Teaching kids to give back and make an impact

By Robyn Gross, Director Asset Management, Alcoa Corporation

My maternal grandmother was a huge influence in my life. When she was a young mother of four girls with twin boys on the way, my grandfather was killed in a coal mining accident. She worked at the church and as a waitress and with the help of her family and church community, she raised her children, to be successful and very grateful. They did not have many of the financial luxuries my children have today but had a strong strength of family and appreciation for everything they were given.

As a young child, my sister and I would spend many summers with our grandmother, and she often took us to volunteer at the church. By her example, we learned the importance of giving back to others, along with the value of personal relationships that we developed with others in the volunteering community.

Throughout my school years I continued volunteering with various organizations. Now with children of my own, I look back on these experiences and recognize the enormous leadership and development skills I acquired through these activities, while at the same time having fun and giving to others.

Today, I encourage my children to volunteer as I hope to instill in them the same sense of gratefulness and that they will develop similar life skills as I did from these activities over the years. Both of my girls are extremely active in sports. I have annually invited my oldest daughter’s softball teammates to join us in our volunteer activities and have had tremendous participation from them and their parents. Most recently, the team volunteered at the Women’s Leadership Council Sew-In to benefit homeless veterans.

These efforts allowed the girls to give back to the community while bonding and working more effectively as a group. These activities increase their self-esteem and are memories the girls will remember for a long time.

The following tips will help encourage a successful volunteer experience for you and your own children.

Simple efforts can make a big difference. Even a small act of kindness or a couple hours of volunteer work can impact someone in need in our community. It’s important to explain to your child how they are making a difference, so they can see their impact.

Find something you are passionate about. Work as a family or a team to decide how you want to give your time to your community. Then, the activity will be more meaningful to your child, and they will have more fun doing it.

Engage your family and friends. Get others involved! As I mentioned, we included my daughter’s entire softball team. Invite friends, family members, and more.

Have fun! You will be surprised at the personal benefits from the selfless activity of volunteering. Enjoy yourself, and have fun doing whatever activity you choose.

You can get involved with United Way’s family-friendly volunteer activities by visiting familiesforgoodchallenge.org. Be sure to take their ongoing #FamiliesForGoodChallenge and share your experiences!