Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - December 24, 2010

You're never too young to volunteer ***USE WITH MUG OF KATIE and two photos in Dated Folders***

Kids find that helping others is its own reward

by Katie Lyness

During the holiday season, many kids start telling their parents what gifts they want. But others look beyond their own interests to do something charitable, knowing that not everyone in the world is as fortunate as they are, and it's not that hard for a kid to volunteer to do something worthwhile.

Everywhere people turn they are encouraged to donate or volunteer, such as at the cash registers at Safeway where clerks ask for a donation to support various causes. Also, schools inspire kids to help out.

In Deborah Evans' Teens and Families class at Pleasanton Middle School, the students decided that they would collect non-perishable food to donate to Open Heart Kitchen in time for the holidays. Evans encouraged her students to buy canned foods the next time they went to the grocery store and to bring them into class. Not only would these donations help the Open Heart Kitchen, but the students would feel good about their generous actions.

In addition, at Pleasanton Middle School a few of the afterschool clubs promote volunteering. California Junior Scholarship Federation put on a holiday luncheon for Pleasanton seniors this week. A lot of hard work went into planning the luncheon, but all the students have fun in the process and know that the seniors appreciate their efforts.

Another after-school club, known as U Club 40, has its members volunteer with the residents at Parkview Assisted Living Center every few months by visiting them. They usually talk to them, watch a movie, or entertain them in some other way.

Schools also promote being charitable through undertakings such as Service Learning projects where students learn about a specific issue and try to improve it by donating, volunteering, educating others about it, raising money, and more. For example, some students chose to collect gifts for children at Shepherd's Gate in Livermore, which provides housing for battered women and their offspring.

Julia Green, a sixth-grader at Pleasanton Middle School, loves to volunteer because it makes her feel good.

"I like to volunteer because I like knowing other people are getting the same advantages as I am," she said. "We get so much and others have so little."

Her favorite time to volunteer is around the holiday season. Last year, Julia with her sister Jenna and their mom served meals at a nearby soup kitchen on Thanksgiving Day because they knew that they were fortunate enough to celebrate on whatever day they chose with a loving family, while those they served were less fortunate. The Greens celebrated their own Thanksgiving the next day.

Most of the time Julia volunteers on the weekends with her group at Crosswinds Church, usually collecting canned goods and clothing, then bringing the items into San Francisco to give to the homeless.

Though Julia finds it enjoyable and gratifying to spend time volunteering, she does give up family time in order to do it. She is glad that her family supports her, especially during the holiday season. Julia said her family realizes that volunteering motivates her to work hard and makes her feel accomplished, knowing that she can help others even though she is just a kid.

Currently, Julie is trying to start her own business to help others, making jewelry to sell on the Internet and give the proceeds to a nonprofit organization yet to be decided. Julia is passionate about children in Africa who are kept as slaves and know she will choose a charity that addresses this issue.

"These kids have nothing when we have everything we need," she said.

Jackie Senechal, an eighth-grader, has been volunteering with her church group at Trinity Lutheran Church for awhile. She presently is helping out with the church's Operation Christmas Drive, collecting presents for people in need in many places, including Africa. With her church, Jackie also participates in beach and trail cleanup days and helps out at the food bank.

"I also volunteer with the church every now and then if something else pops up that I am interested in," said Jackie. She always enjoys volunteering, but says it's even more fun when she's joined by her friends and family.

In the future, Jackie sees herself doing more volunteer work, perhaps at the food bank. She also wants to go on her church's mission trip in the summer. Her family encourages her because they like that she is being helpful and taking part in a great activity.

"Volunteering is fun in most cases, and in others I do it because it's the nice thing to do," Jackie said.

Kids can volunteer in many ways to help with issues that they feel strongly about, giving their time and also donating or raising money. Their efforts go a long ways and help them to become giving and compassionate people at a young age.

Typically adults suggest to children that if they want to make a difference they should choose just one charity and support that charity exclusively because it shows their commitment. Plus it makes more of an impact to focus on just one organization, as opposed to spreading themselves too thin.

There are many groups to choose from, so the decision can be difficult. Right in Pleasanton, for example, Valley Humane Society accepts young volunteers to socialize and care for homeless pets until they are adopted. Other places to volunteer are Parkview Assisted Living Center and Open Heart Kitchen.

Volunteering makes a difference and only takes a little bit of time and effort. It teaches kids the valuable lessons of generosity and not caring whether they get something in return. They feel it is the right thing to do for those less fortunate and that in itself is enough of a reason to volunteer.

--Katie Lyness is a youth correspondent for the Pleasanton Weekly. She is an eighth-grader at Pleasanton Middle School.

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