Giving Back as a Family
January 08, 2013
Posted By: Bozemama
The holidays are over and some, like Bozeman mom Dusti Borsheim, would say that this is the very best time of the year to donate time to a charity.
Sophie Davis with adoptable cat Teddy at the Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter
“I think of family volunteering as not something we just do, but as part of who we are and how we live,” said Borsheim, who volunteers with her husband and three children at various organizations in the area all year-round.
This is one mom who is committed to giving back to her community, her schools, her church and to teaching her children the importance of sharing their spirit with others. Her advice: “Find a place that you believe in and give ‘heartily’ throughout the year – it will make a lasting impact on your life.”
Holiday giving is great, but for families who are interested in doing even more and yet may be overwhelmed by the vast majority of nonprofits in Bozeman, Helena and Livingston or are uncertain about how to work kids into the volunteer equation, we offer this list of local organizations that could use your help. Just remember to discuss as a family the causes or issues that are important to you and make sure that your children are old enough to be able to participate effectively.
Bozeman Senior Center
There are many different ways to help out at the senior center. First, they are always in need of help with table setting and clearing for the mid-day meal. Volunteers are invited to show up around 10:30, stay through lunch and are done by about 12:45. They also need kitchen help; computer help (a good fit for those savvy teenagers); and – of course – entertainment. If you’re a musical family, why not stop by and give the seniors a show? They would surely love it.
Family Promise works with homeless families by giving them accommodations in faith houses, 3 meals a day, intensive case management, transportation assistance and social support to help them move toward lasting independence.
There are many different ways your family can help Family Promise. If you are interested in working directly with the families, you and your children can undergo the two hours of training required. There is no age limit and Family Promise encourages families to volunteer together. “Kids make our best volunteers,” says Volunteer Director Bridget Pitman, “because they don’t have stereotypes about what a homeless person might be. They often they come home and say, “When can we go back and play with the homeless children again?” If that sounds like too much of a time commitment, then you can always just “adopt” a family by fulfilling their wish list or donate much-needed supplies to the various facilities.
Heart of the Valley
The Junior Volunteer program at the Heart of the Valley is an ideal place for children between the ages of six and 15 to volunteer with a parent or guardian as Cat Cuddlers, giving adoptable cats the love and socialization they need and deserve. HOV also offers the PAW programs for kids 16 and older who are interested in working directly with the adoptable animals. Both programs require a minimum commitment of four-and-a-half hours per month for six months.
Established in 1993, this organization is all about providing companionship to a senior who is isolated and giving them an opportunity to socialize. While volunteers need to be 18 and older to sign up, adults can definitely bring their kids along for a visit or the whole family can invite their friend over for dinner. Not surprisingly, there are some seniors who enjoy the company of children and others who are less enthusiastic, so just make sure you communicate your family’s goals with the Befrienders staff.
HRDC (The Human Resource Development Council)
With more than 15 programs, including the Warming Center, Head Start, Gallatin Valley Food Bank, Streamline Transit, the HRDC is always looking for volunteers and donations. Their website makes it easy to apply for specific volunteer work and the Wishlist page details the specific needs of each program in an easy-to-read format.
Junior Volunteers at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital work together to re-stock newborn diapers
Hearts and Homes
The mission of Hearts and Homes is to provide support services, like supervised visitation and custody exchange in a neutral location to families who currently have children in foster, kinship, or dual custody care. They also offer respite care to children with parents in crisis, parent education and “Burst-a-backpack,” which is a great way for families to contribute by filling backpacks with toiletries and a variety of other items to displaced children.
Bozeman Deaconess Hospital
Bozeman Deaconess Hospital offers a Junior Volunteer program for high school-aged kids to spend two hours a week after school in one of 13 different departments, such as maternal newborn, delivering flowers, the pharmacy, whatever area interests them most. The program – which requires kids track their hours, keep a journal, and work with their peers along with health professionals – currently has about 50 or 60 kids. “It’s really grown a lot,” says BDH volunteer coordinator Monica Fella, “We are really proud of it.” Those junior volunteers who donate more than 100 hours toward the hospital are also eligible for the scholarship program, which they can put toward their higher education.
Splashes of Joy
This Montana-based nonprofit provides gifts and services to ill or homebound people. Families can contribute by creating homemade cards, cooking and delivering meals or even dog walking.
With a similar mission as the Bozeman location, the Helena location opened in May of 2011 and is working hard to meet their goal of helping homeless families. Give them a call and see how your family can best contribute to Helena’s homeless population.
United Way of the Lewis and Clark area
With a focus on health, education and income programs, UWLCA co-chairs the Helena Action Coalition on Homelessness (or HATCH) and also hosts the website, volunteerhelena.org, which is an extremely helpful and easy-to-use tool for finding volunteer opportunities throughout the greater Helena area.
Stafford Animal Shelter
After going through orientation to learn things like safe handling practices and body language, volunteers of all ages can help socialize the animals by playing, teaching tricks and brushing. Kids under 14 must always be accompanied by a parent, but even toddlers can help by playing with the kittens to help them build their muscles. The role of the child is to reinforce positive behavior and show the animals that the presence of children is a good thing, ultimately making them more adoptable. Another way to help the shelter is by having a benefit birthday party. Kids can make a wish list of needs for the shelter instead of presents for themselves. The party is then held at the shelter where the kids can give the animals their presents and enjoy seeing their contribution in action.
Park County Senior Center
Volunteers of all ages are encouraged to come in anytime. Families can play games and plan activities for the seniors or just come in for a visit. Performances by kids are especially loved. The Senior Center also has "The Mainstreeter" thrift store that benefits the center. Families can work on projects in the store and bring in donations of clothes, toys and household items.
Additional reporting by Amanda Harms