Volunteering is a choice.

There are so many things to do in one day, one week. We have to go to work, make sure there is food in the house and clean clothes in our drawers. We have to check homework, schedule piano lessons, walk the dog, make dinner, and clean up from dinner. The list never ends and those are just the basics. It’s the activities that we choose to do in our free time that really define us. What activities are important to you, to your children? Every person in the household has different priorities and the goal as a family is to find those that satisfy all of us. It might be one of the most challenging things to figure out as a family.

In my family, we don’t have too many activities that overlap. I want to go to museums and my husband prefers to watch sports on TV. My daughter is in a shopping phase while my son only wants to play basketball or Xbox. Although we try and satisfy everyone’s needs and desires it’s not always easy. Volunteering isn’t necessarily at the top of anyone’s list, but the beautiful thing about sharing an experience like volunteering is that we are working together towards a common goal. Working together, communicating and being active together always brings us closer. Whether we are packing supplies or sorting goods at a food pantry, playing games with seniors or handing out food at a soup kitchen, we have one common goal – we are helping others. Helping others feels good, builds confidence and self-esteem and in general, makes people happy.

When we plan our schedules, I make sure to have at least one volunteering experience on our calendar every month. As a family we discuss where we would like to volunteer or what new opportunity we should look for. Being fairly new to Los Angeles, I can’t say we have volunteered every month, but we are trying. And when we find an organization we love we tend to go back to reaffirm the bonds we are making with the organizers and build on the experience.

I am proud to say that my 12 year old son is very comfortable in a hospital or senior center. He is more than helpful and always willing to assist someone navigate his or her wheelchair or walker. That didn’t happen on it’s own. Volunteering and the simple act of showing up is what made my son content in these sometimes awkward settings. These are lifelong skills that I know will serve him well in his future. I hope and believe that he will continue his volunteer work throughout his lifetime and that he will remember these experiences as instrumental in making him the person he will become.

LA Famlies Give Back in Palisades News!!

Volunteer Through LA Families Give Back

April 19, 2017 5:05 pm
By Laura Abruscato
Contributing Writer

Volunteering with your kids is easy to put on your to-do list, but can be hard to make happen in reality. Finding community service opportunities where children can get involved is easier said than done. And it can be intimidating showing up at a new location with your children in tow, not quite knowing what to expect.

Palisadian Amy Lehr’s new organization, LA Families Give Back, aims to make the process easier. Lehr has years of experience volunteering with her two kids, Toby, a sixth grader at Paul Revere Middle School, and Lucy, a ninth grader at PaliHi, and in 2014, founded a sister organization, NY Families Give Back.

 

Toby Lehr, a sixth grader at Paul Revere Middle School, hands out bingo cards at Atria. In the far back is his mom and Palisadian Amy Lehr, who has organized LA Families Give Back. Photo: Lesly Hall Photography

Toby Lehr, a sixth grader at Paul Revere Middle School, hands out bingo cards at Atria. In the far back is his mom and Palisadian Amy Lehr, who has organized LA Families Give Back.
Photo: Lesly Hall Photography

In the process of obtaining official nonprofit status, Lehr maintains websites that feature family-friendly volunteer opportunities with descriptions and the ability to sign up for volunteer spots. She also writes a newsletter to participating families and aims to connect families, kids and teens to existing volunteer opportunities as well as create new ones.

When possible, Lehr and son Toby investigate each organization to make sure it is a worthwhile cause that is kid-and-parent friendly. “We make sure that we feel safe, that there’s a bathroom, parking, that we feel good about it,” says Lehr, before including it on the website.

She and her husband Scott, who runs a content marketing firm, moved to the Alphabet Streets two years ago from Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

She continues to run NY Families Give Back, where she has 400 families involved.

“I’ve gotten fantastic feedback,” says Lehr, who has families booked through June at a soup kitchen in Brooklyn. “Families are putting it on the calendar once a month. For the soup kitchen, all they are doing is setting the table. They’ve started the day helping their community; it just feels good.”

Lehr thinks of her websites as a hub where families can find all different opportunities —some are happening every weekend, others are once a month, such as Village Green and Heal the Bay clean-ups and One-One Outreach food packing and distribution. Others, such as a school beautification, are a one-time event.

Several of the 50 families signed up so far have utilized the website to find community service opportunities for their middle-school students, as many local schools require community service hours.

“The other thing that I’m working on, which I did in New York, is starting programs where they aren’t already, says Lehr, who visited Atria Senior Center in the Palisades to look for opportunities. “They have an incredible calendar of events.” She has organized for families to come every Saturday at 11 a.m. to participate in family-friendly events that the residents are doing, such as arts and crafts, and games.

“The residents are thrilled, bingo is fun and the kids can enjoy it,” says Lehr. “It’s a good way to start volunteering for elementary school kids.”

Lehr did a lot of volunteer work growing up, including working in a soup kitchen for a summer in high school, and volunteering at an inner-city school.

“I started my program 3 years ago in Brooklyn when my kids were at a good age to start volunteering but it was just so hard. I called government offices, churches, all kinds of places, but nobody wanted a child.

“I was certain other people were having thesamedifficulties,”Lehrsaid,notingthat today she’s “madly trying to get more activities.” She also fields requests from religious school groups, Girl Scouts, and classrooms that want to do volunteer work. “I really do believe that when kids start volunteering at a young age, they’ll see how good it makes them feel and they’ll bring others into it.”