I’ll never forget April 27, 2011. It’s a day that changed the lives forever of so many people and communities across Alabama and the Southeast. Because of the tornadoes that day hundreds of people tragically lost their lives. Thousands were injured. Homes and neighborhoods were wiped out. And a week later there are still people missing.
Even though my hometown of Auburn, Alabama was spared during the storms that day, my heart aches for the losses that were suffered across our region. I, like you, long for the day that these communities are rebuilt, while at the same time feel an incredible sense of grief for the people that cannot be brought back.
With a tragedy of this magnitude and the constant stream of media coverage about the devastation, there has been an amazing response to help from all across our country (and the world). From donations of money, time, and products, to prayers, family sponsorships, and town adoptions, the outpouring of support has been incredible to witness.
I’ve always believed that one of my responsibilities as a parent it to teach my children how to help others. To be caring. To be altruistic. To love your neighbor as yourself. I can think of no better opportunity than this to teach our children how to help during this incredible time of need. Try one of these ideas to involve your child with your volunteerism. Like me, you’ll be glad you did!
- In many areas, there is an overwhelming need for bottled water, canned food, or baby supplies. Tarps and ponchos make a great donation item, too, so that those in the disaster area can have cover when it rains. Take your kids to the store with you and purchase some of these items. Let your kids choose the products (with your guidance). Include some things that are kid friendly, since it will help your kiddos to remember that some of the people in need are kids just like them. My kids had a great time picking out flavored drink mix-ins for bottled water to include with our donation.
- Pick out some slightly used or new clothes to donate. Kids and adult sizes are needed, but be sure to only donate summer clothes. It’s hot here in Alabama already, no jackets required! Don’t forget shoes, underwear, and socks. Have your child go through their closet with you and pick out any outgrown or extra clothes that would help a child who is in need.
- Donate money to the Red Cross, United Way, Salvation Army or another reputable charity organization to benefit the tornado victims. Ask your child how much they would like to contribute out of “their” money. If they don’t have any money, help them figure out some safe ways to raise some funds. They could do extra household chores in exchange for some extra allowance or could set up a lemonade stand in your front yard. Get creative, there are all sorts of ways for kids to safely raise some money with parental supervision!
- Deliver items to be donated with your kids to a dedicated drop-off site. This will allow your children to see the bigger picture of the donation process. We took our donations to a truck that was literally going to drive off as soon as it was filled to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The kids were even able to get on the truck and load our donations. That’s something they won’t soon forget!
- Find some ways to volunteer your time as a family. The actual clean up process may not always be a kid friendly zone, but there are plenty of behind the scenes activities that school aged kids can get involved in. One of the biggest jobs for donation sites is sorting the donations before they are shipped off. Separating baby items from canned goods and arranging clothes by sizes are all tasks that older children can participate in with the help of their mom and dad.
- Collect boxes from around your town and flatten them with your kids. Deliver them to a donation site and they will use them to pack items or they’ll send them to the disaster area for use there. Boxes are always needed! If you don’t want to flatten boxes, plastic tubs are also always useful!
- Make a personal hygiene kit with your kids. Check out the instructions for assembly and visit your local dollar store to get all the supplies you need with your kids. Then have your children help with the assembly. Just like following a recipe!
- Pack a shoebox full of fun. At Christmas, we’ve helped shoeboxes go around the world with Operation Christmas Child. This same concept can be used during disasters. Get a plastic shoebox and fill it with treats for kids. Coloring books, crayons, a flashlight, hairbrush, toy car, book, or stuffed animal. Imagine the delight that a child who has lost everything would receive from opening up the shoe box created by you and your child. Encourage your child to draw a picture or write a note to the recipient of your box.
- Prepare a treat for some of your local volunteers. Cookies, candy, energy bars, cold bottled water. Get together some fun treats and go visit a donation site in your area. Even if you can’t stay and help at that moment, you and your kids can help by thanking volunteers for their efforts!
- And last but not least, encourage your children to pray for the victims of the tornadoes. Our prayers and support are needed now more than ever and our children are just as capable of helping as we are, in their own special kid way!
For the latest details on how you can help visit Alabama Possible or Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa. Do you have an idea of how to get kids involved with helping tornado victims? Share it with us. We’d love to hear your ideas!