I'm going to interrupt our regular programming with a little public service announcement today.
Are ya ready? :)
This summer Kaydin and I have been spending our Monday nights at the Hawthorn Hill New Directions Shelter. It's a shelter in Des Moines servicing women and children. We became involved by chance really.
Last fall, Kaydin and I watched The Pursuit of Happiness and Kaydin was really touched. She was confused and sad that a child would not have a home, a place to sleep at night. Since then I had been making calls and looking into websites in and around Des Moines to try to find a place for us to get more involved and give back. Nothing seemed to be working out, and I couldn't connect and get feedback from people. Sometimes we hit a road block not being able to find the right place or activity that would also allow Kaydin, too.
It all fell into place though one day when I saw a posting on Facebook from someone I went to the same college as. She posted about a charity event being held to benefit Hawthorn Hill. I'd heard of this organization before but didn't know much about it. I immediately clicked over and started learning more and came across a volunteer orientation being held in the near future that encouraged kids to attend, too
We attended that orientation session in April and have been fairly active with the organization ever since.
On Monday nights Kaydin and I spend an hour or two at the shelter playing with the kids. We have done a variety of activities including coloring, talking in general about health, fruits and vegetables, having taste tests of fruits and vegetables, and playing outside.
Kaydin and I both have a great time every week we are there, but last night was really great! The weather was gorgeous and perfect for playing outside so I knew that's what we would be doing. We stepped outside to head to the play area and the youngest girl slipped her hand in mine to lead me around the house. I knew then it would be a great night.
The boys were happy to play basketball most of the time and the girls stayed close to the playground and swing set. After some time swinging in the evening breeze, the girls moved on to playing tea party, restaurant and cooking me up lots of pretend foods. I loved seeing their imagination run wild. I see this in Kaydin every day and she was right there helping to set the plot and building on the other girls' ideas.
Later the boys joined in and we played a few games of tag, freeze tag, and hide and seek. The smallest little girl again took my hand and stayed close always wanting me by her side. It stole my heart and made me realize how just the littlest thing can really make a difference. Showing them some full-on attention and joining in on the fun really made their night. They were so shocked and amused when I climbed up fire pole at the playground and slid right on down just like they were (that was only a one-time occurrence though, lol). It took many tries to get everyone rounded up and back in the house once it was finally time for Kaydin and I to head home for the night. If our stomachs weren't starting to grumble I would have happily stayed even longer.
It didn't take much of my time, I got to enjoy a gorgeous summer night outside, spend time with my daughter and at the same time teach her some important values, and most importantly give back and spend some time with great kids that need some more happy in their lives and just play as kids without a care in the world.
I highly encourage everyone to reach out and find a way to be involved in your community with those less fortunate or organizations that are doing good for others. I bet there are many out there that are in need of more volunteers. And there are lots of ways to be involved at a greater, more meaningful way rather than just giving money.
5 Ways to Give Back to Your Community other than Monetarily
- Take your donations to a homeless shelter. Since becoming involved with Hawthorn Hill, I take my boxes of items that usually ended up at Goodwill to the shelter instead. These items directly benefit people with a real need for clothes, shoes, household items, etc., for free!
- Give your time. There are so many tasks that shelters could use help with- cleaning, yard work, organizing. There is always so much to be done.
- Spend time playing with children in the shelters. Kids need time to play and just be kids. Parents also need some time for a breather, too.
- Provide a meal. Shelters are always in need of food to provide their residents. It can be as easy as bringing in a bag groceries or providing a full meal to the house.
- Be informed. Sometimes all it takes is being informed and knowing what's going on the community and who needs help. From there you can move on to more beneficial and meaningful ways to help out. Hawthorn Hill is located just a half block down from the campus where I work. It was 2 1/2 years later before I even knew it was there!
If you have any interest in getting involved with Hawthorn Hill, let me know and I can connect you with their staff or reach out through their website. Tim is involved heavily with Children and Families of Iowa. They are another great organization in our area that is always looking for volunteers for a variety of different needs.