Amid holiday season, one of the busiest times of the year, it’s a great opportunity to find ways to serve others. There are many activities that will allow you to safely relieve the fatigue of quarantine, virtual school and zoom meetings by getting into the spirit of giving through 4-H service projects.
Traditionally, community service projects would include a group of 4-H members banding together one day to clean yards for the elderly or visit nursing homes or volunteer at local shelters. Although COVID-19 limits many forms of our traditional service projects, youth and their families can still coordinate amazing opportunities amidst our new normal of social distancing. Remember, while participating in any 4-H affiliated programs or projects, all members, families, and volunteers must adhere to our safety protocols which include but are not limited to wearing masks the entire time, remaining 6-feet apart, hand sanitizing and washing regularly, and more found here.
Here are some safe alternatives to implement with your local 4-H program, club, or businesses:
- Power Hour Yardwork– If outside activities are your forte, have families sign up to clean one location together as a family unit. Remain masked, gloved, and wash hands regularly to ensure safety of yourself and others. Set obtainable goals for your one-hour timeframe to limit traffic and need for the use of facilities.
- Business Lawn Decorating- Some business, such as Elderly Rehabilitation Centers and Nursing Homes, allow outside groups to decorate the outside areas of their facilities for the holidays. This is a great way to show off your creative side and even drum up some friendly competition. Remember to follow UF COVID guidelines (wear masks, social distancing, etc).
- 4-H Care Stockings- Pack stockings with hygiene items, socks, word games, and/or prewrapped snacks and deliver them to long term care facilities or even local businesses. Be sure to include information on 4-H, whether it be a card, business card, or 4-H pledge bookmark! You never know where we may find new 4-H Volunteers or members.
- 4-H Book Buddies- Find a facility that would allow you to read a book (even better if you dressed in character) to their clientele. While this may not be feasible in person with COVID restrictions, offer to pre-record a session and either email or share the link!
- Food Drives- Set up a location (preferably at your 4-H office) for locals to donate unperishable items in containers that can be sprayed with disinfectant spray. Work with your 4-H Agent or other adults to set up where these items will be distributed to.
- 4-H Furever Gifts- Put those sewing (or tying) skills to good use and make some dog toys, blankets, or beds out of old t-shirts or jeans. These make perfect donation pieces to pet shelters and rescue facilities!
- 4–H Pen Pals- Contact your local elderly residential facilities to see if 4-H members could submit cards/letters to residents. Be sure to speak to someone in management to get approval for contact information. Another alternative to this would be to contact classroom teachers and ask if you can send a letter or card to the class. This would be a great way to recruit future 4-H’ers too as you share your own stories!
Service projects are an excellent method of targeting life skills in the “head and heart” areas of the targeting life skills model. Teaching our youth to care about others instills empathy while teaching them the spirit of giving activates community service volunteering. For more ways to volunteer in your county, check with you local 4-H office and seek ways that you can volunteer with 4-H today!