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Volunteering For September 11: Family Project Ideas

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Volunteering as a family on September 11 is a great way to teach children about both the attacks and community. | Thinkstock

On the tenth anniversary of Sept. 11, it's important to not only teach children about what happened when the Towers fell, but also to highlight the heroism and spirit of volunteerism that followed. Since 9/11 is on a Sunday this year, the weekend serves as a prime opportunity to do charitable work as a family.

"We wanted to make sure that children learned not only what happened on 9/11 but what happened on 9/12 -- how we were bonded by our collected concern for people in need," said David Paine, the co-founder and president of My Good Deeds, a nonprofit group that annually leads the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance.

Here are some ways to volunteer as a family this weekend:

Good Work Starts At Home

An easy way to do service projects together is to find something you can do without leaving the house.

"It can be as simple as looking for toys or clothing that can be donated to a shelter or another charitable organization," Paine said.

Maureen Byrne, the Director of Youth and Family Engagement for GenerationOn, a volunteer organization for kids, sent HuffPost Parents four ideas to start with.

  • Spread The Bread: For the family with kitchen skills, bake bread. While adults are manning the oven, the kids can make a card or find a poem to include with the bread and decorate a box to wrap it all up in. Then, send the delicious, inspirational goodness to EMT workers, fire fighters, police officers or anyone in need. Find a how-to starter kit on Spread the Bread's official website and bread recipes on Gluten a Go Go.
  • Write Words For The Wounded: GenerationOn's website has information about where to send care packages for hospitalized American troops. Have your children write letters and make drawings to include. Then, pop in a prepaid phone card so that the soldiers can call home. To do the same for overseas servicemen and women, visit the Blue Star Families organization's Operation Appreciation.
  • Create ‘Kids With Heart’ Banners: Artistically ambitious? Draw or paint banners -- inspirational, patriotic and unique -- that are made to comfort. Get the whole family together to brainstorm what message you want to express, make the banner and then ask local veterans homes, hospitals, public schools or other public spaces if they would like to display it.
  • Make Blackout Boxes: It always pays to be prepared. Package up flashlights, batteries, dust masks, local maps, whistles, food and snacks in a box for local senior centers (call ahead to make sure they're accepting donations) or low-income families.

Taking It To The Streets

There are pre-organized activities being held all over the country.

If you're in Manhattan, New York Cares, which runs volunteer programs for 1,200 nonprofits, city agencies and public schools, will be administering a variety of programs throughout the city, including making cards for veterans at PS 140 and working at the Lower East Side Ecology Project.

There are options outside of Manhattan as well. Enter your zip code into 9/11 Day's website to find activities in your area. Volunteer events range from gardening in Los Angeles to making scarves for veterans in Washington, D.C.

While 9/11 is an appropriate time to volunteer, Meghan Moloney, the senior director of programs at New York Cares, reminded HuffPost Parents that charitable work is a 365-day-a-year activity.

"We think it's wonderful when families volunteer together," Moloney told HuffPost. "And we know from our community partners that they love [seeing] it. If a whole family comes in saying we care about this school or this senior center, it builds a great feeling of community."

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