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Nicole Phillips, Published October 05 2012

Kindness is contagious: Get kids involved in volunteering

My daughter has decided to quit Girl Scouts. Her best friend left the group and her leader took on another role, so basically my daughter feels like she would have to attend meetings without two of her favorite people.

Half of me is dancing around the house in absolute glee because that means we won’t have to sell any magazines or cookies as fundraisers this year.

The other half of me is sad. I want my daughter to have a connection with an organization that exists to help people and make the world a better place.

Just as I was debating the parental downfalls of forcing her to be a Girl Scout, I got a letter from a woman in Moorhead named Edie. Grandma Edie had written to tell me about her beautiful granddaughter, Lynsey, who at age 8 and with multiple medical issues, gives of herself where ever she goes.

This little girl volunteers for RSVP+ (more on that in a minute), Eventide, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and for the Kiwanis Club. She delivers flowers, refills bird baths and pushes people in wheel chairs to church. And she’s a Girl Scout.

I called Edie just to make sure I was getting the story right and to find out who is behind all of this volunteerism. That’s when I found another quiet hero. Of Grandma Edie’s 13 grandchildren, 11 volunteer with their grandmother. The two who don’t are only left out because they are under the age of 3.

What an incredible way to get to know your grandchildren and help the community at the same time.

My conversation with Edie made me realize that I am going at this “make the world a better place” issue from the wrong angle.

Last year, I found out about a one-day event to collect and distribute clothing to people in need in our area. I loaded up my children, who were then in kindergarten and second grade.

I felt so great all day as my kiddos and I sorted and folded piles and piles of discarded clothing that would soon be put to good use.

When we got home I enthusiastically said, “So, what did you think? Wasn’t that great?” My kids responded with a slight groan and asked if they would ever be put through that again.

They weren’t so hot on volunteering.

After talking to Edie, I asked my daughter what she disliked about that volunteer experience. She said that the job she was assigned felt like the chores she has to do at home – only worse.

It wasn’t that she didn’t want to help. She wanted to see people, not piles of laundry.

Edie taught me that volunteering is supposed to be fun. You are supposed to get that wonderful “high” that comes from helping people. It may take a few tries to figure out your niche, but eventually you will find something you love.

Now back to RSVP+. You may recognize the name because this is the organization that coordinated many volunteers during past flood fights. It used to exist to help senior citizens find service opportunities.

The mission has now changed, and all ages are invited to join. RSVP+ helps find volunteers for hundreds of organizations – everything from working at a doggy thrift store to assisting at the local library.

There are more than 1000 volunteer opportunities in Cass, Clay, Barnes, Griggs, Ransom, Richland, Sargent and Traill counties. You can call (701) 231-9753 for more information.

My daughter won’t be going to Girl Scouts this year, but she and her little brother will be going to a senior living center to play bingo with the residents. They are so excited to help, and that’s when kindness truly becomes contagious.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at nphillips15@hotmail.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.

Nicole Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo, and currently the Executive Director of Diva Connection Foundation. She is the mother of three kids and the wife of Bison Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.