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Live United: Engage children in how to care for the community

Live United By Erin Haag

My son is 6 years old. My daughter is a newly minted 9 year old, and I’m still adjusting to the idea that her next birthday will be double digits. They make me laugh, frustrate me, and above all, they humble me every single day.

Erin Haag

We recently started them on an allowance. They have a “Save, Spend & Share” jar, and they’ve been excited to see their money jars each week. It’s interesting to see their different personalities come out. My daughter is determined to save up to get her goal — and she did. We now are the proud owners of a 10-foot inflatable unicorn that is a sprinkler. My son, he’ll hand out a dollar or two at a time, for the littlest trinkets that are quickly forgotten. It brings him great joy for now.

That share jar though — it has been a hot topic. My daughter wanted to buy a lot of tents to help the homeless have a place to call their own. How do you explain the complexity of the homeless problem without diminishing her joy to do good? We’ve talked about different nonprofits. I made the rule that their donation could not be to mommy’s work, at least for this first few donations — because that was too easy. I encouraged them to look outside the world they’re used to.

My friend Stephanie Kibler, executive director of the Freeborn County Historical Museum, shared some information about the Norsk Evangelisk Luthersk Kirke they’re trying to raise funds for.

Per Stephanie’s writing, “The Norsk Evangelisk Luthersk Kirke (Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church), built in 1878, once located southeast of Albert Lea. Also known as the North Round Prairie Lutheran Church. The church was donated to FCHM in 1968 and the interior appears today as it looked in the 1870’s—completely furnished and ready for use. Currently the church is in need of foundation repair and exterior paint. The quotes received total $26,000.”

Well. My daughter loves the historical museum. It’s her favorite field trip, she enjoyed Autumn in the Village two years ago and still talks about going back. I showed her pictures of the church, and she yelled, “Mama! That’s it! Can we go? I need to get them my share jar!”

Well OK then! Out of all the causes that we’ve talked about the last few months, this was the one that called to her heart, the one that gave her a sense of urgency. So off we went, bringing along two of their friends. It also fit my criteria of being something different than what they see mama working on at work.

My son joined in, telling me he wanted to give $17. I asked him why $17, wondering what logic was for that specific number. His response? “Mama! That’s a lot of money!”

Stephanie gladly accepted their hard-earned and well-saved money. She showed them the specific areas that needed repair, and wrote out a receipt for each donation, even the quarter, clutched in a sweaty little hand.

Many people think about giving as a family in their church or their school — volunteering with the PTA or at a sporting event. What about stepping outside that box? For me, the key to raising children who will donate — through time, talent or financial support — it’s important to expose them to different areas. Get them comfortable with reaching out and asking, “How can I help? How can I learn more?” I have more work to do with my own children of course, but I want to challenge other families to take this journey with me. Raise service-minded children outside of your normal environment, because those adults will be more comfortable in a variety of circumstances and look deeper into the world of giving.

Currently, United Way of Freeborn County is looking to create a roster of volunteers who are willing to deliver food boxes to seniors once a month. There’s about 10 to 15 deliveries each month, all within city limits for now. The volunteer would pick up the box from the YMCA and go to the address given. The senior will show their eligibility card through the window, and the box is left on the porch. Volunteers do not have to do every month, and it’s not a set day or time. We aim for the third Tuesday or Wednesday of the month.

What a great opportunity to engage your children in how to care for our community. Children can ride along, help carry the box or hold open the car door, wave to the seniors through the window.

For this, and other opportunities, we invite you to call our office to sign up at 507-373-8670. Remember, United Way is about living united — engaging and supporting our community in a variety of ways, including talking about a 143-year-old church that is an important part of our community’s history.

Erin Haag is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.