While our world may be facing the coronavirus pandemic, Austin-area kids haven’t let the COVID-19 crisis keep them from contributing to their communities.
The Junior League of Austin (JLA)’s Kids Giving Back program, now in its fourth year, has, like other staple programs of the League, adapted to provide socially distant service opportunities meaningful both to participants and those they serve. Kids Giving Back Committee Chair Tima Brown said in order to make sure these opportunities didn’t slow down, her team quickly pivoted to virtual meetings via FaceTime and Zoom, and they keep in constant contact via group text to craft concepts for community service.
Kids Giving Back Contribute to Community During COVID-19
“Under the leadership of Tima, we brainstormed and adapted contactless volunteering opportunities for parents and kids,” said Kids Giving Back committee member Katie Turner. “The needs stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be ignored, and our committee began this placement working to address hunger needs and to honor healthcare workers. Rather than attempt to shelter our children, I believe in the efforts of Kids Giving Back to explain to children the challenges and needs we face in our community and to explain ways that they can help.”
“Kids Giving Back has been a bright spot and the creative outlet getting us through the long days.”
– Tima Brown, Kids Giving Back Chair
Kids Giving Back Lifts Up Austin-Area Healthcare Workers
The first Kids Giving Back event encouraged children to lift up Austin-area healthcare workers by creating homemade cards that their parents then took through a drive-thru drop off. Committee members who collected the cards then distributed these notes of encouragement to those on the frontlines of the pandemic.
“Kelly [Tarun], Katie and I have all said that Kids Giving Back has been a bright spot and the creative outlet getting us through the long days,” said Brown, referring to her committee members. “The gift of time also fosters thoughtfulness, which is the mindset you want to have when laying a foundation.”
The #NoHunger Food Drive Continues
In addition to the healthcare heroes service project, Kids Giving Back also recently hosted the #NoHunger Food Drive supporting the Central Texas Food Bank and led by 13-year-old community organizer Mace Massingill.
“We can’t say enough about Mace Massingill and his #NoHunger campaign,” said committee member Kelly Tarun. “He [virtually] trained kids to be Hunger Captains and those kids are currently out in the community raising awareness for hunger here in Central Texas as well as collecting food for the Central Texas Food Bank.”
Future Events Planned for Kids Giving Back
Tarun said around 25 children participated in these two events, and the committee already has two more events scheduled. The Christmas in July event will again honor healthcare heroes by encouraging children to send virtual thank you notes, but this time Santa will deliver the notes to St. David’s Hospital, along with cookies and coffee. During the month of August, the Homeless Helper Bags event will virtually show children learn how to pack bags full of supplies most helpful to those experiencing homelessness in our community. The bags will then be distributed to those in need by JLA partner Mobile Loaves and Fishes.
Turner said she and her daughter look forward to these opportunities to work on service projects with other children, even from a distance.
“I took a photo of us at the healthcare workers’ appreciation event wearing our masks,” Turner said. “Someday I hope she looks at it and remembers how we worked together to respond to needs and provide gratitude during this pandemic.”
Brown said she loves the ability to promote and grow volunteerism in children as a member of The Junior League of Austin. “I see an opportunity for the League to offer training and service learning to children of JLA family members that both serves our mission and our members,” she said.
Lyndsey Crawford, President of the Junior League of Austin, agrees. “Our community begins inside our homes,” she said. “I can’t think of a better thing to teach and model for our kids and families than the value of service to others. In a time when our families may feel isolated from the world around us, it is comforting for us all to find ways to connect to others and the greater community around us.”