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Kids feel valued when they add value. This is the aim of the Starfish Project for Children, SPFC, a local non-profit that provides positive service experiences for K-12 students living on the Main Line and nearby. To reach this goal, SPFC focuses exclusively on the experience of the child doing the service. Ordinarily, positive community service experiences require that the child doing the service see the happy results of their service, as in a clean lawn, younger students enjoying having books read to them or a grateful recipient of food or sorted pre-owned clothing. In the time of Covid-19 however, it is not usually feasible for kids to see the final result of their service, and yet community service is needed now more than ever.

For this reason, in these unique times, experiences should be crafted so that children know they are adding value just by doing the service. Fun in the doing is a key element for children to enjoy the service experience. How do you find the opportunity for your child to add value that is fun and engaging? Three easy steps:

  1. Make it personal – Involve your child in choosing among (three – for younger children) easy, age-appropriate service opportunities that the child can accomplish in one sitting, including set up and clean up.  
  2. Be Prepared – Gather the materials needed in advance to make it fun and easy.
  3. Communicate the Value –  Explain specifically how your child’s service will benefit others and involve them in delivering the result of their efforts.

Bake for a Neighbor – This is a great activity especially for the youngest children. You can bake with your child and have the child make a Have the Best Day card to go with the treats. A socially-distanced delivery will provide the child with the full service experience SPFC seeks to deliver in non-Covid times. This activity can be powerful in teaching our youngest children that doing service for your own community is as important as serving the greater community. Additionally, it sends the message to the child that should he need something in the future, it’s okay to ask and take from your own community.

Spread the Bread  – Host a bread baking drive for your block or neighborhood. Ask each family to bake and donate one homemade wrapped sweetbread or sandwich loaf of their choice for your family to deliver to local first responders. Children can decorate plain newsprint wrapping to make the bread delivery more meaningful. 100 sheets of plain newsprint wrapping is available at Lowe’s for under $10. For more information, visit https://www.spreadthebread.org/getting-started.

Project Linus – become a Blanketeer! The Montgomery County chapter of Project Linus is massively in need of fleece no sew handmade blankets for sick children and other children in need of comfort. Blankets must be actually homemade and handmade to qualify for the Project Linus label. For more information, contact Jackie 267-471-2787, mistynana@verizon.net. Please note: because blankets are designated for potentially sick children, blankets cannot be made in environments with smoke and if there are pets, blankets must be kept away from pets.

Animal Friend for a Friend in Need – For older elementary school students. First responders often collect stuffed animals to give to children affected by house fires and other emergencies. For this activity, you will need soft fabric of your child’s choice, a needlepoint needle, yarn of your child’s choice, cotton stuffing or newspaper, glue and five buttons. You can draw the shape of a teddy bear on paper. Kids can trace the bear onto two pieces of material, cut it out, thread the needle and get sewing! (You may want to mark stitch points on the fabric with a permanent marker.) Stuff the bear with the stuffing when the bear is ¾ sewn. Once the bear is sewn, stuffed and finished, the child should glue on the buttons to make eyes and three buttons down the middle. Bears can be delivered to local fire or police stations. Your child may want to attach a signed upbeat short note to the bear’s arm or leg for the ultimate recipient such as “Specially made for hugging” from, {your child’s first name}. Caution: be careful to limit the number of bears made so your child does not feel like this is a chore or work. The activity is designed to be fun and to make your child feel like they are part of the helping chain.

Overestimate the Power of a Homemade Card – A big problem created by the Covid-19 crisis is loneliness. People living in senior communities, recuperating in hospitals and living in other closed recuperation communities are often cut off from visitors to ensure safety. The power of a homemade card from a child is truly huge in the time of Covid. To make this a project, have your child select the community they wish to benefit by looking up options on the internet: hospital, children’s hospital, senior community, nearby or in center city. Have your child select colored paper and other materials and papers they can use to decorate their cards. Talk with your child about the message they wish to write. This project can be as big or small as your child can handle. Either way, the child should know it will be a big deal to the person who receives it. 

For more information about SPFC, visit our website at www.thestarfishprojectforchildren.org

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