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    Not Just For Kids

    Helping Others Helping Ourselves

    "Since the earliest days of the Republic, Americans have embraced the virtues of hard work, charity, and community service, and each generation of Americans has recognized its responsibility to pass these values on to the next generation." -U.S. Department of Education Secretary Rod Paige

    Americans have always been generous. The holiday season is traditionally a time when we think of giving, but assisting those in need doesn't have to be limited to the holidays. Volunteers of all ages render service year-round by helping others, caring for the environment, and making their communities better places to live. Some people seem to have a natural heart for service, like my 9-year-old son who declared that New Year's Day should be "Help Day." He marked it on the calendar and followed through by doing good deeds on that day. More people than ever are resolving to commit to a volunteer spirit. Remember the tremendous outpouring of support following the tragedy of September 11? More recently, enterprising Americans have found many ways to aid victims of one of history's worst natural disasters, even though the catastrophe occurred on the far side of the world.

    Charitable-minded citizens both young and old have been busy over the last couple of weeks gathering donations for the tsunami relief effort. A group of Boy Scouts in Massachusetts stood outside banks and convenience stores with donation cans for the American Red Cross. At a Red Cross branch in Denver, three brothers ages 3 to 7 dropped off sandwich bags, each containing a few dollars. Some children in a Seattle suburb raised $255 by standing out in the rain with a sign offering "Hot Chocolate for Tidal Wave Relief." A 75-year-old Kentucky widow held a New Year's Eve fundraiser for the tsunami victims. Many local agencies in our own towns and around the state are also collecting donations.

    "We want to be a nation that serves goals larger than self," said President George W. Bush. He encourages every citizen to get involved in strengthening communities across the nation and sharing America's compassion around the world. The USA Freedom Corps is a White House office created in 2002 by President Bush to strengthen and expand service opportunities as part of his call to all Americans to dedicate at least two years of their life to volunteer service. (That amounts to 730 days, 4,000 hours, or only about one day per month over a period of 60 years.) The USA Freedom Corps hopes to fulfill the need for kindness, understanding, and love in our communities which government cannot fill. The President asks each one of us to help because everyone can do something, no matter how small. You, too, can fulfill your role in President Bush's call to service.

    On December 8, 2004, the USA Freedom Corps launched a new website, www.usafreedomcorpskids.gov, designed to show elementary and middle school students how they can make a difference by volunteering. The website includes volunteer ideas for kids and youth, online games, service stories from the President and Mrs. Bush, information on how to earn the President's Volunteer Service Award, and links to federal programs that have been encouraging volunteer service for years. The site also has resources for parents to find service projects for their children, and information for teachers on how to bring service-learning to their classroom or school.

    Volunteering not only contributes to an improved society - it actually helps the volunteers! People who have volunteered say they receive more satisfaction and joy from the experience than they ever expend in inconvenience or effort. By gathering clothes, toys, or food for the needy, even young children can learn responsibility and respect for others while gaining confidence in their own abilities. Volunteering is also a good way for families to spend quality time together.

    Volunteering can be a great way to meet people and develop friendships, break down generational gaps, and provide insight into one's own problems. It is something that everyone from students to retirees can do in their spare time. Volunteer work can be used to learn skills and gain experience to put on a resume, while providing networking opportunities and new contacts for a business or career.

    Can you think of any ways in which you could volunteer at school, church, or within your community? Be sure to consider your interests and choose a cause that is personally important to you, so that you will be able to enjoy your work, feel that your time is being used wisely, and have a sense that you are contributing something of worth to the world.

    "If you're not volunteering, do so. It will make somebody else's life better, including your own." ~George W. Bush

    Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service

    January 17, 2005 is the 10th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service (www.mlkday.org). Americans across the country will honor the civil rights leader by participating in community service projects. Dr. King's lifework was to seek a common ground on which people of all ages, races, and backgrounds could join together to meet community needs, alleviate poverty, and acknowledge dignity and respect for all people. Service was at the heart of Dr. King's philosophy. "Everybody can be great because everybody can serve," he once said, as he urged Americans to take action to improve the lives of others. In recognition of that spirit, Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act in 1994, which directed Americans to remember Dr. King's legacy through service.

    Helpful Homeschoolers

    Knowledge House Scholars, a local chapter of the National Homeschool Honor Society, encourages members to develop their talents and potential by applying their skills for the betterment of themselves, the community and world. The group's motto is: "Though I have all knowledge and have not charity, I am nothing." (I Corinthians 13:2) They actively participate in individual and group projects that focus on community service, volunteerism, citizenship, environmental issues, global awareness, entrepreneurial spirit, and academic achievement. Following their first induction ceremony in August, the Knowledge House Scholars have been meeting once a month at Crossroads Christian Fellowship in New River. They hope to build partnerships with local businesses and organizations that can provide opportunities for volunteerism, citizenship and leadership development, as well as scholarships and other incentives. Visit their webpage at www.knowledgehouse.info/KHS-ED.html for more information plus an extensive list of volunteer links and ideas.

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