff the bags and put the hotdogs in the buns.
After everything is packaged, the group caravans to the distribution area. It can be as low or full contact as you want: you can hand out bags or simply observe, or you can choose to stuff bags and not attend the hand-out. You can bring items like coats, pants, and shoes to the bag stuffing site and they can be distributed for you, or you can caravan with the group and distribute them to the individual needy yourself. There is a lot of flexibility for families here and for different comfort levels and that’s why this group is probably my favorite of all the ways to volunteer with young kids.
Time Frame: Sunday mornings year round
Best for Ages: All ages welcome but babies and young toddlers should be worn or strollered
Contact: [email protected]
Location: They meet at the “For Lease” space next to Old School Bagel Cafe at 10946 N. May Ave, Oklahoma City
Tips: If you go to their Facebook page, they have events made for every Sunday that you can sign up for as a reminder for your calendar. They are very responsive to messages if you have questions. Definitely show up a little earlier to the stuffing site than is advertised. They don’t need you to arrange things ahead of time as long as it’s just your family and not a larger group, but if you show up on time you might not to as much “stuffing/preparation” work, which is what the kids really love. Again, just show up. The first time we went we did the preparation part and then met the group at the site afterwards and just observed to see what our comfort level was. Since then, we have figured out what works for us and it has been very rewarding.
Giving back as a family; every person having a part to play and a vital part in the process, has been a game changer for us. We hope this list inspires you to join up with these outstanding organizations or to hunt for new and exciting opportunities for your family to become more and more heart-centered this year.