how to start your own family-action team

A Family-Action Team is a term I made up, but it perfectly explains what I was trying to go for: I wanted to create a group that let families come together, take action, and serve their community. My efforts were in response to a lot of the negativity I was seeing in the world. I wanted a way to show my daughter that not only are her parents active and striving to improve their community, but lots of other kids and adults are doing the same thing. I want my daughter to see that there are good people, making good choices, all around her. And of course, I want to be active in my community – though I am very active in volunteer work, it rarely involves the whole family, and is rarely even a visible portion of the organizations I’m involved with.

The Plan

  1. Find Your People: The first step to starting to Family Action Team if to find like-minded people. These could be friends from church, your neighbors, or a mish-mash of your social circle.My group currently has 15 families. If each person brings a spouse and just ONE child that’s already 45 bodies that you have to find space for. Fifteen is the perfect number of families, because you want to aim for 5-7 families at each event. If you only have 5-7 families in your group, then if too many people back out you won’t have enough support. Any larger than 15 and you may end up with 60 people crammed in to a small space feeling a little bit like their presence isn’t necessary. Find the right balance for the types of projects you want to do.I’d suggest trying to keep your group to a manageable size, as finding meeting space and age appropriate activities gets more difficult and requires more management-skill the higher your small group gets. It’s okay to have a small group, and to encourage others to start more small groups.
  2. Involve The Kids: As I mentioned one of my main goals as a parent was for Ginny to be involved. Part of what makes this possible is that my Team is made up of families with similarly aged children (though we may have a few outliers most of the kids are early elementary aged). This makes finding projects easier, as the difference between what a 4 year old and an 8 year old can do is astounding, and trying to engage and accommodate a wider age range can get challenging.
  3. Goal: Have some goals in mind – this will help guide what kinds of projects you choose. Our main goal as a Team is to involve our children in reaching out to under privilaged and under represented groups in our community. I’ll address the benefits of having a goal-oriented Take Action Team in a little bit.
  4. Meeting: We are busy people, surrounded by even busier people. But every one on my Team has committed to being involved, and to one meeting a month. How is this possible?! I set my group up in a way that means we only need to meet for the projects.We have a private facebook group where families sign up to host a project during a specific month. During that month the host family chooses the service project (we have an on going thread for ideas and to measure general interest and approval), they will let the rest of the team know what prep work needs to be done, and then at the end of the month the host-family either opens their home or finds a larger location for the Team to come together and complete the prepared project with the kids.
  5. Get it Done: Our first project involved making blankets to donate to a local emergency/short-term homeless shelter. The adults took care of getting all of the supplies, and on the day of our project we came together and the kids helped to make the blankets. And when the kids tired of sitting and tying blankets, they played – but they played in a room where their parents where doing something for some one else. Don’t get tied up in the details, don’t take on too much – this is a team, and every one takes responsibility for making it work. What makes it even better is that the time commitment for the non-hosts is a couple hours, once a month. We can’t change the world, but hopefully we can raise compassionate, kind, civic-minded children who will go out in to the world knowing that their actions have meaning and that every one can make a difference.

    Our first project was to make fleece tied blankets that we donated to a program called Warm Winters, whose goal is to make sure that the homeless members of our community have sufficient protection for the cold months ahead. We made sure to make the blankets big enough to cover a tall adult male, double layers of fleece to be extra warm.

If you are unsure of whether starting a group is really your thing – I hope I’ve assuaged the idea that it has to be complicated. By delegating the organizing responsibilities, the entire thing becomes very manageable.


The Benefits

  1. Lead by example: My daughter sees me do a lot of things. But one of the things she can’t see is what I do when I go to meetings. It’s difficult for her to grasp the larger concept of the value of time at this age. But when the three of us get together to do something for some one else, it shows her directly that I think helping other people is important.
  2. Opens the door to conversation: There are people who don’t have what we have. There are children whose parents can’t take care of them. There are people who have fled their home countries and are starting life with nothing. And we should love them all, regardless of how they look, or what they’ve done. Empathy, kindness, and a willingness to see past what separates us to see what connects us. These projects let us as parents address the perils and positives of humanity in a natural, powerful way.
  3. Empower our children: I’m teaching my daughter that her time has power, her thoughts have power, and her efforts matter. I’m showing her that we are not singular beings in a world, but part of a system and that it is our responsibility and privilege to take our bounty and help those in need – and that doing so will lead not only to a stronger community, but makes your own life more meaningful.

I want to live my life to be good, for the mere sake of being good – and this plan lets me share that endeavor with my little love. If you have any questions just let me know, and I’d be happy to help you organize your own Family Action Team!

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