By: Mary K. Gershon, Generation SERVE Board Member
When our children were young, my husband and I were very focused on a variety of volunteer activities – from school-related ones to those with the Daisies and Cub Scouts – and community engagement was a natural fit. Yet, as we grew up into a family with two very active middle schoolers, we quickly fell into a time trap. It was then that actively volunteering fell by the wayside. Between the demands of homework, competitive sports and a variety of after school and weekend activities – with their own host of parental “engagement opportunities” – we didn’t feel like we could cram in one more thing.
After being involved in a variety of programs in the past, I wanted something different. I wanted activities the whole family could engage in, as well as variety so we could explore the passions of each family member. And I needed to find something that was flexible, where we could choose the days and times that worked best with our schedules. We had been involved with Little Helping Hands in the past and – after researching the organization under its current name, Generation SERVE – I was thrilled to learn that they had evolved to engage teenagers. After speaking with some friends about Generation SERVE, we decided to attend their annual Family Volunteer Day service fair together. At Austin Families Give Back, our family got to engage with many different nonprofits and participate in hands-on activities, like braiding leashes for Austin Pets Alive!, putting together books for prisoners with Inside Books Project and making seed balls with Keep Austin Beautiful. We were so impressed with Generation SERVE and inspired to get more involved!
The more I learned about Generation SERVE, (the commitment of the Program Directors and staff, their desire to enable children and teens to be actively engaged in the community...) the more I became hooked. One of the things that I appreciate most about Generation SERVE is that the organization provides significant value for both their nonprofit partners and their volunteers. The nonprofits are able to focus on the important work they’re doing instead of recruiting, training, scheduling and engaging volunteers. And volunteers can easily choose which community service opportunities fit their needs best, with a variety of time commitments and causes, and the option to do direct service or behind the scenes work.
As I hoped, Family Volunteer Day sparked an interest in our teenagers and served as a catalyst for community engagement as a family. Since then, we became Family Sponsors, we participated in a variety of activities and I joined the Board of Directors! In addition, our teenage son participated in the Teen Leadership Program this summer. He joined a cohort of like-minded teens and learned more about Generation SERVE, participated in a variety of service projects and trained on the skills needed to lead volunteer activities.
I’m thrilled to be part of such a great organization and to have the opportunity to participate on many different levels. I hope that wherever you are in your cycle of community engagement, you come check out Generation SERVE during Family Volunteer Day and see what inspires you!
The Gershon Family: Mike, Sophie, Mary K. and Ted
Ted Gershon (bottom left) with fellow Teen Leads
Ted volunteering at Trinity Child Development Center
Ted (center) participating in a team building activity as part of the Teen Leadership Program
Get Involved in Family Volunteer Day
Austin Families Give Back is a great opportunity for families to introduce their children to the tradition of volunteering right in time for the holiday season! This year, it will take place on November 23rd. Here’s how your family can get involved:
Register Your Family - Sign up to attend Family Volunteer Day so you can engage your children in a variety of service projects, just like Mary K did!
Tell Your Friends - This is the easiest time of year to get your friends involved in Generation SERVE and a super fun event to enjoy together!