Volunteering on Valentine's Day

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Feb 13, 2014 @ 09:04 AM

volunteer on valentine's dayValentine’s Day is coming up, and the best way to show your love for others is volunteering. Usually when we think of Valentine’s Day, things like chocolates, flowers, and cards come to mind, but this year why not extend Valentine’s Day to caring for others, perhaps total strangers, who are in need of some kindness.  There are countless people in need in our communities and abroad, and this February 14th I encourage you to show your love in a unique manner.  Giving time and thought into improving your community is a true measure of compassion.  To demonstrate how Valentine’s Day is such a great excuse to volunteer, I spoke with a high school student whose Valentine’s Day themed service initiative is encouraging her peers to help others.  Then, I thought of a few other Valentine’s Day service projects that you might adopt in your community.  

Zainab Hasan, a high school senior and president of the Global Citizens Corps club at Grimsley High School, shared with me how her “Spread the Love” campaign celebrates Valentine’s Day with service.  Around fifteen students are involved in the project.  The group is collecting jars of peanut butter to donate to Food Assistance, a local organization that helps low income senior citizens.  

Zainab explains, “One specific preferred item was peanut butter, so Grimsley Global Citizen Corps decided to do a peanut butter collection, calling it the ‘Spread the Love’ campaign since it's in February . . . Food Assistance helps out 450 families each month and 20% of senior citizens live at [the] poverty level.”  Grimsley Global Citizen Corps’ peanut butter collection is one of their many service projects carried out each year.  The club has also collected shoes and glasses to send abroad to children in need.  

I asked Zainab why the peanut butter collection was important to her, and she said, “I like to know that I'm able to help out people in my community. I've been to countries outside of the US, and I see how poverty stricken those places are. One day I'd like to help them as well, but we have to start out small to eventually span out and make a larger difference.”

My final question for Zainab was to describe how she thinks Valentine’s Day and service relate: “Most people on Valentine’s Day tend to celebrate themselves and their friends . . . its important to put that love towards others as well. The less fortunate senior citizens don't really have anyone to visit them, and [they benefit from] a small amount of food or money to make the holiday something memorable for themselves. If we can give them something, even if it is just peanut butter, it shows them that they're not alone, that there is someone out there who cares about them. It may not be a whole lot but its more than enough to make someone smile and feel loved.”

If you want to make people in your community feel loved through acts of service, here are a few suggestions for Valentine’s Day service ideas:

Random Acts of Kindness

Send Volunteer Valentines:  For nonprofits, sending thank you notes or cards to volunteers is a nice way to remind them you value their commitment.  Volunteers who are appreciated will feel that the time and effort they put into an organization is worthwhile.  Developing a relationship with volunteers will build a reputation of respect and commitment that will encourage community members to take interest in your organization.  

Advocate Love: What are some causes you feel passionately about?  What would you like to see changed or improved in the world?  Who do you feel society should approach with more kindness?  Raising awareness about issues and advocating change is an important part of civic engagement.  Make people aware of the issue you are focusing on through posters, social media, and presentations.  Celebrate Valentine’s Day by showing where change is needed and striving for a world with people who are more considerate of each other.

Bake Some Sweet Treats: Bake sales are a fun way to fundraise for your favorite nonprofit.  Make your cookies, cupcakes, and other treats festive with pink and red frosting and sprinkles.  Get other people involved to help you decorate your baked goods and plan the event.  

This Valentine’s Day, we can all show a little more love for each other through acts of kindness and service.  Perhaps it's no coincidence that it's also "Random Acts of Kindness Week." To find ways to volunteer, search for local opportunities and organizations on NobleHour.  Find a friend and ask him or her to “be your volunteer” this Valentine’s Day, and share this holiday of love with those in need of it most.  


Topics: volunteering, community service, random acts of kindness, random acts of kindness week, valentine's day

Random Acts of Kindness Week - A Great Way to Warm Up

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Tue, Feb 11, 2014 @ 10:52 AM

This post was updated on 1/21/2015

Last February, Chicago marked at least 22 days of temperatures at zero degrees or colder. While winter winterneighborhoodisn't as bitter as last year, we’ve still got a long way to go with no end in sight. And, we are not alone! Even Southern states are dealing with frigid cold temperatures, ice storms, ridiculous wind chills and hazardous driving conditions. The only people enjoying this crazy weather are the students receiving snow days. The cold days and grey skies take their toll. It’s not easy to be bright and cheery when you’re covered head to toe in fleece, wool and long underwear. It’s just really hard to be nice when you can’t feel your toes.

However, there is something that may help thaw your hardened dispositions and warm your hearts! It's the upcoming Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week, February 9 – 15, 2015. Considering Valentine's Day is celebrated during the week, it really is a great time to share love and kindness.

According to Brooke Jones, vice president of the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, RAK officially began in 2000 and is now celebrated by millions of people worldwide. 

“The week was created as a way to celebrate the everyday kindnesses we experience, but sometimes don't recognize,” said Jones. “RAK Week reminds us what it means to be kind with every word we speak and every action we take.” 

The non-profit foundation was started in 1995 and is dedicated to inspiring people to practiceRAK kindness and pass it on to others. Their goals are to:

1.)  Inspire others to be kind.

2.)  Legitimize kindness as a way to improve society.

3.)  Be a highly regarded, visible social and emotional learning education program.

The organization promotes unique opportunities for all types of organizations, groups and individuals by providing free online resources to encourage acts of kindness across the globe, specifically in school communities. Educators can visit their website for lesson plans, projects, resources and research. In addition, their website lists kindness ideas for the home, office, and school.

“When going to a University of over 40,000 students it is easy to get caught up in all the small stresses of everyday life,” said Varshini Kumar, a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Kumar saw a need for RAK at the end of her sophomore year and started a chapter at her school in August, 2013. “Random Acts of Kindness, as an organization, serves as a reminder for the campus that at the end of the day kindness is a cyclical thing - the more you are kind to those around you, the happier you are as a person. I think RAK week is a great opportunity for students to get together and create something positive for the campus, as well as spread awareness about the kindness movement that RAK seeks to inspire.”

Kumar’s RAK chapter uses Facebook and social media to post sources of inspiration for performing random acts of kindness.

The Bone Student Center at Illinois State University provided free treats and giveaways during RAK week last year. The school’s Division of Student Affairs promoted new acts of kindness each day and encouraged the community to pass it on.

At the University of New Mexico, the Division of Student Affairs planned a variety of activities to celebrate RAK, including their “Pit of Kindness” where students could “Take a seat, Make a Friend” in a ball pit! Students also donated new teddy bears and made Valentine’s Day cards for children at the UNM Children’s Hospital Trauma Center and Regional Burn Center. At their student union, students enjoyed free kind words, candy, “Be Kind” buttons and take part in a kindness flash mob. Their RAK flyer encouraged student to smile a lot, send a handwritten note, volunteer at a shelter, pick up trash, or give someone a compliment.

The University of Alabama’s RAK chapter created a Daily Challenge Sheet for students to do something each day hoping to inspire, encourage and cheer on their community to make a difference on campus. Challenges included encouraging students to introduce themselves to someone new, tell people thank you, pay for someone’s food or drink, and spend time with and listen to friends. The UA chapter planned events all week and worked with other university clubs and groups to “create a community of kindness.” 

RAK encourages everyone to step out of normal routines and perform a new random act of kindness each day of the week.  Are you ready to get in on the act? Here are 20 simple tips from the RAK Foundation to get you started this week. Who knows, you may want to keep it going all year long!

  1. Give someone a compliment.
  2. Post a positive comment on social media.
  3. Donate old towels or blankets to an animal shelter
  4. Do a chore without being asked (Moms will really love this one!!).
  5. Eat lunch with someone new.
  6. Say good morning to people on your way to school or work.
  7. Send a thank you note to a friend, student, teacher, custodian or co-worker.
  8. Visit a senior citizen home or volunteer at a shelter.
  9. Walk a neighbor’s dogWalking the dog
  10. Students can start a kindness chain and add a link for every new act of kindness.
  11. Put up “Kindness Zone” signs at the entrance of classrooms to remind people to practice Random Acts of Kindness.
  12. Hold the door open or hold the elevator for someone.
  13. Babysit for a friend or neighbor.
  14. Bring a treat to a friend who is tired or has had a long week.
  15. Surprise your team or study group with coffee or snacks.
  16. Make an extra sandwich in the morning to give to a homeless person.
  17. Prevent road rage and let the car in front of you merge.
  18. Pass out hand warmers or an extra pair of gloves to the homeless.
  19. Shovel a neighbor’s driveway or sidewalk.
  20. Smile!

So, as we prepare for the final long months of winter weather, don’t despair. Warm up your home, your office, or your campus with a simple act of kindness. It won’t cost you a thing, but the return could be priceless. Here’s one more act of kindness – come back and share your stories with us!

Want to continue performing acts of kindness all year round? Visit NobleHour for a complete listing of volunteer opportunities!


 Photos: Dolly Duplantier

Topics: engaged learning, kindness, service learning, education, volunteering, community service, service, community, civic engagement, random acts of kindness, random acts of kindness week, opportunities, involvement, social media, active

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