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Moms' Talk: Charity Begins At Home

Teaching children at an early age to help others is important to growing compassionate, empathetic adults. How do you pass this along to your kids?

While we are going about our busy, daily lives it is so important to keep our less-fortunate neighbors and friends in mind.  Children learn how to be kind and caring from parents.  While it is easy to see when a family member or close friend needs help, it is also essential, as community members, to extend our goodwill to those we might not know or ever meet.

Children learn how to kind and caring from their parents and/or primary caregivers at a young age.  That is the foundation for being compassionate to those all around us.

Freshman and sophomore members of the confirmation program are required to perform 25 hours of community service in Madison during their two years of preparation.  While some of the children cannot fathom how they will ever complete the requirement, said Monica Piombino, coordinator of the church’s Youth Ministry, once many find a meaningful project, they often exceed the minimum requirement. 

“The reason we set a particular number of hours for community service is not necessarily for them to fill the requirement down to the last minute,” Piombino explained, “but for them to hopefully engage in a variety of activities, or even better, a couple of long projects, where they will really become engaged and get energized and motived by the experience and discover something about themselves in the process.”

How do you teach your children compassion for the less fortunate?  Do you engage, as a family, in charitable events in your community, your state or your country?

Years ago I was introduced to a new organization named (RTG).  Since it was started more than 10 years ago it has grown into an important nonprofit agency working to introduce the young to a lifelong love of learning. 

“Read to Grow helps build literacy right from birth.  We are the only statewide nonprofit organization that connects with parents in the hospital setting and prepares them to take an active role in their child's literacy development from day one,” says their website. “To help parents create language-rich homes in which children can develop critical early skills, we provide books to families and to the program that interact with infants, toddlers, and school-age children and their parents.”

Over the years I have spent countless hours running book drives, along with my daughters Ana and Sophia, to fill the warehouse shelves. 

My girls have been showered with books all their lives.  Reading was an essential element of our home before the girls could walk or talk.  I remember reading to both girls as newborns.  Bob would come home from work most days and find me snuggled up on the couch with a baby and a book.

Today both Ana and Sophia are avid readers.

That is why RTG is the perfect organization for us to concentrate on when doing community service. It warms our hearts to know our little contribution is helping build a love of reading for other children who might otherwise never own a book.

What goes into your decision to choose a charitable organization to work with?  How do you choose what you and your family do in the community? What have you done lately for your neighbor?

Elissa Bass November 16, 2011 at 03:54 PM
Hi Sarah, Excellent points raised here and I agree - charity does begin at home, and starting early to teach our children to be empathetic only bodes well for our future as a society. I have to say my husband has really led the charge on this front, as every year our church collects gifts for children at Christmas. He brings our kids to the store with him, and they each pick out a bicycle and helmet for a child. They spend a lot of time making their decisions and they talk a lot about the children who may receive the gifts. We also always give all our change to the Salvation Army bell ringers this time of year - I let the kids do it, they get a big kick out of it. And to take it a step further - our dog is a rescue from our local pound, and after bringing her home both my children became very active in raising money and donated items for dog shelters. They are also always interested in volunteering, and they love picking up trash on Earth Day.
Elissa Bass November 16, 2011 at 04:00 PM
Also, great comment posted on Waterford Patch's Facebook page: "Yes I 100% believe in teaching my grandchild to give & help. We do this by donating toys he's out grown that r like brand new to other children who might not beable to have them. Also he Mentors in a Pre -K program."
Bree Shirvell November 16, 2011 at 06:17 PM
We're getting lots of comments on our Facebook page (http://facebook.com/StoningtonPatch: "My son and I donate to a few charities, our fav is Alexs Lemonade stand for pedi cancer" "We bring groceries every week to the PNC - my son is only 1 1/2 but I hope to instill good practices in him, even at a young age." "As Sarah points out, lead by example and explain along the way why it is important to you, to the organization, and to the community. And, I think, let children learn to choose their own charities/causes to support...we all have our own heartstrings. We can teach that we can give in many ways: time, money, purchases...it's up to the them."
Karen Loftis Rankowitz November 16, 2011 at 07:05 PM
I believe that children learn more from parental example than they do from any other method of 'teaching'...make a 'good' example of yourself...it will filter down to your children in such a positive way.
Sarah Page Kyrcz November 16, 2011 at 08:35 PM
I am so happy to hear all the positive comments. What that shows me is that we really are in this together. I agree, wholeheartedly, that we need to find a charity that means something special to us as individuals. That way we will get more out of our volunteering and enjoy it!!
Karen Loftis Rankowitz November 16, 2011 at 09:15 PM
Sarah, my blog ("Begin New Traditions:) on Montville Patch this morning is similiar to what you wrote here in as far as charitable contributions - and mainly about contributing your time. It's something I've done on a smaller scale in the past, but now that my boys are getting older, I feel now more than ever, that I should have done it more and more consistently. And to be honest, I'm not ready to have my boys not be productive in some charitable way.
Waterford Rez November 16, 2011 at 09:26 PM
You can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone-Ronald Reagan
BJ November 16, 2011 at 10:23 PM
I think that the lessons HAVE to, and MUST, start at home; and as soon as possible. Giving (sacrificially) can be taught so that it is "natural" to put others first, that is where our hope lies for future generations. This kind of teaching instills a PERSONAL social responsibility; with personal involvement there is accountability and appreciation by the recipient, unlike government programs that breed entitlement and abuse.
Tirtza November 18, 2011 at 07:41 PM
Of course it goes without saying “Charity begins at home”. Beyond a shadow of doubt, parents are responsible for teaching their kids how to care, be responsible, and all other social skills at an early age. This is a very enlightening and thoughtful post, I must admit. Here is one article on Child & Parent bonding - http://www.skillado.com/blog/learning-read-%E2%80%93-bonding-experience-parent-child
Sarah Page Kyrcz November 19, 2011 at 01:53 AM
Tirtza. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. The article you site is interesting. I find the following comment a bit troubling: "While achieving this milestone has been left traditionally to preschool teachers or tutors, parents nowadays are showing more interest in taking an active part in helping their kids gain literacy skills". I cannot believe that parents rely on others to teach their children such a basic and necessary skill as reading. I believe that encouraging children to read early in life (as babies) gives them a head start that will serve them well for whatever they decide to do later in life!
Tirtza November 21, 2011 at 01:24 PM
@Sarah Page Kyrcz - Unfortunately, in my 40 years of experience teaching children, I've met many parents who relied on teachers rather than on themselves. The good news is that, in the last 10 years, the attitude has changed: more husbands, for one, have joined forces with their wives in raising and educating their children, and parents generally have become more involved in academics overall, as well. The growing number of homeschoolers is also evidence of this surge in parent interest.
Sarah Page Kyrcz December 13, 2011 at 12:20 AM
Anthony ~ Thank you for your very positive support of both volunteering and literacy. I am energized by volunteering for Read to Grow ~ the idea of books finding a second, loving place in the homes of children who may not have any books of their own is so satisfying!! I introduced my two girls to your organization when they were very little and I don't have to work hard to engage them in running a book drive even though they are both teenagers. Books have a special place in our home and hearts.
Anthony DiLauro December 13, 2011 at 02:34 PM
My first experience volunteering started as a 20 hour requirement when I was a teenager. Over twenty five years later, I have dedicated 21 years working in nonprofit organizations. The one thing that has not changed in that time is that without the support of volunteers and donors we would not have been able to help so many children and families. Early literacy is an extremely important issue and in my new role as the Executive Director of Read to Grow, I have the extraordinary opportunity to work with volunteers every day who make this organization a success. Over the last year we were able to give away over 130,000 gently used books and our Books for Babies program was able to provide volunteer visits, literacy packets and new books to over 50% of new parents in Connecticut. Thank you to Sarah and everyone who is part of this effort. If you would like to learn more about how you can be involved please visit our website at www.readtogrow.org or contact us at 203-488-6800
Sandra Fowler July 27, 2012 at 03:26 AM
Hello, I came across this article today while searchign for an article that was done about my family donating couponed items to local charities and I felt the need to share our story. I hope our story will inspire others to be as charitable as possible in life. My story is to follow, The Fowlers,
Sandra Fowler July 27, 2012 at 03:29 AM
Children learn their most important roles in life through the examples of others. My husband and I have always been very giving and charitable whenever possible. There is one moment that I can recall in great detail of when I realized how much our actions had worn off on our children. When my oldest daughter was 7 years old, I was volunteering as a nurse aid in her elementary school. A young girl with cystic fibrosis was one of her classmates. She was one of the most loving and caring children I had ever had the privilege of knowing. One day, I was helping her with her mask and she was admiring a necklace I was wearing. The necklace was a gift from my mother-in-law from one of her trips to Africa. When I went home, I was telling my family how much she admired this necklace and how it was made by an African bush woman. I told them how unique it was, with its hand carved animals and hand painted beads. My daughter went into her room and grabbed her necklace, which was unique in its own special way and had been crafted smaller for a child to wear. She came running into the living room and asked "Mom, do you think Gramma would mind if I give my necklace to the little girl?" I tearfully told her that of course Gramma wouldn't mind. In fact, she would be honored if she gave it to her. The next day my daughter brought the wrapped up necklace to the little girl, who was so grateful. We all had tears in our eyes.
Sandra Fowler July 27, 2012 at 03:30 AM
.I knew then that my children would forever be helping others because of the way they were raised, and I have never been more proud of them. A lot has happened since then, from volunteering at Special Olympics events to jumping in the ocean in January for the Penguin Plunge to raise money for charity. My oldest is going to Veterinary school where she will learn the skills to help heal people’s pets and my youngest is so empathetic and compassionate that she would give the shirt off her back to a complete stranger with a smile on her face and never ask for a thing in return. If it weren't for our charitable decisions in our lives, our children wouldn't be as giving as they are. Currently, my husband and I have taken up extreme couponing. We are fortunate to have the time and the means to visit as many stores as possible and coupon essential items in very large amounts. We donate a great majority of this to food shelters, schools, family members in needs, and even pet food to food shelters. My children are eager to come with us as we coupon, and especially when we go to donate the items. Last Christmas, we all assembled and donated 80 stockings stuffed with beauty products that we got for free by couponing. It was incredible to learn how appreciated simple items like toothpaste or salt were by these food shelters.
Sandra Fowler July 27, 2012 at 03:37 AM
These were items that are easy to take for granted every day, and has certainly made us more appreciative of the things that we have. Charity definitely starts at home and that’s how we can make the world a better place- by raising better people to live in it! When my daughter was ready to be weaned off the bottle we told her that there was a little boy who was ill and needed bottles to drink from in order to heal. She went around the house at 18 months old and collected all her bottles. She placed them into a bag and we brought them to my sisters house who gave them to her baby boy. My daughter never once asked for her bottles back however, she always asked how the little boy was doing.You need to use charity in every situation because when a child can feel good about themselves through charity they will then become adults with a life long love of giving. Thank you for reading.

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