By Latasha Causey, USAA
My children are beyond blessed and have more clothes, shoes and toys then they will ever need, and have since before they even entered the world. From a very early age my children have a monthly requirement to clean out their playroom and donate toys they no longer “need” to kids who need them more.
It has always been explained to them that there are other children who may need them more because most of the time they don’t have toys. With these toys they allow kids to have birthday or Christmas gifts when it’s not even their birthday or Christmas!
When we donate toys, we aren’t giving the broken ones, we are giving the ones they haven’t touched since the one and only time they played with them. This is something that my parents taught me to do at a very young age and it is something that I have passed onto my kids.
About four years ago I was blessed with a role at my current organization that provided me with the responsibility to create opportunities for myself and others to volunteer within the Phoenix community. Getting paid for something that I love doing – being a community advocate and giving back. At the time my oldest child was 6 and the youngest just 2 years old.
As you can imagine volunteering isn’t always done Monday – Friday between the standard work hours of 9 am – 5 pm. Usually, it is done on the weekend or even into the early hours of the evening. Most events I would bring my husband, should his schedule allow, and we would drop the boys off before we went out to do great work. Then suddenly as we were packing boxes at a food bank it hit me,
I started by bringing my oldest, who at the time was 7 years old. I would tell him we are going out to do something fun and it involves helping other people. He had no clue what that meant but he heard me when I said it would be fun.
We went to food banks, we packed back packs, food boxes, served food and cleaned clothing closets. Finally, my youngest was 4 years old and I took him to his first event which was Valley of the Sun United Way’s Day of Action, we drew pictures and packed books.
At the end of his first visit, he didn’t get the concept that he wasn’t taking home at least one of the 20 books he had packed for someone else. However, he was happy to finally join the rest of his family off doing these volunteer events we talk about. Now they ask,
At the end of each event they have a smile that tells me they know they did something good for someone else. Even in the hustle and bustle of everyday life between work, school and sports, they notice when it’s been “awhile” since our last giveback.
Even if you don’t have kids, but you have a child in your life that is important to you, I strongly encourage you to do them a favor and teach them the importance of giving back.
In my situation, the events I attended never asked me to bring my kids, instead I just brought them to safe child friendly environments only. They were immediately accepted and put to work! I say bring a child with you, talk to them about why you are there and what you are doing for someone else. Cheer them on as they complete a task like you would if they just made a good play in whatever sport they are playing.
Start them early – even if they can’t do much, bring them so they can watch what you are doing. Eventually they start to lend a hand and end up helping someone else.
To date, my boys have done multiple events with the Valley of the Sun United Way, the most recent being just a couple of months ago. They woke up early with me on Saturday morning to pack WeekEnd Hunger Backpacks with United Way’s Women United team.
My mission is to continue to teach my boys the importance of giving not just treasure, but also time. I am prayerful they grow up and continue to pass that tradition on to their friends and one day their children.