National Volunteer Week is April 15-21
National Volunteer Week celebrates the impact of volunteer service when everyone comes together to build stronger communities. American Legion Auxiliary members across the nation exhibit Service Not Self every day of the year by giving back to veterans and local neighborhoods.
The motto of Service Not Self is a core value of the American Legion Auxiliary; it motivates our members to take action. Last year, the impact of ALA members’ mission service exceeded $1.5 billion – the value of our 15.5 million hours of volunteer service, plus all the money raised and spent supporting our veterans and outreach programs. The ALA matters!
The new American Legion Auxiliary Service Not Self Volunteering Toolkit provides members with ideas for more volunteer opportunities to support veterans, military, and their families. Below is a sampling of service ideas to get you started.
- Provide help to veterans: Many of our aging or disabled veterans and their caregivers would appreciate some help around the house since many are not able to take care of housekeeping tasks themselves. Volunteer to do light home repairs, yard work, wash a car, or cook a meal.
- Organize an ALA Star Spangled Kids activity: Educating our children about American history is extremely important to our country’s civic health. “Star Spangled Kids” is the American Legion Auxiliary initiative to educate our youth about United States history, Americanism, and the U.S. Constitution. If you want to share with young people why you love America, learn more about this great civics-for-kids initiative!
- Volunteer at ALA Girls State: Help young women develop leadership skills! ALA Girls State programs instill patriotism and help shape America’s future leaders. Contact your ALA department to learn how you can get involved in your state’s ALA Girls State program.
- Make a Buddy Basket for a struggling veteran: A large number of homeless veterans have difficulty finding transitional or permanent housing. Help those who are making a fresh start by providing them with a Buddy Basket— a housewarming gift for formerly homeless veterans who have recently found housing. Baskets usually contain items such as cleaning supplies, linens, towels, dishes, and cutlery. For more details on Buddy Baskets, check out the ALA blog.
- Invite veterans to local schools: Many ALA members have school-age children or grandchildren, which could be helpful when contacting school officials for this outreach project access to their schools. Ask the veteran(s) you know to share their military experiences with students – while being sensitive to what is appropriate to share with children. Who better to talk to our youth about freedom and civic responsibility?
- Assist in a job fair for veterans or military spouses: Some veterans and military spouses face unique challenges in obtaining a job or advancing a career. You can help them overcome those challenges by volunteering at a job fair for veterans or military spouses in your area.
- Participate in a citizenship and naturalization ceremony: These ceremonies are a great way to show your patriotism and showcase the Auxiliary by taking part in welcoming the newest American citizens and residents to our country and your state. These events can be a great family activity! You can help out in many ways, such as handing out U.S. flags and volunteering to run concessions.
- Organize a “Give 10” school supply drive: Military children often can use extra school supplies. Running a school supply drive is a great family service project opportunity. The American Legion Auxiliary’s Give 10 program allows families to work together to collect supplies such as binders, pencils, paper, rulers, calculators, and backpacks.
- Visit veterans at a local senior center or VA home: Sometimes all you need to do to help a veteran is be there — show your friendly face and be willing to listen. Many veterans deeply appreciate the opportunity to have some company or someone with whom they can play cards and games. Consider taking your children to your local veterans home or senior center. It could be a great opportunity for children to spend some quality time with veterans who will appreciate the kindness.
- Share your service: Inspire others to serve! As ALA members, we need to make sure we are telling our story at every level of the organization to highlight who we are, what we do, and why we matter.
- Impact reporting: By taking a few minutes to report your service, you help the American Legion Auxiliary tell the public and Congress how we are fulfilling our mission through Service Not Self. Tools and instructions on impact reporting are available in the Members Only section at ALAforVeterans.org/members.
To see even more ideas on ways to volunteer, check out the volunteering toolkit at www.ALAforVeterans.org/ALA-Service-Not-Self-Volunteering-Toolkit/(signing in is required).
This story was originally published in the February 2018 Auxiliary magazine.
How are you planning on helping out for National Volunteer Week?