By: Cheryl Maguire
In high school and college, I used to volunteer for causes I was passionate about. Then I had children, and my volunteer efforts revolved around their interests. I enjoyed spending time with them and getting to meet their friends and other parents, but it wasn’t the same as volunteering for causes I believed in.
Recently, I had the opportunity to do both—volunteer for my daughters Girl Scout troop and help a cause which was close to my heart. I used to be a counselor for children. Some of those children were involved with the foster care system. Through my writing for the Signature Mom blog, I met Deirdre Littlefield who is a foster parent. She told me that when a foster child goes to their house they receive a comfort case, which is a backpack filled with items such as pajamas, tooth brush or other things they might need for their first night in foster care.
My daughter’s Girl Scout Troop agreed to create twenty- five comfort cases for the foster children. I contacted organizations requesting donations. Gymboree donated over $1,000 worth of clothing (pajamas, socks, underwear). They shipped seven large boxes to my house. Lowes donated twenty-five flashlights. Stop and Shop donated a $25 gift card. Target donated a $100 gift card and CVS donated a $200 gift card to be used to purchase items for the comfort cases. The East Bridgewater Library donated books.
The girls created supportive cards to place in each bag. Some of the messages opened with the greeting, “Dear Friend.” Other messages said, “I’m thinking of you.” On the cards there were pictures of hearts, smiley faces, and flowers.
During a Girl Scout meeting, the troop sorted through all the donations and made twenty-five comfort cases which Deirdre was there to accept. She shared a personal story with the Girl Scout Troop about how a young foster child came to her house feeling scared and nervous. When Deidre gave her the comfort case, the child’s demeanor changed and she was able to engage with the family. The comfort case helped the child to feel safe. After hearing the story, one of the Girl Scouts shouted out, “I feel so happy right now.”
I was overwhelmed with the generosity of the all of these businesses. I loved the supportive cards the Girl Scouts created for the foster children. Everyone in the troop came together to help other kids. All the negative news stories and politics can leave me feeling sad and helpless. This experience restored my faith in the goodness of people. It helped me feel a sense of something I could control to help others.
According to a recent review of research by the CNCS (Corporation for the National and Community Service), volunteering can lead to health benefits. Some of the health benefits of volunteering are great life satisfaction, lower levels of depression, higher levels of happiness, and a longer life span.
It’s easy to volunteer. It could be as simple as offering to help someone you just met. Just ask, “How can I help you?”