Lend a Hand in 2024!


Make Volunteering Your New Year’s Resolution!

Now that we are a few months into 2024, have you thought about your New Year’s Resolution? Fitness, nutrition, reading, self-care, and spending less are commonly at the center of these resolutions. If you’re like me, you might have a goal or two in mind but you’re careful not to raise your expectations too much to avoid setting yourself up for failure.

Sometimes we struggle with which goals we want to work toward, as it can be overwhelming to focus on just a handful of areas. If you haven’t landed on a goal for 2024, or if you have room on your plate to take on another, here’s a suggestion: volunteer more!

As someone who is involved with several different organizations, I can tell you that many (if not all) groups are struggling to fulfill their volunteer commitments. This puts a strain on the organization as well as the people who are trying to run it (who are likely also volunteers!) Dedicating your time and talents to a cause that matters to you not only helps the organization but can also bring you a sense of achievement and be a source of joy.

Find an Organization You Love

I know, I know…you would love to volunteer more but who has the time? I totally get this, but I’m telling you, once you sit down and look at the needs of your favorite nonprofit and your schedule, you might be surprised by what you can offer them.

It can also feel somewhat intimidating to volunteer, and I get that too. When my kids were in elementary school, I was often the first one clamoring to claim “plates and napkins” on the class party sign-up sheet. With three kids, a busy schedule, and social anxiety, this was the best fit for me. Then one year, I wasn’t quite fast enough and the only spot left was “games.” Oh, the dreaded games assignment. Feeling guilty about my hesitation to take that on, I talked myself into it and was delighted to learn that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. With the help of Pinterest and the dollar store, I was able to piece together three easy and fun games to match the theme of the party. Most importantly, the kids had a great time and enjoyed their celebration, which was the whole point.

Now that my kids are in high school, volunteering has become a great way to get to know their teachers, coaches, and the other parents involved in the programs. We all know (or will soon find out!) that teenagers aren’t always as chatty as they were when they were younger, and getting info about their activities can be challenging. The easiest way to get around these struggles is to volunteer. Not only are you helping the programs, but you’re also building an easy way to connect with your teen. Win, win!

High schoolers are also often in need of service hours, so volunteering can be a fun family activity as well. Here’s a list of volunteer opportunities for kids in Columbus. You can help an organization that’s important to you (for my family, that’s the Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio), or you can explore opportunities in your community. I guarantee that many are looking for assistance and will be grateful to hear from you.

A young man with blonde hair and glasses sits with a dog at a volunteer event.
Alex loves to volunteer with The Canine Collective!

Sometimes, though, time really is an issue. If you’re too busy (even with other volunteer opportunities!), but still want to help, there are several other ways to get involved:

Donate – some organizations need monetary donations while others need supplies. If you sign up for their email list or follow their social media to stay informed, you can assist with donations as you’re able.

Engage on their social media – due to the algorithms on the different social platforms, it can be difficult for nonprofits to get their messages out into the community. By simply liking or sharing a post, and even commenting with an encouraging message, you are helping them spread the word.

Follow through! – whether you tell yourself that you’ll get more involved when your calendar or bank account calms down, or you sign up to help in some way, please follow through on that commitment. It can be devastating to an organization when volunteers flake out at the last minute, so try to avoid doing that!

I’m fortunate to be connected to many great causes and programs in my community, and I look forward to continuing and improving on those connections in 2024. Volunteering with your kids through Seeds of Caring is an excellent way to get the younger kids involved too! I believe that, unlike some of my other goals for this year, I can actually meet and enjoy this one!

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Jen Franklin Kearns
Jen Franklin Kearns grew up in Central Ohio and is pleased to raise her family here as well. She and her husband Mark reside in Delaware and are parents to Alex, Addie, and Andrew. Their home is completed by their loyal beagle, Maisey. Jen is a social media analyst for a local family foundation, and she is also a passionate advocate for inclusion and disability rights. Jen’s oldest son, Alex, has Down syndrome and Jen works tirelessly to ensure that Alex has access to inclusive opportunities in their community. Jen and Mark are raising their children to know that that inclusion matters for all. When Jen isn’t advocating, writing, or shuttling her kids back and forth to sports practices or club meetings, she enjoys perusing social media, reading, and drinking large amounts of coffee.


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