Supporting Kids in Foster Care

Supporting Kids in Foster Care

On Saturday we had our stuffed-animal drive, and I was so touched by little kids who lovingly told me the names of their teddy bears before choosing to donate them. I was so excited to bring our stuffed animals to Casa Pacifica, a wonderful organization that helps kids and families in times of crisis.

image1 (1)Donating to kids and families is a meaningful transition into our April project. This month we are striving to serve foster youth. There are many organizations that do incredible things to provide for foster youth in our area, including the awesome Hope4Kids Run that raises funds and awareness as well as James Storehouse, a nonprofit that helps foster kids and families in emergency situations. Even though there are many organizations that help kids in foster situations, it can be hard to find ways to serve kids in foster care with our young kids. This year, we’ve chosen to partner with Together We Rise to make Sweet Cases. See below to find out how we plan to help!

Want to do something like this?

1. Check out Together We Rise: Here you will learn about the sad reality that many foster kids have to travel from home to home with only a trash bag to transport their stuff. Making Sweet Cases is a fun way for families to raise money for a duffel bags, hygiene kits, blankets, coloring books, crayons, etc.

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2. Raise money: Once you’ve set up your webpage, you can raise money. Each Sweet Case is $25, and your group will commit to buying at least 10. It is easy to share your page with others on social media, so fundraising efforts only require a few clicks.

3. Assemble and Decorate: This is the fun part! Once you have raised the funds, Together We Rise will send you the elements of the cases. You and your friends can assemble the bags and decorate them. This is a great way for kids of all ages to get involved.

4. Check out other organizations: Once you’ve gotten into the spirit of helping kids in foster care, look into other ways to help out! You can also check out Foster Care 2 Success for details on how you can send a different type of care package to a child in need. They even have a Red Scarf project where you can use your knitting skills to benefit kids in foster care.Treehouse for Kids is an excellent organization that supports foster kids, and they outline specifics about how to host a donation drive. Check out organizations like Home Forever and Fostercare.com as well as James Storehouse or RaisingHope to learn more about foster care and how you can help.

5. (Optional): Share your experience: post pictures and ideas on our Facebook page, or share a “success story” with us on the blog. The more we talk about service, the more other people want to be a part of the fun.

RESOURCES

It can be difficult to talk to our kids about the fact that other kids are in foster care, but I believe that it is important for them to be aware of what is going on in the world so they can develop compassion. Here are a few resources that might be helpful. If you know of any others, please share them!

Book

Maybe Days: This book is geared towards kids who are already in foster care, but it can also be helpful for parents considering foster care.

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Home is Where I Make It: This video was created by foster children in order to “bring a positive light to all of the brave children fighting for their place to call home.”

I haven’t personally fostered a child, but I know a great friend who has (Check out Michelle’s Story). I have so much respect for everyone involved in loving kids by fostering them. Let’s all work together to make kids in foster care feel acknowledged, loved, and supported. If you have any thoughts on this post, or if you have other ideas about how we can show love, please let us know. Also, if you are interested, click here to start a club of your own.  Thank you so much for reading, and let’s go love people on purpose.

 

 

Stuffed-Animal and Action Figure Drive

Stuffed-Animal and Action Figure Drive

My daughter loves cats; thus, for her last birthday, she received six stuffed cats. Six! And while I am so appreciative of the generosity of friends and family, we don’t need piles of stuffed animals in every room. More than wanting to clear clutter, I’m organizing a stuffed-animal drive to help my kids fight entitlement. It is so hard for kids (and for all of us, really), not to hoard our possessions, not to think we are entitled to mountains of stuff, not to want more, more, more. The best way that I’ve found to combat that tenancy is to give to others. So, this month, we will be working with other local families to collect and donate new and gently-used stuffed animals.

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Want to get involved?

1. Donate:  We will be meeting on Saturday, March 12th from 10am-12pm at Wendy Park in Newbury Park to collect items. (815 American Oaks Avenue). Bring your kids to play, and the adults will sort the donations. Please make sure donations aren’t dirty or ripped.

2. Spread the Word: It would be great if you could spread the word about our event!  Send Facebook messages, post about it on your social media sites, talk to people in person, make flyers, etc. Many people (especially those with kids) have stuffed animals they are willing to donate.

3. Support Great Organizations:  We will be donating to two places. Some of our items will go to the local police department, and, as mentioned in our local paper, “they give them to children who are involved in a variety of crisis situations from car accidents to domestic and sexual violence situations, or situations when a child or child’s family member is in crisis.” What a great cause! Since they can’t store too many items, most of our donations will go to Casa Pacifica, a fantastic place that supports children and families in their toughest times, striving to help them overcome challenges like abuse and neglect. When we picture kids in crisis hugging a stuffed-animal for comfort, we are inspired to give. Even if you can’t donate on March 12th, keep these organizations in mind when you have things to donate in the future.

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I’m certainly not going to ask my daughter to give away her favorite kitty, but I will help her choose a couple to donate. I want to remind her (and myself) of the importance of giving to others rather than feeling entitled. Do you have any strategies that help you and your family fight entitlement? If so please share them! Thank you so much for reading, and let’s go love people on purpose. Hope to see you on the 12th!

 

Donating Stuffed Animals

Donating Stuffed Animals

My daughter loves cats; thus, for her last birthday, she received six stuffed cats. Six! And while I am so appreciative of the generosity of friends and family, we don’t need piles of stuffed animals in every room. More than wanting to clear clutter, I’m organizing a stuffed-animal drive to help my kids fight entitlement. It is so hard for kids (and for all of us, really), not to hoard our possessions, not to think we are entitled to mountains of stuff, not to want more, more, more. The best way that I’ve found to combat that tenancy is to give to others. So, this month, we will be working with other local families to collect and donate new and gently-used stuffed animals and action figures.

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What do this in your area?

Here are the steps I’m following through this month:

1. Find somewhere to donate: This is such an important first step because it makes it easier to be generous when we know where our items will be going. When we picture kids in crisis hugging a stuffed-animal for comfort, we are inspired to give. We will be donating our items to the local police department, and, as mentioned in our local paper, “they give them to children who are involved in a variety of crisis situations from car accidents to domestic and sexual violence situations, or situations when a child or child’s family member is in crisis.” What a great cause! If this isn’t an option in your area, you can look into local shelters and rescue missions.

2. Get the word out: Spread the word in various ways. Send Facebook messages, post about it on your social media sites, talk to people in person, make flyers, etc. Many people (especially those with kids) have stuffed animals they are willing to donate.

3. Start collecting: We will be meeting at a park to collect our items. The kids can play, and the adults can look through the items. (Donations should not be dirty or ripped, and they can’t have loose parts.) We are really looking forward to this get together, but you can certainly collect donations in other ways. (A box at your kid’s school or porch pickups, etc).

4. Donate: This is the fun part! Bring your kids for the drop-off if possible, and remind them why you are doing what you are doing.

5. Share your experience (optional): if you have a chance, feel free to share pictures or stories about your experience with our group on Facebook. The more we share, the more we inspire each other.

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I’m certainly not going to ask my daughter to give away her favorite kitty, but I will help her choose a couple to donate. I want to remind her (and myself) of the importance of giving to others rather than feeling entitled. Do you have any strategies that help you and your family fight entitlement? If so please share them! Thank you so much for reading, and let’s go love people on purpose.

 

“No, I’m not Pregnant”: My Struggle with Diastasis Recti

“No, I’m not Pregnant”:  My Struggle with Diastasis Recti

Having two children has come with many joys and many challenges, one of which I did not anticipate. Several months after the birth of my youngest, I was at a Frozen birthday party, happily enjoying some Olaf marshmallows, when a woman I didn’t know asked me when I was due with my third. The thing is, this would have been a hard comment to deal with even if I hadn’t heard it so frequently, but it felt like everywhere I went someone was congratulating me on my pregnancy. But, as the title suggests, I wasn’t pregnant (nor I am now).

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You can see that I’m hiding my stomach in this photo. This is a strategy I’ve gotten very good at. 

I will back up and tell you that I’m blessed with a healthy metabolism, and I have never been super self-conscious about my body. I miraculously escaped body-image issues as a teen, and, suddenly, as a 33 year-old, I started having new feelings of embarrassment about my stomach. All the questions about my “pregnancy” led not only to awkwardness but also to shame. I started eating like a rabbit, researching diet fads,  and feeling guilty if I consumed half of a banana. I did ab exercises, and I became skinnier than I had ever been. However, I kept getting the dreaded question: “When are you due?”

Things really came to a head over Easter. My daughter, at this point, was 18 months old, and I had been dieting and exercising religiously. With good intentions and a smile, a friend of my parents congratulated me on my pregnancy. I walked away quickly, concealing my tears.  My well-meaning stepmother told me that she and my dad had been discussing my stomach (a sentence one never wants to hear), and they had decided that they couldn’t understand what was going on with my body either. They offered to pay for liposuction if I wanted to look into it. In a frenzy of emotions later that week, I vented to a friend. That was the turning point.

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August 1st, 2015 

My dear friend, Heidi, suggested that I look into a condition called Diastasis Recti. With a simple google search and a trip to my doctor, I found out that I had an umbilical hernia and a large ab separation (diastasis recti). If you aren’t familiar with this condition, it is a fairly common occurrence that involves a woman’s abdominal muscles separating during pregnancy. Sadly, this causes “mommy tummy.” I couldn’t believe that I’d never heard of this before! What’s worse is the fact that I had been doing sit-ups and crunches: exercises that only make this condition worse!  No!!

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I went in August to have my hernia fixed, and while my surgeon was able to pull my upper abs together slightly, I didn’t elect to get the major cosmetic surgery required to fix the whole of my abdominal wall. Thus, while I was out of medical danger, I still looked pregnant and felt discouraged. I decided to give myself a year to work on my ab separation before deciding to undergo such an extensive procedure.

At that point, I discovered many helpful resources online. The most beneficial being a program called The Dia Method. This program includes a nutrition plan, instructional DVDs, and online encouragement, and it has really helped. I’ve learned how to do “everyday moves” in way that keeps my abs from bulging, and I’ve learned about how to support (rather than hinder) my progress through exercise. (I have no affiliation with the company; I just like it!)

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I’ve made some progress, but I am still working on closing my abdominal separation. My daughter is now 2.5, and while I haven’t been asked “the question” for awhile, I still see people looking at my stomach inquisitively. I still hide my belly in photos; I still have outfits I can’t wear, and I’m still working on developing and maintaining a healthy view of food and my body. And though talking to strangers and my parents about my “bump” was challenging and awkward, I thank God that all of that happened as it has been a catalyst for change. Learning about and being more comfortable with my body has really been a blessing.

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January 29th, 2016

This story, in some ways, seems irrelevant for a service website, but, here at Family Service Club, we are all about helping others, and I’m hoping that sharing my story can help. I believe that when we share our stories vulnerably and authentically, when we share what we’ve learned, when we share what we are working on, we serve others by increasing solidarity and community. Have you ever struggled with body image issues? Do you get asked if you are pregnant? Do you have friends who are working through similar issues? How do you best support them? How do you deal with these challenging issues in your own life?  I’m still on my journey, and I would love to hear about yours. Side note: please don’t ask anyone when she is due unless you know FOR SURE she is pregnant. Thank you so much for reading, and let’s go love others on purpose.

 

Showing Love on Valentine’s Day

Showing Love on Valentine’s Day

I know some people who are a bit anti-Valentine’s Day. They lament the fact that it seems to be a holiday created and perpetuated by Hallmark. I understand where they are coming from, but, regardless of the way you feel about Valentine’s Day, you can’t deny that it is an opportunity to show love. And that’s what we are all about here at the Family Service Club. Last year, we had a fantastic time giving valentines to residents of assisted-living homes. This is an easy, inexpensive way to make someone’s day a little brighter.

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Want to do this with you family? 

  1. Call ahead: all the volunteer coordinators we worked with were so kind and helpful, and talking to them in advance is super important. Make sure to ask about parking.
  2. Prepare your kids in advance (and make sure they are healthy): read books to your kids (see below) and talk to them about things they may not be aware of (wheelchairs, confusion, etc.).
  3. Focus the conversation on the kids: The residents may not remember or want to talk about their own stories, but they seemed to love learning random details about the kids. (Ex. this is my son, and he turned four on Wednesday, etc.)
  4. Take time and give eye contact: I wish I would have followed this advice even more, but real connection comes from taking time and looking people in the eyes.
  5. 5. (Optional): Share your experience: post pictures of your visit on our Facebook page, or share a“success story” with us on the blog. The more we share our stories, the more others want to be involved.

We were lucky enough to have some valentines donated to us from various elementary classrooms last year, but we can always make these ourselves if that isn’t a possibility. There are numerous websites with cute ideas for cards, but nothing fancy is required. As you would expect, the senior citizens appreciated the effort more than anything.

Book

I always find it helpful to use stories to help my kids prepare for and understand various situations. This is one that I used before and after our visit last year.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox, illustrated by Julie Vivas: This cute book is about a boy who makes friends with the residents of a nursing home. It is an easy way to introduce this idea to younger kids.

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I am still figuring out how to help my son to have meaningful conversations when we visit assisted-living homes, but I know the effort is an important one. Kids may not be able to build homes for the homeless or advocate vocally for world peace, but they are cute, and cuteness is a big deal for this project…so allow their cuteness to bless others, and let’s get out there and work together to love people on purpose.

Feeding the Homeless

Feeding the Homeless

Although I wasn’t always good about this, since I’ve started my chapter of the Family Service Club, I’ve been really mindful about teaching my kids to notice homeless people in our area. It is so sweet how aware my son has become. In fact, yesterday, while rushing to get home, I didn’t say anything about the man on the corner. Paxton abruptly told me to turn around, imploring me to give him peanuts and socks. I realized that my son’s priorities were more in line than mine were. Of all of the service projects we have done this year, I’m not sure any of them have had as much of an impact as simply teaching my kids to notice the people in need around us. That is why I’m so excited about our next project.

On January 17th we will be providing and serving dinner to 100-120 homeless people in our area. To be honest, I’m pretty intimidated by this project. It is a big task to take on, but I know it is worth the effort. I know that my kids (and I) struggle with entitlement, and I also know that gratitude and service are the best remedies. Here are a few simple ideas on how to work as a family to serve the homeless. If you have other ideas, please let us know!

Four WAYS TO SERVE The homeless with your family

1. Donate to a local shelter: One of the easiest ways to help is to find out the needs of a local homeless shelter and donate. A simple google search will help you find a shelter near you, and if you give them a call, they can tell you what they need, be it blankets, food, etc. Getting your kids involved in shopping for items and dropping them off will be a fun way to make a difference together.

2. Create some “blessing bags” to keep in the car: A blogger who calls herself The Thrify NW Mom has published a blog post on how to assemble “Blessing Bags” for the homeless. She talks about putting together ziplock bags that include things like wipes, socks, and toiletries, etc. to pass out when you come across homeless people. This would be a great project to do with your kids and their friends. Do some shopping at Costco, The Dollar Store, etc. and put together some bags to keep in the car. What an easy and practical way to be prepared to give. Check out her blog post for more details.

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3. Serve food at a local homeless shelter: Although some shelters won’t allow young kids to serve food to the homeless, some will. We found a really wonderful organization called Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission. They serve hot meals to the homeless, and they are happy to let us bring our kids along to help. Call around to see if you can find an opportunity like this one.

4. Provide food for a local homeless shelter: If you are going to a shelter to serve, why not offer to provide the food as well? I used a website called SignupGenius.com to create a list so that people can sign up to bring food. We will be bringing lasagna, salad, rolls, cookies, soda, forks, knives, and napkins. You can see our list here. (Feel free to donate!) I will have people drop off the food at our house, or they can bring it directly to the shelter and serve it with us. We are really excited to help!

Talking about homelessness with young kids can be challenging, and using this book might make it a little easier.

Book

The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson and Garth Williams: This well-reviewed and award-winning book tells the story of a man named Armand, a homeless man who lives in Paris. While discussing his adventures and the fact that he lives under a bridge, it will be natural to talk to your kids about the fact that not everyone is blessed with a home.

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THANKS FOR READING

Like I said, I’m a little intimidated by the scale of our project this month, but I know that serving those who don’t have much is something I need to do, despite any reservations I may have.  Do you have any strategies for serving those around you? If so, please share! Also, if you are interested, click here to start a club of your own.  Thank you so much for reading, and let’s go love people on purpose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make December a Month of Giving

Make December a Month of Giving

While discussing the classic movie, The Christmas Story, I was reminded of how much children focus on getting the perfect gift during the Christmas season (and well before). I’m serious when I say that my son has been reminding me about a specific dinosaur toy on his Christmas list since August. It’s easy for all of us to become consumed with consumerism during this time of year.

And, fortunately, as I mentioned in my last article, Four Ways to Serve with your Family this Thanksgiving, while the holidays certainly highlight our selfish side, they paradoxically bring out our our most unselfish side as well. We focus on getting what we want for Christmas, but we also have a heightened desire to serve. This year, in an effort to focus on the latter, I put together a few simple ideas on how to work as a family to serve and bless others. If you have other ideas, please share them!

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FOUR WAYS TO SERVE THIS December

1. Donate to a Toy Drive: One of my favorite parts of Christmas is picking out toys for my kids. Why stop there? There are toy drives in every city that allow you to pick out toys for children who would not have many otherwise. Check out Operation Santa Search to find one near you. If you don’t have extra shopping time, some of these drives also accept monetary donations.

2. Make stockings for the homeless: My friend Travis, the youth minister at our Church, came up with this fantastic idea: he and the youth group are collecting personal hygiene projects along with socks, gloves, etc. to stuff into stockings for the homeless. They will be bringing these to a local shelter, but having these in the car to pass out in December would also be helpful. I’m going to make a trip to the dollar store with my kids soon to collect items for this great effort.

3. Pack a box to send to the troops: I can only imagine how hard it is for soldiers to be away from their families this time of year. A box of nonperishable items might be just the encouragement they need. You can see my article on serving our soldiers for ideas on how to work with your family to encourage our troops, or check out AnySolder.com for instructions on how to send a box to a specific solider this holiday season.

4. Sing Carols at a Senior Center:  I will never forget watching my son hand out valentines to residents of an assisted-living community on Valentine’s day. Contact a local Senior Center, and ask if you can come by with your kids to sing a few carols. Check out A Valentine’s Day to Remember for some tips on doing something like this with your kids.

5. Practice Random Acts of Kindness: I have grand ambitions of doing a random act of kindness with my kids each day until Christmas. Brainy bloggers provide several helpful lists like 25 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness from Kid’s Activities Blog. Realistically, I probably won’t do all of these but doing even a few will be meaningful for all of us.

 BOOK

The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving by Jan and Mike Berenstain is a playful story about one Christmas Ever when Brother and Sister Bear learn about the joy of giving to others. Reading this book with your kids will be a great way to remind them about the importance of giving rather than getting at Christmas. 

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THANKS FOR READING

I admit it, I have already ordered the dinosaur that my son wants for Christmas. I’m thankful that I’m able to get him exactly what he wants (and thankful that it isn’t a BB gun). But this Christmas I’m also going to try to focus his attention (and mine) on giving rather than getting. I’m still trying to think of creative ways to serve this season, so if you have other ideas, please share! Also, if you are interested, click here to start a club of your own.  Thank you so much for reading, and let’s go love people on purpose.

Four Ways to Serve with your Family this Thanksgiving

Four Ways to Serve with your Family this Thanksgiving

Although my husband finds it cliche, I don’t consider Thanksgiving complete unless we go around the table sharing what we are grateful for. I love Thanksgiving. What a wonderful time to stuff our faces and share our hearts. Unfortunately, as we all know, not everyone has the pleasure of celebrating Thanksgiving with a full table.

The wonderful thing about gratitude, however, is that it naturally leads to a desire to give. When we focus on what we are thankful for, we feel inclined to give to others. I love the holidays: they bring out the philanthropic side in all of us. Despite the increased desire to give, we often find ourselves too busy or lacking ideas on how to do so. So, this Thanksgiving, I wanted to provide a few simple ideas on how to work as a family to serve and bless others. If you have other ideas, please share them!

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Four ways to serve this Thanksgiving

1. Donate to a Turkey Drive: when you head to the store to pick up a turkey, why not pick up a turkey for those who don’t have one? There are hundreds of local turkey drives, and a quick google search will help you find one near you. If you don’t have extra shopping time, most of these drives also accept monetary donations.

2. Donate (or organize) a local food collection effort: If you’d rather not donate a turkey, you can certainly donate other Thanksgiving food items. A group of moms in my area is getting together to organize a huge food donation week. They are reaching out to vendors, looking for families in need, and asking the community to help. I’m hoping to get our Family Service Club involved in assembling baskets. My church also asks members to sign up and bring food to donate to local families for Thanksgiving. If you don’t have something like this in your area, why not start one yourself?

3. Pack a Thanksgiving box to send to the troops: I can only imagine how hard it is for soldiers to be away from their families during Thanksgiving. A box of nonperishable items might be just the encouragement they need. You can see my article on serving our soldiers for ideas on how to work with your family to encourage our troops, or check out AnySolder.com for instructions on how to send a box to a specific solider this holiday season.

4. Write cards of Gratitude:  Even if your kids are too young to write, making cards of gratitude is a wonderful way to serve. You can help your kids decorate cards for their grandparents, friends, or other family members, or you can make Happy Thanksgiving cards and deliver them to your local senior center. This is so simple, but it can have a meaningful impact.

 Book

Thanksgiving is61zN7pBxH7L._AA160_ for Giving Thanks, by Margret Sutherland: Encouraging our kids to be grateful is a big deal. The more we can help them cultivate grateful hearts, the more empathetic and resilient they will be. Before I serve with my family this season, I want to focus on what we are thankful for. This book is a great way to start that discussion.

 

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Daniel Tiger, Episode 14: I really enjoyed watching this with my kids recently. It was awesome to hear my 4 year old singing, “Thank you, for everything you do” to me after I made dinner. After watching this, you may want to start a similar tradition at your home.

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Although my kids have their share of struggles, when I see them showing gratitude and love, it makes the tough times easier. This November, I hope to help them focus on both of those things. I’m still trying to think of creative ways to serve this season, so if you have other ideas, please share! Also, if you are interested, click here to start a club of your own.  You can also follow us on Instagram for ideas on sharing kindness. Thank you so much for reading, and let’s go love people on purpose.

The Happiest Halloween

The Happiest Halloween

A few weeks ago, my friend Amanda posted on Facebook asking friends to donate Halloween costumes for a good cause. I scrolled past the message, not thinking much about it. A few days later, as I had been ruminating on what to do for our October Service Project, I thought back to her post and decided to ask for more information. I’m so glad I did. Amanda works with a fantastic organization called Childhelp. Childhelp is dedicated to 24-hours-a-day treatment of abused, neglected, and at-risk children. The Childhelp Merv Griffin Village in California houses as many as 84 children, and they provide many services for them, including a chance to celebrate Halloween.

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Every year, a seamstress volunteers her time to turn used Halloween costumes into costumes the kids can use and enjoy for a Halloween event. Amanda’s post asked friends to donate used or new costumes as well as fabric to make costumes. I was inspired by the idea, and I decided the Family Service Club could help! We are in the process of collecting costumes from their wish-list, and, to me, this is far more exciting than trick-or-treating.

Want to do something like this in your area?

1. Find an Organization:  There are many places that could use some donated halloween costumes, the first step is to find one. I found this article that might give you some good ideas as you start looking.

2. Get the kids involved: Ask them to help you clean out your closets to look for used costumes. You can also go to goodwill or a Halloween store to buy things to donate. This is a great way to make Halloween about more than just collecting sugar.

3. Get your friends involved: Even if you don’t have much to donate, your friends might. I have found that people are really excited to get involved in this project, so post about it on social media, or just call friends and family and get more people excited about making someone else’s Halloween a good one.

4. Share your Story (Optional): If you get a chance to do this project, share your experience. You might inspire someone else to do the project as well.

A Helpful Book

We are donating our Halloween costumes for kids who have been abused. If my son was a little older, I would use this opportunity to talk to my son a little bit about abuse and how to prevent it. Since this is such a sensitive (and scary) topic. I might use a book like this to help us work through it.

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It’s MY Body: A Book to Teach Young Children How to Resist Uncomfortable Touch (Children’s safety series & abuse prevention) by Lory Freeman: in this book “children learn safe boundaries, how to distinguish between “good” and “bad” touches, and how to respond appropriately to unwanted touches.” It looks like a powerful tool to help parents discuss this topic with their children. 

Video

This video is a good reminder for all of us about the importance of reporting child abuse. It is probably more appropriate for adults and older children.

It is really hard for me to think about the things that some children are dealing with on a daily basis. I also have a hard time knowing how to help with young kids of my own at home. I can’t wait to send a big package of costumes to Childhelp in a few weeks, and I hope this will be the beginning of many more projects like this in the future. Do you know of any helpful organizations serving kids in need? Do you have strategies that help your kids to be empathetic towards other kids who are struggling? If so, please let us know. Also, if you are interested, click here to start a club of your own.  You can also follow us on Instagram for ideas on sharing kindness. Thank you so much for reading, and let’s go love people on purpose.

 

Creating Ripples

Creating Ripples

Hello! I’m really excited to introduce you to one of my favorite people that I’ve never met: Megan Seese Livingston. I respect her for her benevolence towards others, and I’m thrilled that she has started the first East Coast Chapter of the Family Service Club in Pennsylvania. I asked her to share her story with us, and I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Megan’s Story

Isn’t it great how life has a way of connecting people at the right time even from opposite sides of the country?  That’s exactly what happened a few months ago when I got a message from my Gamma Sigma Sigma sister, Liz Bidula Peak, asking me to check out a new group she was a part of called the Family Service Club.  Little did Liz know I had been looking for a way to take my volunteering in a new, family oriented direction…one message from the west coast to the east coast between college friends, who haven’t seen each other in years, and a volunteer spark was made.

So let me step back a minute and tell you a bit about myself, my name is Megan Seese Livingston and you could say I’m a bit passionate about volunteering. If I could be a full time volunteer, I totally would! For me, it’s just been a way of life; I was raised in a family where service and giving weren’t things you were told to do, they were things you wanted to do, it has always been part of the fabric of who I am. Ten years ago, I started a local prom dress project here in my hometown of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. My mom, having been a high school teacher, noted the amount of girls in our community who could likely not afford to attend the prom. After watching an episode of Oprah about prom dress projects, and knowing that my sister and I had our fair share of once worn dresses, we decided to give it a try. Now ten years later, the Johnstown Cinderella Project has helped over 900 girls across five counties in 27 different school districts attend their prom, free of cost and we have over 1,000 donated, new and/or gently used dresses to choose from. But this project is about more than just a dress, it’s about building self-esteem and reaching teens who need to know that someone cares. Many girls come to our project without a parent so having our volunteers spend time to make them feel special is often a rare experience. It’s so much more than sequins and sparkles, there’s just something about that moment when a girl looks in the mirror, her eyes light up and you know that she believes in herself. It’s proof that one thing truly can make a difference.

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Over the past several years, I’ve become committed to improving my hometown. We’re a former steel town trying to shake the rust off and bring the positives of our region to light. I am a co-founder of our local young professionals group and a member of a variety of committees, boards and community initiatives. My work through these groups has given me the opportunity to connect with many of our area’s needs. Often people have come to me and asked about volunteer opportunities that their family can take part in. Last year, I created a list during the holidays of ten things families could do to give back locally. It was not long after that when Liz reached out, at the time I was also pregnant with our second daughter and contemplating how we would teach our girls about giving. You could say it was chance or the stars aligning but for me it was all happening for a reason, one I may not fully know the depth of right now but when all signs say go and are pointing in the same direction, I’ve learned to pick up my bags and follow. So I took the leap forward and connected with Kellie to launch the Johnstown chapter of the Family Service Club. The response in our first few months has been great, I love seeing even the smallest connections of love and service to others we have helped to spark but I also know there is much more awesomeness to come. Mother Theresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples,” we’ve cast the stone here in Johnstown and I’m looking forward to seeing the many ripples!

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As you can see, Megan is a leader who cares for others. I am thrilled that she started an FSC chapter, and her group is off to a wonderful start. If this post inspires you to start a Family Service Club of your own, please get in touch, and I can help you get started. Thanks for reading, and let’s go love people on purpose. Sincerely, Kellie