What a difference a day makes! That's what parents and kids across the country learned last November when they took part in Family Volunteer Day, the annual event organized by the nonprofit Points of Light Foundation. In communities across the country, families pitched in on a host of worthy projects, from giving care baskets to neighbors in need to organizing a holiday toy drive. With the help of Points of Light's youth service division, GenerationOn, we've chosen six uplifting stories from last fall's special day to share with you. To find out how you can take part this November, visit GenerationOn.org/FVD.
1. Serving Those Who Served, Laramie, WY
At its inaugural "VetsGiving," American Legion Post 14 served up a free early Thanksgiving dinner to more than 100 veterans and their families. "The highlight for us was the chance to connect with veterans and hear their stories," says volunteer Kristina Faimon. After she and her son Harper, age 6, mashed potatoes and worked at the turkey table, they sat down to eat with vets of all ages, including a 93-year-old who served in World War II. It was truly a day to be thankful, says Harper, "because these are the people who fought for our country."
2. The Gift of Technology, Manvel, TX
Eric Li, age 14, refurbished computers and other electronic equipment to give to the children at Girls and Boys Harbor, a nearby orphanage. With his sister Sharon, 18, Eric delivered five boxes of computers, screens, mice, keyboards, and other electronics, as well as five bags of donated clothes. "The staff was extremely grateful," he says. "It made me feel good to make other people feel good." Eric undertook the project as part of his family's charity, We Care Act, which he cofounded with Sharon and their older sister, Grace, when he was 7 years old.
3. Basket Brigade, Roanoke, VA
Family Service of Roanoke Valley gathered 40 volunteers to make care baskets for residents in two low-income communities. The participants filled 50 baskets with hand-decorated Thanksgiving mugs and plates, fleece blankets, hand-warmers, fresh fruit, and nonperishable food. Then they went out in small groups to knock on doors and drop them off. Seeing the immediate impact was the best part of the experience, says Ruth Cassell, who volunteered for the first time with her son Nasir, age 7. "The recipients were so happy and thankful. It was wonderful that Nasir got to see how much our efforts meant to them."
4. Warm-up Session, Ames, IA
At the Volunteer Center of Story County, more than 35 do-gooders made no-sew blankets, scarves, and hats for needy people in their community. The volunteers included toddlers, grandparents, and a group of international high school students and their host families, says Anne Owens, the center's executive director. The group bonded as they worked together on the project. "There was lots of great conversation, and everyone had fun," Owens says. The results were impressive: in three hours, the volunteers made 20 blankets, 36 scarves, and 40 hats.
5. Pet Project, Pittsburgh, PA
As part of his ongoing work for his charity, Presents for Pets, 7-year-old Grayson Byass-Rascoe raised money to buy holiday "gifts" for the cats and dogs at the Animal Rescue League. Accompanied by his mom, Jennifer, and his dad, James, this shelter-pet Santa delivered toys, beds, treats, and food, and even got to play with a beagle mix along the way (he gave her a stuffed monkey). "The animals are like friends to me," says Grayson. "It makes me feel good to say, 'Here, have a toy' to a dog or cat who really, really needs help."
6. Toy Story, Lincoln, NE
Last fall, My'Kah Knowlin, age 14, collected holiday toys and donated them to a local school that serves low-income families. She passed out flyers in neighborhoods across her town asking for donations; she ended up with 2,000 toys, from dolls to remote-controlled cars to cans of Play-Doh. On Family Volunteer Day, 40 friends and family members wrapped the presents at two gatherings. "In a matter of three hours, we wrapped all 2,000 gifts," says My'Kah. Then she organized a party at the school (with the help of adults who worked there), where families could pick out gifts for their kids. One family told My'Kah that, without her efforts, they wouldn't have been able to put presents under the tree.