15 May 2007

Volunteering with baby? Talk amongst yourselves.

Whitney of Rookie Moms asks:

I want to do a post about volunteering with a baby in tow, but don't have any real life stories of success. Can we tap into your readers and ask for anecdotes of the type of volunteer work that people have found possible during their baby's first 12 months? Equally important, if there's one that works for me, I can sign myself up for a weekly commitment during my *maternity leave*. Am I crazy?

I'd love to hear your answers!

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A friend worked through her church to be paired with an elderly woman who needed companionship. Once a week or so my friend and her baby would stroll over and visit. Another friend whose father is in a nursing home organized a playgroup that met at the home. The residents just watched the kids play, and loved it.

I love the idea of volunteering w/kids.
I would love ideas on doing it w/ toddlers and preschoolers too. Its such a good example.

I volunteer at a pregnancy resource center. THere is a "store" which provides clothing, diapers, and toys for women in need. One Saturday a month, my daughter and I go to help out. I count and bag the things the women have selected, while my daughter plays with the toys there or with the children that get brought with their mothers.

Until our son was around 12 months old, I taught an English as a Second Language class once a week. After he got mobile, he needed more attention than I could offer and he only came when we had child care.

About 2 months ago my childcare fell through and I handed the class over to another volunteer.

It was best when there was another mom with an infant volunteering and one of us would teach while the other kept the kids out of trouble.

Companionship volunteering for people who like infants and young children sounds really promising though. We may have to look into that.

I did two different things that both worked out really well for my daughter and I. A local group in my area matches up volunteers with elerly or disabled people in need of assistance getting their shopping and errands done. The people I helped out always got a big kick out of it when I brought my daughter along.

The second thing I did was through my local Amercian Cancer Society. I gave rides to and from chemo to people in need of transportation. Most of the people I gave rides to were elderly and they often would want to sit in the backseat so that they could be by my daughter. What can I say? Babies are a real day brightener!

Short term comittment has worked for our family! When my kiddos were babies, I felt OK volunteering wherever I could sling them.

My favorite volunteering with them has been handing out water at the Mini-Marathon held in our town. We've done it every year since they were both wee- they've loved it! It's high energy, exciting, runners love to see babies and children volunteering, and it's over in a morning!

My mother had volunteer to run my elementary school's book fair when my youngest sister was born. My mom wore a baby carrier (my sister was 2-3 weeks old during the book fair) and spent probably 3-6 hours/day at the school. She would take the baby behind the curtains on the stage to nurse her.

So it can be done, but it definitely depends on your comfort level. This was my mom's fourth; she had a good idea what to expect when she made the commitment.

Our dd has been with us on Red Cross first aid duties since she was a bump and we carried on when she was born! Obviously we have to carefully select where we take her - she doesn't come to race tracks for example - but where ever it is practical and permissable she is there, she's 6 now and between weekly training and duties she's a pretty good first aider.

I do Meals on Wheels with my kids (ages 6,4, and 1). The kids love it, and the folks we serve seem to enjoy seeing the kids, the baby in particular. It's a once a week commitment that takes less than an hour (we have a very simple route). The hardest part was convincing the volunteer coordinator that I could do it (I think most of her volunteers are retirees).

You can probably find an opportunity to volunteer if you contact your local agency on aging.

If your local schools offer the Roots of Empathy program (http://www.rootsofempathy.org) -- its based on having a parent volunteer to bring their infant into the classroom every three weeks. The program has been shown to reduce rates of violence and bullying. Plus your baby will be treated like a rockstar! Seriously, this is a great program.

We volunteered to work in a garden that supplies produce to a local food pantry. My partner and I took turns doing real work while the other focused on baby. It's a great project as the kids grow older too. Groups that match volunteers with non-profits in need of help often have family-friendly listings.

Just before my third child was born last fall, I became the coordinator for a team of volunteers within our MOPS group (http://mops.org) to bring meals to moms of newborns (dinner every other day for the first two weeks). I did it all via email, with the exception of a few phone calls. I also cooked and delivered a meal to each mom--thankfully there was a delay of a few months from when I gave birth to when the other moms did.

I highly recommend starting such a network either within a Mother's Club or MOPS group or church or even among friends. It's so great to cook for (and be cooked for!) right after a baby is born.

I've been thinking of volunteering too, but as this is my first I'm waiting to see how it goes before making any commitments. Thanks for posting about this!

How about visiting with pregnant moms on bedrest? When I was in the hospital with my triplets one of the nurses would bring her infant son in to see me and it would really help me get my focus back to having healthy babies!

I used the time to get involved with my local political party. Having kids really hammered home the importance of getting involved with politics for me. I took the babies to a lot of political rallies and it was a lot of fun to have my babies being the ones being kissed! So many young parents avoid getting involved politically, but policy implemented today will affect us and our kids more than any other age group in the country. When could it be more important?

I forgot to mention- CSA's! (Community Sponsored Agriculture!) We were involevd in a local CSA when my daughter was small, and we were able to spend some time on the farm helping here and there. It felt fun to expose her to farm noises and sights- and be able to help out with some community activities.

When I was single with two young boys, ages 4 and 1, I volunteered with a service in town that offers transportation for the elderly. Once a week, me and the boys took a wonderful lady to her hair appointment at the mall each week. It became an outing for all of us. We all enjoyed the conversation during the car ride. And we would hang out and eat pizza at the food court while she had her hair done. It was a blast!

I am a Cub Scout den leader - and last year I was a volunteer leader at the Cub Scout Day Camp. I took my 3 month old baby in a front backpack, and never looked back! She is a mellow baby, though, so it was pretty easy. She just came with me and watched everything we did - the baby carrier allowed me 2 free arms to go chasing little boys.

If you're looking to volunteer, I know Scouting may not feel as important as building a house, or painting a tree, but it really means a lot to these kids.

Plus, in the last 2 years I've taught kids about nature conservation, serving others, and more - I'm also building a generation of future people ready to do community service of their own!

I didn't volunteer with my kid, because I have a full time job. But I did bring her to work every day until she was 8 1/2 months old - and it was a really nice thing, for me, for her, and for everyone else. I wrote about it a while ago: http://magpiemusing.blogspot.com/2007/01/potatoes.html

I run a program and rely heavily on volunteers. My volunteers give tours of our facility (we house lemurs), and I often have parents with young ones in tow. I myself give tours with my 2 month old strapped to my chest. I'm fine with it, as long as the children aren't crying loudly, and my docents know that if they need to leave there kids with me for the hour while they are giving the tour then I'm typically available to let them play in my office.

I stay home with our nine month old and love it, but I found I needed a regular schedule to keep me from going stir crazy. We have a day shelter for the homeless in our city that funds itself in part through a thrift store. My son and I run the store for a few hours Tuesday through Friday and they are very flexible for his needs. I have a Pack 'N play set up in the store and bring his stroller with me each day so he has a place to play or nap. I love feeling more purposeful in our days and he absolutely loves all of the people. I know some might be nervous about bringing their child around the homeless, but they are great with him. It's amazing to see the way hard looking people enjoy a baby or the regulars who look for him when they first come in and spend a few minutes playing with Sammy before doing their shopping. I like knowing that our son is already a part of serving the less fortunate and learning to think of others.

My dad was a minister, so I don't know if this would actually count. Daddy took me with him whenever he went to visit a sick and shut-in person. I have never forgotten what I learned from just watching my dad. Taking your kids along teaches them more than if you just told them.

i helped with "coastal cleanup" by weeding + removing trash from urban creeks + beaches with my baby in a backpack

I second the nursing home suggestion, we do it in the early afternoon, so we have a few sibling groups of babies\toddlers and preschoolers. The residents LOVE it, and it's a great experience for the kids.

My mom volunteered during both my brother's and my infancies at a firehouse that caters weddings and runs various other events. Many of the older ladies who liked to visit but couldn't work watched both of us. There are even videos of me in a playpen while my mom waitressed during the community Mother's Day breakfast. After we grew up some, we got to help with simple things, like putting away clean dishes and folding cloth napkins. (I've been able to pyramid-fold napkins since I was four-ish)

My kids are no longer babies (to anyone but me), they are 2, 2, and 4. One morning a week we deliver food to families who have transitioned out of the local homeless shelter and are still trying to get on their feet.

It's very simple to do this and it would probably work with a baby too, especially one who loves to nap in the car.

Like Libby above, I volunteered for a political campaign with a baby. I made phone calls from home and put him in his stroller for door-to-door literature-dropping and marching in parades.

Volunteer work and social interaction is valuable to all members of the family. Babies love being carried in a sling, interacting in a secure manner attached to mama. Toddlers and older children can take a more hands-on role. Our family volunteers for church, praying with shut-ins, breastfeeding support groups, homeschool functions. There are always needs in a community; I choose volunteer situations that will be a safe environment for my children (for example, in our Hurricane Katrina damaged hometown, not all v.work was safe.) Mind the heat, sun, germs, and always make direct supervision of your children top priority. Good luck and God Bless.

I volunteer at my church's food pantry twice a month, but I kind of lucked out. Everyone there loves him so much, everyone wants to hold him and feed him and play with him. So I have built in babysitters right there!

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