Be grateful, giving year-round

Feature: Be Grateful, giving year-round

Gratitude. It’s the buzzword for November, though the virtue needn’t be confined to holiday conversations. Teaching toddlers, young children and adolescents how to be grateful, giving, humble and accepting can’t be done in a day, a month, or even a year.

Don’t know what to do or who to help while getting your family involved in community service year-round? Here’s a list of activities for all age groups and local organizations that could benefit from such activities, with icons representing the organizations beneath the activity.

Maybe next year’s Thanksgiving dinner table talk and what-are-you-grateful-for answers will be even more inspiring for doing so.

For toddlers:

Donate toys – If your child’s bedroom or your living room has turned into a giant toybox, consider donating. Or if you’re shopping, especially at a store with 2-for-1 specials on toys, consider donating a new toy.

Be sure your child is involved in the process of picking out which toys to give to other kids. Say things like, “You know how happy this toy made you? Well, you don’t play with it much any more, and there is another little boy/girl that doesn’t have any toys and would looooove to play with this.”

It might be a struggle at first, especially for those toddlers stuck in the mine-stage, but it’ll most certainly be the beginning of a worthwhile tradition. After all, your child learns how to be giving, another child gets a piece of happiness, and your home may lose some of the toy clutter.

Deliver meals/supplies to those in need – OK, so you might be the one driving and doing the delivery, but by bringing the kiddo(s) along, he/she is vicariously doing service. As the saying goes, be the person you want your child to be.

Toddlers sometimes can help organize the shelves or carepackages for such organizations, too, with parental guidance, of course. Check with the organization you’re thinking of working with on how to best get the little ones involved.

For young children:

Collect food – Food drives are especially popular around Thanksgiving. Collect canned food and other non-perishable food items from your pantry, neighbors, and family and friends for such drives. For toddlers/young children, this can be turned into a counting game.

Be sure to explain to your children why your collecting food for others; nearly 25 percent of people living in Southwest Missouri are food insecure—lacking access to enough food and nutrition or neglecting other necessities to pay for food, according to Feeding America.

For pre-teens and adolescents:

Organize a food/item drive – While younger children can collect food, older children can organize the drive. From creating fliers to helping supervise drive locations, pre-teens and adolescents should contact an organization that supports a cause he/she is passionate about to determine what the organization is need of most at that time. Some organizations can also help with publicity of the drive.

Create care packages – Many organizations need items donated or care packages made. If you host a food/item drive for a particular organization, many will help in getting the event publicity. If you’re hosting a birthday or event party, ask attendees to bring a donation rather than a gift.

Sometimes care packages must be done at the organization’s headquarters, but sometimes they can be assembled at home.

Community outreach – Teenagers 16 and older can help with Habitat for Humanity either at its retail division, ReStore, or on a construction site, depending on the project’s stage.

Help furry friends – Children 10 and older can be junior volunteers at the Humane Society of Southwest Missouri and help with walking dogs, socializing cats, general office work, cleaning, bathing and grooming, and several other opportunities to work with the animals and organization.

For all ages:

Activity and supervision will vary depending on child’s age

Walk for a cause – Check for walk/run events that support causes that are close to you and your family. Whether your child is stroller bound, in a carrier, or running on their own, all members can get involved in this activity.

Clean up environment – Either as a family or part of a larger group, Mother Nature doesn’t turn away young helpers. Organizationally, the James River Basin Partnership’s River Rescue is Oct. 5 this year. The organization also sponsors tree plantings and do an annual cleanup of Lake Springfield on/around Earth Day.

Visit the elderly – The innocence and playfulness of a child can bring happiness and peace to the seasoned men and women who may get few or no visitors. Many nursing homes and senior living communities will accommodate volunteers of all ages. Check with one you might be interested in visiting.

Ozarks organizations for you and your family to help



A no-kill animal rescue service that medically treats and offers for adoption pets in Southwest Missouri


Phone: (417) 875-6565


Care To Learn

Seeks to meet health, hunger and hygiene needs so children can be successful in school


Phone: (417) 862-7771


Convoy for Hope

Provides food, clothing, medical assistance and other resources around the globe through children’s nutrition initiatives, disaster responses and citywide outreaches


Phone: (417) 823-8998


Developmental Center of the Ozarks

Specializes in services for developmentally disabled, delayed and/or physically disabled infants, children and adults


Phone: (417) 831-1545


Harmony House

Advocates for, educates, empowers and supports women seeking help and refuge from domestic abuse


Phone: (417) 864-7233


Isabel’s House

Provides immediate refuge for children from birth to age 12 whose families are in crisis


Phone: (417) 865-2273

Jesus Was Homeless

Provides/delivers meals and sack lunches to the homeless that live and work in the Branson area


Phone: (417) 335-9915


Least of These

Helps impoverished families and seniors in Christian County through providing food, clothing and hygiene products


Phone: (417) 724-2500


Newborns In Need

Provides handmade blankets, sleepers, hats, toys, bottles, wipes, toiletries, diapers, etc., to families with newborns in need


Phone: (417) 823-9508


The Kitchen, Inc.

Services include housing, food, counseling, healthcare, education, youth services, clothing, advocacy, life skills and homelessness prevention


Phone: (417) 837-1500


Wish I May

Provides ‘Happy Birthdays’ through gifts and party supplies to underprivileged children and their parents/guardians in the Springfield area


Phone: (417) 844-6195

About author:

Kandice Matteson is the Advertising & Editorial Director and Co-Publisher of From Our Nest magazine, residing in Ozark with her husband, two daughters and two dogs. With a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and a Master’s in rhetoric, Matteson spends almost as much time dissecting the meanings and motives behind language and composition as she does watching Frozen with her two daughters. She's a quasi-crunchy mama who cherishes children and loves to share knowledge and information with all that will let her.

View all posts by Kandice Matteson