The third Sunday in June is special. It’s the day we celebrate fathers, the men who mend skinned knees and broken hearts, help with homework and scouting badges, give sage-like advice and crack groan-worthy jokes. Dads wear many hats, but their most important role is guiding, teaching and nurturing their children while helping them grow into responsible adults and thoughtful members of their communities.
More and more fathers (and parents, in general) are now discovering that a wonderful way to show their kids the importance of community – and serving others – is through volunteering. And volunteering can be even more rewarding when it’s done as a family. United Way Hands On, the Volunteer Center for United Way of Central Alabama, offers various opportunities for families to volunteer together throughout the year; but there’s also a relatively young organization in our area that actually specializes in creating family-oriented volunteer projects.
Husband and wife Alex and Ashley Seligson founded Little Hands Serving Hearts in 2017 to expand opportunities for families to volunteer together. Both passionate volunteers, the couple wanted to include their children Braxton and Brooklyn in the fun but struggled to find events that included children.
“We’d find a family-friendly opportunity, but then it would be months before we’d find another,” said Alex. “So we just decided to take the bull by the horns and start our own program. It’s so fulfilling to volunteer together. The bond it creates strengthens your family. Plus, it’s fun!”
In the three years since its founding, Little Hands Serving Hearts has touched countless lives through volunteer projects with seniors, children and people experiencing homelessness. Ashley, who serves as the organization’s Executive Director, said that while the main purpose is, of course, to help those in need, the effect of volunteering on children is equally profound.
“It’s extremely rewarding for the children,” said Ashley. “They get the opportunity to connect with people they might not otherwise meet – both the people they’re helping and the other children who share their goal of giving back. And they get to see how much of an impact they can have in the community.”
“The kids really look forward to volunteering,” said Alex. “Just a day or two after an event, our children will ask us when our next project is!”
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Little Hands Serving Hearts has been hard at work for the community, albeit through innovative approaches that keep everyone healthy and safe.
“One of our favorite regular activities is playing bingo with the residents at North Hill Nursing and Rehabilitation Center,” said Alex. “Unfortunately, we had to cancel those because of Coronavirus.” But the residents were not forgotten. “Since we couldn’t visit,” said Ashley, “we got the address and encouraged the children to send mail. They colored pictures or wrote notes of encouragement – just little things to brighten the seniors’ days.”
In addition to at-home projects such as writing letters to North Hill, Little Hands Serving Hearts has also given back by providing frontline workers with meals from local restaurants. Since the beginning of the pandemic, they’ve fed more than 1,600 people!
“We brought lunches to grocery stores, police stations, fire departments, pharmacies, you name it!” said Alex. “We just wanted to show appreciation for the people who were putting themselves at risk to get us through this tough time.”
To learn more about how Little Hands Serving Hearts is helping the community – or for ideas on how to celebrate Father’s Day by giving back as a family – visit their website.