By: NobleHour Special Contributor Dolly Duplantier
They’re BACK! Our college students are home for winter break and they’ve brought a lot of luggage with them! Enjoy that first great big smile of recognition at the airport, followed by a wonderful hug and kiss because they’ve come home with their bags stuffed with at least two loads of dirty laundry! They're also returning home with a few intangibles: that new-found sense of independence, an “air” of maturity peppered with attitude, and their own newly designated curfew time!
The first 24 hours are the best for me, but do they really need four to five weeks off for the holidays? I mean, even my husband only gets the week off between Christmas and New Year’s and I think that’s very generous. High school and elementary school students go back to school right after New Year's Day. So, what are your options to stay sane with one or more college students acting like guests in their own home till mid-January? Get them up and out of the house before noon to share some of that youthful energy helping others!
Spread Some Holiday Cheer
Many organizations are looking for extra help during the holidays. Whether it’s collecting food for pantries or serving holiday meals to the homeless, have your college or high school student take a break from Snapchat, texting, shopping, or playing video games to spread some holiday cheer.
Start with your own city’s website. In Chicago, the city’s service initiative is called One Good Deed Chicago. The program lists opportunities to volunteer and support the diverse non-profits in the city. Does your college student need a good workout? Sign them up to help shovel snow for the elderly for a little wholesome exercise! New York City’s service website has hundreds of listings including tutoring, serving meals at shelters, and teaching seniors about the Internet.
In addition to city and state government websites, you can also check out your local chapters of the United Way, YMCA, or the Salvation Army where you can create your own virtual red kettle fundraiser. The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division provides mobile alerts to let you know about opportunities to help in your area. The Salvation Army in Williamsburg, Virginia, needs bell ringers through December 24. Volunteers can sing carols, play an instrument, and of course ring a bell! While Buddy the Elf says - “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!” - We think volunteering is the best way to spread happiness!
Another way to get your student excited about service is to check out the volunteer events listed on the NobleHour website, as well as meaningful opportunities with our NobleCause grantees. In March of 2016, more than 100 grants were awarded to educational institutions and nonprofit organizations across the country to nurture acts of good and inspire greater civic-mindedness and volunteerism. Many of our NobleCause grantees work to end hunger, provide shelter, tutor students and adults, or assist people with basic human rights. Some provide disaster relief. Others help protect the environment. All have one thing in common - they are working to make our communities better.
Create Something Special
If your son or daughter just wants to nest and watch every classic holiday movie during their college break, then get those idle hands working to create something warm for people in need. Even someone with all thumbs can make a no-sew fleece blanket! Blankets can be donated to local homeless shelters or you can contact your local chapter of Project Linus, a non-profit organization that provides homemade blankets to children in need. Their website provides a variety of patterns, including patterns for quilts and afghans. Spend some quality time together knitting caps for cancer patients. Knots of Love donates caps to men and women who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy treatment, burn accidents, and brain surgery, as well as head trauma patients and individuals with alopecia.
The Gift of Time
At the point where you can’t take your college student acting like a guest in his own home any longer, it’s time to call in the big guns – grandma and grandpa! A little quality time with them will make everyone happier! Boost their ego by asking them to help their grandparents with a few technology lessons. Encourage your kids to use their online skills to help seniors get connected. Spend some time with gramps setting up a Twitter account, or show grandma how to use Facetime and Facebook on her cell phone and laptop! Call your local nursing home to see if you can help residents there too. The time spent together is a priceless gift.
If your student is always on the go and the thought of being home for four to five weeks will drive you both crazy, then consider a service trip to round out the winter break. All Hands Volunteers has a number of opportunities available throughout the U.S. and the world.
Visit the All Hands Volunteers website to complete an application, as well as determine available dates, expenses, etc. The organization provides three simple meals, basic accommodations, and basic logistics to ensure a positive and productive experience. Volunteers must cover their own travel expenses and meals on days off. The organization has a strict minimum age policy and cannot accept volunteers under the age of 16. All 16 and 17 year olds must be accompanied by a responsible adult.
There is no minimum or maximum time commitment, and the organization does not charge a participation fee. Volunteers can come for a day or a couple of months. The organization wants to make it as easy as possible for people to volunteer and make a difference.
Back to Class
So, before you know it, your son or daughter will return back to school with a duffel bag filled with clean laundry. While you’ll be happy to get back to your quiet routine, you might just find that you're also counting the days until Spring Break! Don’t worry, we’ll come up with a few ideas to help you then too!
Ready to start the holidays on a bright note? Find meaningful opportunities near you with your free NobleHour account!
The NobleCause grants, organized by Get.NobleHour.com, were made possible by an anonymous donor within the GiveWell Community Foundation, which serves Polk County, FL. The NobleCause grant competition, launched in 2015, invited high schools, school districts, colleges and universities, and nonprofits to identify and address a local challenge and to recruit and enrich the social responsibility of volunteers. 100 organizations were awarded $6,500 grants, while seven exemplary organizations were recognized at the $50,000 level. Get.NobleHour.com is dedicated to using NobleCause to increase volunteerism that raises awareness at the local level and develops community members who can take action.
Since 2007, NobleHour has proven to be the volunteer management solution for organizations across the nation. With its robust online platform, NobleHour enhances community engagement with a variety of innovative and transformative tools for finding, tracking, and measuring volunteer, service‐learning, and community service initiatives. With offices in Lakeland, FL, and Portland, OR, the NobleHour team is dedicated to empowering good in communities across the country.
Dolly Duplantier is a freelance writer, editor, and social media specialist. She is the mother of three children, a college graduate, a college student, and one in high school. Writing about people and organizations making a difference is one of the best aspects of her job!