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Specific Steps to Model Charity
by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, April 2012

People generally rise to the occasion when there are significant and major disasters. There are, however, so many people in need of help on a full time basis. Easing children into becoming charitable is one positive act we can take to encourage a child to be engaged in a lifetime of service.

After filling up your charity boxes load them into the car and deliver them with your children. You might have to do a little research to decide where to give your toys - things that are new and in their packages can go to Toys for Tots, toys that are not new but are still in good shape can go to a local shelter, religious organization, or other relief groups. Thrift stores supported by such organizations as Goodwill and Salvation Army often sell toys to raise money for their other activities, which means that you cannot be sure a needy child will receive your child's toys. If you cannot find any other local program, there are worthy alternatives.

With an afternoon's work - and family togetherness - you can teach valuable lessons to your children while assisting someone else's children at the same time.

To help your children develop the habit of being conscious of charity, consider implementing these family strategies:

1.) Periodically go through your closets; sort through clothes you haven't worn in a while, clothes you haven't worn in awhile to be distributed to those in need. Encourage your children to do the same. Allow them to select which clothes or toys they wish to donate. The value of this activity is lost if you go through their closets for them without them. For maximum benefit, involve your children in choosing the appropriate items. Take your children with you when you make the donation.

2.) Regularly engage in a service oriented project. Rake the leaves for an elderly couple. Bake cookies to send overseas to a serviceman or servicewoman. If you and your children are musical, offer to perform at a local assisted living facility. Bake bread and deliver to your local homeless food station.

3.) Give blood. Bring your children with you so they see you as a model for giving. Talk to them about why you choose to donate blood and what you hope it will accomplish.

4.) Set up birthday parties as a time for giving to others. At your child's first school age birthday party, ask guests to bring a gift of a book (new or used) to be donated to a local library or school in a low income neighborhood. Talk to your child about the books (s)he has and about children who don't have any books. Explain that one way to celebrate a birthday would be to give to those who have less. Involve the birthday boy or girl in the decision of where to donate: a woman's shelter, a doctor's office, etc. When you deliver the books with your child, take a picture.

5.) At regular intervals, buy dog or cat food and take it to the humane society. Allow your children to spend some time with the recipients of the gift.

6.) Build food baskets around the holidays and give to a needy family suggested by your religious institution, community center, or school. Involve your children is selecting healthy food: canned goods, fruit and other treats to include. Decorate the gift package and deliver it together, as a family.

7.) Create a charity jar to be used by the family when allowances are distributed. Invite children to share some of their allowance with others through donating to the jar. As the jar fills decide as a family where to contribute the contents. You may choose to save a whale or contribute to a cancer charity that collects hats for kids receiving chemotherapy. Read about various charities on the internet and share this information with your children to focus and to help them make an informed decision.

8.) Get on a regular service schedule at your church, temple or mosque. Sign up for a time to trim the bushes, serve a community breakfast, Take your turn ushering and allow your child to assist.

By implementing some of these and other ideas we can teach children that charity is not reserved only for emergencies. You will be helping them appreciate that reaching out to others in need is a way of life, rather than a moment in time when a catastrophic disaster occurs. Remember, while you are giving to others, you are giving your children important lessons about your beliefs concerning the spirit of giving, generosity, and being part of a community.



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