You enjoy family picnics, family outings, even family vacations. But have you ever considered family volunteering?

For some people, the concept isn’t new, but for others, family volunteering is a unique approach to community service.

“We look for ways that families can work together to help the community,” says Julie Thomas, executive director of the Volunteer Center of Dallas.

“Whether they are delivering meals to the elderly or collecting golf balls at a benefit tournament, families can make a difference.”

Kris Herron, volunteer coordinator at REACH of Dallas, encourages families to participate with her clients. REACH provides support, education and resources to individuals with disabilities.

“Families can ‘adopt’ one of our clients and help them in many ways,” Herron says. “The volunteers might help with yard work, grocery shopping or other tasks clients can’t do by themselves. Younger children can be involved by reading aloud, visiting or sharing a snack with the clients.”

Herron says some of her volunteers worry about bringing their children, especially younger ones, when they visit clients.

“Many of the clients miss that togetherness because they do not have families who are close by,” Herron says. “One of the major benefits of family volunteering is that it helps our clients feel like part of a family.”

Another advantage, she says, is that an alternate volunteer is usually available at short notice. If the father can’t mow the lawn, then perhaps his teenagers can get the job done.

REACH of Dallas is not the only non-profit agency that recruits family volunteers. Nursing homes, mentor programs, animal shelters and other organizations welcome families.

Families also can help with special events that don’t require an ongoing commitment, and volunteering can be an enjoyable way to spend a weekend afternoon.

For more information about family volunteering, call the Volunteer Center of Dallas at 826-6767.

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