Raising Richmond: HandsOn Day

HandsOn Day promotes community involvement, and if your kids are too small to help out with the activities, they’re never too young to learn how to be kind and helpful.

Saturday, October 18th is the seventh HandsOn Day, and it’s slated to be the biggest yet. During last year’s event, around 1,000 people spent their mornings volunteering at 40 different organizations, but this year should have up to 1,300 people helping almost 60 different community partners. The day of service, organized by HandsOn Greater Richmond, will end with a party at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery (and try the HandsOn Saison specially crafted for the event; $1 from each purchase will support HandsOn and HandsOn Days to come).

Most volunteer events run from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM, but new this year are “Drop In, Drop Out” volunteer events and supply drives. Drop In, Drop Outs will last 30 minutes and include activities such as making educational activities for school children and supplying and cleaning donated sports equipment.

Registration for HandsOn Day closes 24 hours before the volunteer events start (don’t wait–some events are already full). If you’re not sure how you’d like to participate, search opportunities by location, project type, availability, and age group. Kids have to be registered to participate, too.

Don’t fret if this Saturday isn’t convenient for you to help out. HandsOn’s handy search for volunteer activities makes volunteering so easy, it does everything but pick you up and drop you off. HandsOn also focuses on youth service and family volunteering year-round, with youth leadership programs and projects. The group is currently working on youth programs dedicated to volunteers ages 12 and under, including group and do-it-yourself-oriented projects, to help facilitate “easy ways to break in the habit of serving,” says Erin Osiol, Program Manager at HandsOn Greater Richmond.

When asked how young is too young to bring a child to a typical volunteer event, she estimated that parents with kids under five might spend more time kid-wrangling than helping out, but that at some events, like helping out at Tricycle Gardens, “you could weed with a baby strapped to you.”

Osiol also mentions Support One, a partner that provides support for adults with intellectual disabilities, often has volunteer events where kids are encouraged to attend and hang out. “Just by their presence they’re providing a service,” Osiol says.

Even if your kids are too small to pitch in at an official volunteer event, children as young as two can help out in activities that can create future volunteers, such as trash pickup, making cards for or visiting wounded veterans and nursing home residents, and sorting food and clothes for donations (check out HandsOn’s Pinterest for more DIY volunteer ideas for kids of all ages). In addition to helping your child build skills, studies have shown that kids who volunteer and feel involved in their community do better in school and are less likely to engage in risky behavior, and people who volunteer have better physical health.1

And, as with anything, if your kids see that you volunteer and do charitable work, they are more likely to become involved, too. If your family isn’t into the giving-back habit yet, HandsOn Greater Richmond and HandsOn Day are a good way to get started.

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HandsOn Day is October 18th (check individual events for specific times). Volunteers are encouraged to meet up at Hardywood from 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM for music, food, a community art project, and family-frienfly activities. Registered volunteers get a $5 food voucher and a beverage ticket. Register to volunteer here.

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Kelly Gerow

Kelly Gerow lives and writes in Richmond. She probably does other stuff in Richmond, too.

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