For many of us, the New Year is the time of looking at our lives, reflecting on the changes that we want to make, and making resolutions.
Some of the most popular resolutions include weight loss (just look at the number of Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig ads that are running), exercising more and spending more time with family and friends (so important in this overly connected society).
And then, there’s the very unselfish and altruistic resolution of wanting to Give Back more. As my children get older, this resolution is one that is becoming much more important to me, and one that I want to instill in them.
In the past, I’ve relied on their school’s community service efforts to instill this ethic in my kids. But recently, I’ve begun to think that that is not enough. I want my children to see that their dad and I deeply care and make a commitment to give back to our community. But just like with everything else, the best of intentions can sometimes get pushed aside in the hecticness of everyday life. Sometimes, we end up just writing a check. My kids don’t see that, and while the money might be useful, the “teachable” moment is lost. That’s why I was so curious when a good friend introduced me to the Honeycomb Project.
The Honeycomb Project is a nonprofit organization in Chicago that creates and manages hands-on volunteer projects for families. It was started by two local Chicago women, Kristina Lowenstein and Catherine Tannen, who were looking for ways to participate in community service projects with their kids. Not finding the meaningful experiences they were looking for, they started The Honeycomb project as a labor of love. Each month, they put together a number of fun, organized and educational projects to help people of all ages get out of the house and into the community.
As soon as I heard about the organization, I contacted Catherine. We had an instant connection (of course the fact that we’re both born and bred NYC girls didn’t hurt). I loved what she was doing and immediately signed up for one of their December projects with Middle.
On December 19th, Middle and I participated in their Holiday Toy Drive event for the families served by Greenhouse shelter, a domestic abuse shelter for women and children in Chicago. Each participating family was asked to bring 1-2 toys for donation. This provided an opportunity for me to bring Middle to Target. The drive there provided me with the chance to explain to him that not all children had loving families and warm homes. Our trip inside Target allowed us to discuss what item might be most appropriate for each of the two children we were buying gifts for (they provided us with the gender and age). I have to say that he put more thought into what he wanted to donate then he ever has when we’re looking for a sibling gift or friend’s birthday gift.
When we arrived at the Toy drive, it was buzzing with activity and tons of volunteer families. We were immediately shown to the gift wrapping table where he was able to pick out the precise wrapping that he wanted for each of his donations. It was amazing to see the care he took in helping me wrap the gifts and picking out the ribbons.
After wrapping duties were over, the kids were able to circulate through a number of activity stations where they worked together to make cute gingerbread men and mittens from recycled paper grocery bags and construction paper chains that were to be used as decorations for the shelter’s holiday party. There was a ton of laughter and fun going on.
Midway through the evening, Kristina and Catherine, along with Dr Sonia Oyola, who works with Greenhouse, addressed the volunteer group. In a thoughtful and age appropriate way they thanked us all for coming to volunteer and giving back to those whose holidays looked bleaker than ours. Sonia went on to explain that there are approximately 15,000 homeless children in Chicago many due to domestic violence. Our kids were all told how much their participation was valued and what a difference their help would make in the spirit of the Greenhouse kids.
Afterwards we all resumed our work on the decorations and the kids were invited to decorate the holiday tree. Light sandwiches and snacks were served. It was a truly festive evening where everyone mingled, enjoyed each other’s company and worked together to create a Christmas miracle. Looking back on the holiday season this was definitely a special moment in time that I was able to share with Middle.
I encourage you to check out their upcoming calendar and volunteer your family for one of their incredible projects. In the next couple of months you can help foster dogs, prepare a breakfast at a shelter or help make blankets for the homeless. I promise it will be time well spent, and a ton of fun.