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Make Summer Really Count

For kids and parents, summer is the ideal time for fun in the sun, exploration and free play. However, one important thing we may not consider as parents is the opportunity to expose our children to philanthropy – whether through donating items to a particular organization, raising money for a good cause, or volunteering.

My girls donating books to our local Friends of the Library last summer.

My girls donating books to our local Friends of the Library last summer.

According to experts, it is important to allow our kids a first-hand look at how a lack of the opportunities that they have been able to take for granted impacts people in less fortunate circumstances. This perspective fosters a generosity of spirit, a sense of gratitude, and a feeling of connectedness to their local community – and the world. There are many creative and inexpensive ways that young people can help others this summer. Summer is also a time when charities need extra help.

But where should you start in raising a philanthropic-minded child? Here are some simple steps to jump start your family’s philanthropic efforts:

Be an Example
The adage “Actions speak louder than words” fits perfectly here. Try to involve your children in every aspect (where appropriate) in your own philanthropic efforts. A simple example of our philanthropy at work is after church we allow our kids to drop the weekly monetary donation in the offering box. When we donate clothes, toys and household items to the needy, I bring my kids along. These are all simple ways to reinforce the message of generosity and gratitude. It’s also an opportunity to talk about the why of our action.

Identify Family Charities
Hold a meeting, or have a conversation to determine what charities your family might want to sponsor this summer as a test pilot for more long-term support.

Here are a few ideas to guide you along in determining your family’s charitable focus this summer:

For younger children: Infuse story time with some books that highlight generosity or provide examples of people helping one another. Craft time can be turned into an opportunity to make cards or presents for friends, family, teachers and neighbors. As children get older, they can help pick out food or toys to donate to local shelters.

The latest summer philanthropic effor: My girls and a friend raised money towards The Orange County Resue Mission.

One of the latest summer philanthropic efforts: My girls and a friend raised money towards the Orange County Rescue Mission.

For older children, check out these resources:
-Local churches that often support community and global outreach projects
-Environmental organizations, including beach cleanups, water conservation, nature centers
-Youth organizations, including the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts
-Local senior and community centers, libraries, city sponsored community events, pantry and food donation organizations
-Corporate philanthropic programs, including “Take a Stand” With Sunkist. Kids can get a free lemonade-stand kit to encourage them to sell glasses of homemade drinks to raise money for a charity of their choice. Register at www.sunkist.com
-Coupon clippers helps local hunger organizations at a low cost by donating coupon bargains.Families can use www.savingsmom.com, which lists grocery coupon deals in most states. Keep a box in your house/garage for each week’s bargains, and deliver it to the charity when it’s full.
-Volunteer matching services. Kids can take on simple volunteer projects by recognizing what their community needs. Visit www.volunteermatch.org.

So, as Mother Teresa so pointedly once said, “Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.” I think that’s a great way to make summer really count.

Kristal Zacharias is the mother of two beautiful, vivacious girls, and wife of a hunky husband who works in the action sports industry. For the past 15 years, Kristal has worked for several Fortune 500 companies as a professional communicator. Follow her journey at Clearly Kristal or on Facebook and Twitter.
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