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Volunteer as a family on MLK DAY

By AMY UMBLE

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Monday, and once again, the government is encouraging Americans to use the day off as a day of service. For families, it’s often hard to get out and volunteer together–most of the local agencies in our area only use volunteers ages 15 and up. But there are still many great ways to serve as a family–and to teach your children the values of gratitude and helping others. Here are some ideas for what you can do Monday (and any other day):

1. Make Welcome Home baskets for formerly homeless people. Micah Ecumenical Ministries has been getting a lot of people off the streets and into homes. For many, this is the first time in years they’ve lived in a stable home. Welcome them into their new homes with a laundry basket filled with: four plates, four place settings, four glasses, a mop, trash can, towels, toilet paper, sheets, a shower curtain, bath supplies and a bath mat. Bring them to Micah Hospitality Center, 1013 Princess Anne St. or call 540/479-4116, ext. 11.

2. Welcome a new baby: Fill a basket with baby supplies like diapers, wipes, onesies, washcloths and baby bath. Make a cheerful card for the new mom, and donate the basket to one of the local area agencies helping new moms in crisis: Mary’s Shelter;, 540/623-5778; Birthright of Fredericksburg, 540/898-8558 or the Program for Teen Parents, 540/582-3980.

3. Clean out your closets and bookshelves. This service project will help you while helping others. Collect all the books your children have outgrown, and take them to SERVE;. The nonprofit has bookshelves in its waiting room, where children can read stories while their parents use the food pantry or receive emergency financial aid–and children can take a book home, as studies show that children with a well-rounded library at home are more likely to grow into avid reachers. Drop off books at 15 Upton Lane in Stafford, Monday through Thursday. Or call 540/288-9603. And if you find clothes your children have outgrown, donate them to Just a Hand, which gives clothes to foster parents and other families in need. Call 540/424-7812.

4. Make some goodies and a thank you card and take it to your local fire department or police station, to thank your first responders for being available whenever you need them.

5. Make snack bags. Decorate brown paper bags with stickers, markers and crayons. Fill each bag with a granola bar, a 100% juice box and a fruit cup. Donate the snack bags to a food pantry, so they can give them to families. While you make the bags, talk to your children about childhood hunger; they might be surprised to know that almost 17 million American children live in a family that doesn’t know where the next meal will come from. Looking for a food pantry to donate the snack bags? You can bring them to SERVE, mentioned above, or try the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank’s pantry finder;.

6. On Monday, stop by the Spotsylvania Towne Center to see sculptures made by cans;. Bring $1 or a canned good to vote for your favorite work of art. All donations go to the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank;.

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