National Volunteer Week
This is National Volunteer Week, a time to think about all those ways you can use your spare time to help others through good deeds and hard work–unless you are like me, and that first sentence makes you spit out apologies about not having any time or money to do anything significant.

I get it. It’s really hard to regularly commit to any single organization when the kids are young and we’ve all got so much going on in our lives. But keep reading because there are simple, affordable ways you can help make a big difference, even if there is barely time for a shower these days. –Christina  

{keep reading for ways you can incorporate volunteer work in your life–really!–and please let us know your ideas too}

1. Every year near Earth Day, I grab a trash bag, some protective gloves and walk my neighborhood or area park to pick up trash (photo above). Not glamourous but it makes a difference I can see, and even when the kids were little, I could put them in a stroller and head out. Now that they are a bit older, they get glove and a bag too. Not into trash? Then grab some flowering plants and pretty up your neighborhood’s common area or your child’s school. Find more neighborhood clean up ideas here.

2. The whole “value of a dollar” concept was driven home when I took twenty dollars to spend at the supermarket for our local Food Pantry. After shopping with me, the kids then helped me deliver our few bags to give them a glimpse at where many families in our town have to “shop” for their food. Feeding America keeps a list of larger food banks, but search the web or the phone book to see if there’s one in your town.
3. I don’t have loads of time, but I have a pen, paper and stamp which is why I’ve been a Chemo Angel for the past few years. I write messages of support and comfort to a chemotherapy patient, and even include the occasional scribbled note or picture from my kids. It’s a nice way to show kids how we can help people who are going through a difficult time.
4. Another rainy day? Grab the paper and crayons and make cards for the Veterans at your local VA hospital. A volunteer at the hospital will hand out your cards to those patients who really could use a friendly note. 
Fresh Air Fund
5. While this is a bigger commitment than the rest, last summer, we hosted a Fresh Air Fund child for a week, and it was an amazing experience. Suddenly, our regular old summer routine seemed new when we had someone to bring with us to the playground, the beach and even for a bike ride around the neighborhood.
Please share your ideas for volunteer work this week with the kids, and check out Hands On Network for more ways people are impacting their communities through volunteer work.

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