Raising Kindness is doing something unique: creating volunteer opportunities for children and their families within the community. We love this idea, because while it’s great for kids to see their parents doing good work, it’s even better when kids get a chance to get right in there and do this stuff themselves. That’s just a fabulous concept, and so we were happy to give a small grant to the Raising Kindness Youth Program. We spoke with Raising Kindness Co-Director Kareen Shapiro to learn more about the work of teaching kids to be kind:
Kars4Kids: Who came up with the idea for the Raising Kindness Youth Program, and how?
Kareen Shapiro: Jenny Emerson and I came up with the idea for Raising Kindness. We are the co-founders and co-directors of the program. The idea was born after seeking out volunteer opportunities for our children and not being able to find very many opportunities for school age children. We wanted to engage in volunteerism with our children and teach them about the needs in the greater Denver community. Our goal was to create a program that empowers children and families to do good in their community.
Kars4Kids: What can you tell us about the Raising Kindness Youth Program? What are the ages of the participants? What do they do?
Kareen Shapiro: Raising Kindness holds regularly scheduled events geared toward elementary age children and their families. Children and families create impactful hands-on service learning projects that benefit local non-profit organizations. Multiple stations are set up with activities that children and families create at their own pace. The items are then donated to the nonprofit partners. The nonprofit organizations share a brief overview of their mission and how the projects will be utilized in the community.
Kars4Kids: Why is it important for children to engage in volunteerism?
Kareen Shapiro: Raising Kindness events engage children and families in the practice of kindness through volunteerism. We are hopeful this will encourage the development of empathy, gratitude and positive self-esteem in our participants.
Kars4Kids: What is the largest event you’ve held?
Kareen Shapiro: We try to cap our events at 50 people per shift to keep the atmosphere calm and manageable. We normally hold two shifts per event. All of our events have been at capacity and we are proud of that!
Kars4Kids: Tell us about your most successful event.
Kareen Shapiro: All of our events have been successful. We are a fairly new program created in 2019. We held four events between April and June 2019 with close to 350 participants in total. We have completed and donated over 1000 projects to six local non-profit organizations.
Kars4Kids: Who chooses the themes for the events?
Kareen Shapiro: We choose themes based on needs in the community. Our themes so far have focused on vulnerable families, illness in children, animals, food insecurity and veterans. We are open to partnering with non-profits that could benefit from the types of projects we create. We work individually with each non-profit to create items that will specifically benefit the population they serve.
Kars4Kids: What are the implications of doing good within the community? What does it teach your child participants?
Kareen Shapiro: We hope that our participants are learning that they have the power to make a difference in their world. Children and families are learning about issues within the greater community that they might not encounter in their everyday life. This helps with the development of empathy and gratitude. By empowering children to do good, we are instilling the skills of leadership and community engagement that we hope will continue throughout their lives.
Kars4Kids: Do you have repeat participants? What is the most gratifying feedback you’ve received?
Kareen Shapiro: We do have families that have attended every event, and some families that have attended more than one event. The feedback we have received is very positive. Families are appreciative of the calm, warm environment we have created and how the children seem to understand the impact they are making in their community. We aim to make projects that are fun, creative, and engaging. Here is a direct quote from one participant: “Loved that the kids got to be a part of community service and connect with kindness for the greater good!!! This was incredible! I can’t wait for the next one!”
Kars4Kids: What is your busiest time of the year?
Kareen Shapiro: We are busy planning programs throughout the year. It seems that around the holidays, there is an increased desire to engage in volunteerism but we are working hard to create those opportunities for children and families throughout the year.
Kars4Kids: What’s next for the Raising Kindness Youth Program?
Kareen Shapiro: We have events scheduled for September and November 2019 and we are currently working on our 2020 schedule.