Inside: Spread kindness as a family through this Family Volunteer Challenge for October by gathering warm winter coats and donating them to kids who need them.
My kids grow like weeds. So keeping them in clothes that fit them is always a tricky, expensive endeavor.
But we are lucky that so many friends have given us hand-me-downs and our neighborhood has resales and good thrift stores. It’s a great way to reduce our footprint and save money.
And I like to continue the cycle so we often donate clothes when we’ve outgrown them or give them to other friends or family.
But there are several kids’ clothing items that are either harder to come by are always cost more money: winter coats.
You can’t skimp on winter coats… because very often you get what you pay for. And the thin, cheaper jackets simply won’t keep kids warm when they’re outside at recess or playing after school.
So whenever we outgrow winter coats, we always make sure to pass them down.
And one season, when one of my favorite thrift stores was closing and having a 95% off sale, I cleared out every winter coat I could carry and spent a whopping $7 on 10 winter coats to donate.
It felt incredible putting them all in the winter coat drive box at my local grocery store.
So every year, we now make sure to add to a winter coat drive in our neighborhood with our kids…and with the weather turning cold, now is the perfect time to donate old coats, which makes it the perfect volunteer activity for October.
Why it’s Important to Volunteer with our Kids:
We are raising kind kids. We expect it, we praise it, and we model it.
Related: How to Raise Kinder Kids
And we tend to focus on the quiet, normal, everyday moments of kindness.
Holding the door for the person behind you.
Picking up something someone dropped.
Offering your seat to someone who needs it.
But there’s also bigger, grander, more time-consuming acts of kindness that falls more into the volunteering category of kindness:
Times when we donate to our local food bank.
Or collect all our old jackets and take them to a shelter that needs them.
Or when we take a taco to someone who’s really hungry.
Our kindness may not change the world. But it can change the world for the people we help.
And it instills in my children the fact that volunteering and acts of service are a normal part of lives.
Helping others doesn’t need to be a once a year activity during December when we donate a toy or two.
People are hungry year round.
Animal shelters are full year round.
Kids are sick year round.
And we can help. Because we are helpers. We are raising our kids to be helpers.
As an added bonus (as if we needed one more reason) volunteering as a family is an incredible way to connect as a family and build a strong family identity.
So teaching our kids to give to others who are less fortunate than ourselves is a true gift.
And volunteering is one of the easiest ways to help kids practice being compassionate. Compassion is feeling others’ pain or hardship or suffering and then being prompted to take action to relieve that suffering.
Many families want to donate and volunteer but it feels too hard.
And they don’t know where to volunteer or how easy it really is to make a significant difference.
So we’re here to make it easier for you with the Family Volunteer Challenge for October.
How the Family Volunteer Challenge Works:
Every month, we’ll post a family-friendly service activity you and your kids can do together.
It’s 12 months, 1 activity each month, 10-30 minutes each month.
And it’ll be super easy.
We’ll give you a suggestion.
You can run with it, tweak it, make it your own, or scrap it and do something totally different.
Your only tasks are to commit to doing this as a family, talk about what you’re doing and why with your kids so it has a lasting impact, and then protect the time on your calendar so it doesn’t get pushed back.
And it also has to come with this crucial caveat…you can only do this Family Volunteer Challenge if you do it with no guilt.
- No guilt that you didn’t start it sooner. You’re starting now and that’s incredible.
- No guilt if one month, life got in the way and you skipped it. You can do it next month, no worries.
- No guilt if you think your kids are selfish and self-centered and are ungrateful. They probably are but that’s not their fault or yours. It’s how their brain is wired and we can turn giving to others and being generous into a learned habit.
Okay, now that we’re guilt-free, let’s start spreading some kindness.
12 Months of Volunteering as a Family:
Before we jump into October’s volunteering activity, you can check out our past month’s volunteer activities in case you missed it and want to do more.
Now for October’s Volunteer Challenge:
For October, we’re getting people warm.
I grew up in southern California where the falls feel like summer and the winters are mild. Sure, it gets cold, but it never gets cold, cold.
Now that I have lived in New England and the midwest, I know cold.
There is no way you could survive a winter here without a proper, warm coat.
And as fast as kids grow, keeping our kids in the best quality coats each year gets expensive. And not every family can meet that need. So as if we have extra jackets that we’ve outgrown or can’t wear anymore, we can help families in our community who need it.
Do the Family Volunteer Challenge for October now:
There are tons of ways to help families in need. We love to donate school supplies during back to school, donate to our local food bank, and even volunteer at our local food bank to make meals more accessible to food-insecure families.
But the fall months, when the weather turns colder, is the perfect time to help our kids gather their old warm coats and donate them to local organizations.
1. Go through your house find, and then try on last year’s winter coats and fall jackets.
2. If the winter jackets no longer fit, or you have duplicate jackets and don’t need them all, put them in a donation pile.
3. Wash the coats so they’re clean and check the pockets so treasures don’t get accidentally donated.
4. Optional: Purchase new mittens and put them in the coat pockets. You can get them at dollar stores or here.
5. Figure out where to donate the coats and encourage your kids to be part of dropping them off in the bins.
You can search for donation locations in your area at One Warm Coat or Google “coat drive near me.” Burlington Coat Stores often have coat drive drop-offs.
Helping other kids stay warm is a great way to spread kindness.
Talk about it:
One of the most powerful parts of volunteering or donating something is talking to our kids about it so they understand the impact and the why. When they understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, they’re more likely to do it again.
Which will make volunteering more of an ingrained habit.
If you need help explaining it to younger kids, here’s how we do it: It’s super cold outside and it’s only going to get colder. Warm jackets are expensive and some families can’t afford new jackets to stay warm like we can. So we can take the warm jackets we have that no longer fit us and give them to kids who need them. And to help their fingers stay warm, we can put mittens in the coats as a nice surprise.
You can also read books to help kids learn about poverty and the power of donating what we have to others:
Have a conversation with your kiddos after they donate the winter jackets about how easy it was to take the time to donate something we no longer need but can be a big help to others. We can remind them to appreciate what we do have and help them see that it’s important to help others.
And you can ask them these questions:
How would you feel if you were cold during winter because you didn’t have a warm winter coat?
Do you think it’s fair that some kids don’t have warm winter coats but we have several?
Was it easy to find coats that no longer fit us? Was it easy to drop them off?
Why do you think it’s important to give winter coats to other kids who don’t have them?
How does it feel to take the time to think about other people who can’t buy a new winter coat and then do something about it?
Celebrate and Spread the Word:
Be proud of your volunteering and let your kids know you’re proud of them. Celebrate the time your family spent donating winter coats and mittens.
And share the Family Volunteer Challenge for October with other families. Kindness is contagious. Challenge other families to join you by asking them to also take a minute and help kids get warm.