I have had a hard time volunteering.  Not because I don’t want to but because I have been turned down a number of times when I have offered to volunteer.

Mainly because I have to come with children.

Yet, I can’t tell you the number of newspaper articles I have read about the shortage of volunteers.  About how charities are folding because it is too hard to find workers of the free kind.

Yet it seems that children age 5 and 7 are seen as a hindrance.   Often times I find this an excuse.  We like to rush around and go.  Children force you to slow down.

We tried to volunteer at the Soup Kitchen night hosted by our church.  They needed someone to greet people as they came in, to help set the tables and to direct the flow of traffic.  I thought that was a perfect job for the children and I.  My children are naturally on the bossy side, friendly and set the table for dinner very often.  We use a full place setting with placemats, napkins and all the cutlery.

But I was told, no please don’t come.  They thought I was nuts to want to take my children down to the Soup Kitchen.

Then we tried to help out at the local school with their Junior Kindergarten.  They wanted someone to help at lunch hour.  They were short staffed and the teacher wanted a lunch break.  I offered to come with the children some of the days of the week they wanted filled.  They asked for 1 mother per day of the week.  I offered to come for 2 of the days with the children.

I was turned down for that, it seems it would have been too confusing for the JK students to see two older kids not in school.  Okay, I could accept that answer.  I didn’t think it would be too hard, but I could follow their logic on that reason.  However I was told the real reason was because they didn’t think older children should be playing with JK students.  After all they had a separate play ground in the first place.  I discovered that because the teacher who was present at the meeting where they discussed my offer happened to be our Pastor’s wife.

So I was thrilled when we moved to town.  I thought I would be able to find somewhere to teach our children the joy of volunteer work not in the church.

I was even more astonished when the first time I asked if we could volunteer we were welcomed and with open arms.

Yesterday was our second time out to help.  I personally find this the perfect volunteer job for our family.  It occurs once every month.  It has us work with people from every walk of life.  It is physical labour and there are many ways that my children can participate.

Guelph has several wards.  In each ward they have set up Neighbourhood community groups.  We’ve already enjoyed our group immensely.  One of the things they offer is a Garden Fresh Box once a month.  This is co-ordinated by the Public Health Department through the Neighbourhood groups.   The boxes go out once a month.

We volunteer to help pack those boxes.  Last month it was over 400 boxes.  This past month was more reasonable at just under 300 boxes.

We arrive early in the morning.  Michael, a Jamaican born Canadian, is there to greet us.  We unload trucks of produce as they arrive.  My kids love Michael and he does a great job giving them responsibilities.  Yesterday both of them were allowed their own hand cart and allowed to cart off produce all by themselves.

Once all the food is there we weigh or redistribute the packaging if needed.

Then we form a huge assembly line and shunt down the boxes and fill them up with all sorts of goodies.  Yesterday I got 5 lbs of potatoes, 6 Granny Smith Apples, 2 head of Cauliflower, 7 zucchini, 3 field cucumbers,  1 lb of snow peas, 1 lb of green beans, 1 package of grape tomatoes, pears, oranges, 2 orange peppers, 2 head of Romaine lettuce and more.

There is lots of vegetarian type food available for eating.

Then there is the cleaning up to do after ourselves.

In all its a good 6 hours of work.  Once we’ve loaded up the trucks the children are visibly tired but keep working hard.

It is hard.  There are challenges.  When I say all walks of life, I really do mean all sorts of people.  My daughter had a hard time because one older girl, age 25, likes to give me hugs.  This other girl lives in assisted living and comes with her Care-giver.  My daughter had a really hard time seeing an “adult” act like that but came to the realization that she was able to share my hugs with this other girl because that is what the other girl needed.

There are cranky old people.  My son’s words not mine!  And he told me, “Mom, I know how to make them smile.  I make it my goal to make the smile, and if they laugh I win!”

The best part is that when we’re in public, my kids are a thrill to watch.  I am honoured that I get to be their mother!  😀

Anyhow, I am very proud of my children.  I have looked forward to these moments while dealing with the terrible twos, and am glad they are here 😀

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3 Responses to Volunteering

  1. When my oldest was four or five, she used to help me distribute those boxes at a local church–helping check off those who came to pick them up. In those days before cell phones, it was sometimes a test of patience waiting for the truck (it was often late), but we enjoyed co-ordinating the pickup anyway (and getting a box of produce ourselves). I think your Jamaican friend might have been the truck driver then (ten years ago)–if he was driving in from a town near Lake Huron.

  2. Elaine says:

    That is great that you and your children have found a great place to volunteer. I too wanted to teach my children the blessing of volunteering and to learn about service and humility. We found it, like you did, in our church food bank. In the beginning we would go once a month on Tuesdays to help out. But there were issues – it involved my kids but not that they did wrong but that they were being taken advantage of by clients.

    Now we go each Friday to help unload the van full of food that is brought in to be distributed on Tuesdays. They get the same lessons but aren’t being taken advantage of.

    I’m so glad that you are able to do this, and the benefit of getting fresh produce is very nice. 🙂 May you find more blessings as you are a blessing through this work.

  3. songbirdy says:

    Thanks ladies!

    Would it be neat if it was the same man Mama Squirrel? I love links like that!

    I honestly don’t know him well enough to ask, but he has enough gray hair in his dreads that I don’t rule out the possibility.

    It was so neat this week because one of the “girls” was teasing my daughter about her poor speech. Michael than spoke a bit of ‘patois’ for my daughter and that really cheered her up.

    I am happy to read of other people having volunteered with their children. After all the rejection I was starting to feel that I must be silly to expect to volunteer with children!

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