Giving (and receiving) with the Family Giving Tree

2017 marks our 6th year of volunteering as a family at the Family Giving Tree. Strictly speaking, it's the 7th year for me and The Pea. She and I volunteered for the first time when she was 4 years old; she was too young to do anything other than hold a tape dispenser for me, and the boys were too little to help. Even at that age, I could see her mind opening as she realized that there were little boys and girls like her whose parents couldn't get them all the Christmas presents they wanted.  Volunteer opportunities for kids under age 14 are pretty scarce. I realized we needed the Family Giving Tree just as much as the kids who would be receiving the presents.

Doing community work is good for the soul all year round, but there's a special significance about doing it over the holidays. Yes, the holidays are about families and togetherness, but they do generally involve lots of food, alcohol, decorations, parties, presents, you get the picture. It's only natural to turn things up a notch when you get together with people you don't see very often (or don't have time to see). Unfortunately, not everyone can do that, so sparing a thought for others at this time of the year is just the right thing to do.

Right from the beginning, the kids loved volunteering at the warehouse. Even now, six years later, the kids look forward to our annual shift. Even The Pea, who was in the midst of studying for finals, made time in her busy high school schedule to attend. There are many tasks that volunteers can be assigned to -- moving, sorting, checking, wrapping, tagging, bagging -- and we've pretty much done them all. Admittedly, some tasks are more fun that others, but whatever task we've been assigned to that year, we always leave exhausted but with a sense of accomplishment.

3Po and Jammy are turning 14 at the end of the year, so starting in 2018 the whole family will be eligible for many more community volunteer activities, such as sorting and distributing food at local shelters and food banks. I'm already looking at shifts with Second Harvest Food Bank and Habitat for Humanity. But there's just something so heartwarming about the thought of a happy kid over the holidays.  That's why the Family Giving Tree will continue to hold a special place in our hearts. Whatever we end up doing with those organizations, one thing is for sure: we'll still be looking forward to our annual warehouse shifts with the Family Giving Tree.

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