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Volunteering Ideas for Cold Weather Months

Brrr…! It’s cold outside! As the month of November winds down, December peeks around the corner, followed shortly after by January. However, as we celebrate the most wonderful time of the year, we can also feel a cold chill seeping in through our winter coats. 

Winter is definitely a joyful time filled with many things to celebrate; but for those who can’t afford to pay for their home, keep their kids warm or find a place to stay, it can also be particularly dangerous. Fortunately, when we all come together, we can help make an impact. If you want to live a more altruistic lifestyle, help give back in the upcoming season by checking out these volunteering ideas for cold weather months.

Host a coat drive.
Winter is certainly a chilly season, particularly if you don’t have anything to keep you warm. For many low-income families, coats are simply too expensive to fit in the budget. If you want to give back and help people in your community keep warm this year, volunteer to host a coat drive for individuals to donate their new or gently used coats to those in need.

Knit scarves, hats and mittens.
Of course, you can’t have a coat without keeping your head and hands warm. If you happen to have a particular talent for knitting, try knitting a few scarves, hats and mittens to donate to people in need. Even if you aren’t a very good knitter, consider donating any mittens, scarves or hats you can to the local shelter.

Collect money to fuel heat.
For many people, the extra costs to keep the house warm during winter are too much to afford. See how you can help by volunteering to host a penny drive campaign to assist families in paying for their heating. Even a little spare change can make a world of difference for someone in your community this winter.

Write and send cards.
For some, the cold season is often the loneliest season. Help brighten someone’s day during the dark winter months by writing and sending a greeting card. Write cards for a local shelter to hand out to patrons, thank volunteers for their service or give back with a care package for troops overseas, hospitalized children or people in need.

Build a blizzard box.
Sometimes, cold weather can prevent necessary community programs like Meals on Wheels from delivering. To help people who need the services, try building a “blizzard box” with anything they might need during a winter storm. Include nonperishable food items, water and even a flashlight for them to feel secure when programs aren’t available.

Donate toys for gifts.
Winter also brings with it some of the most expensive holidays of the year. In the U.S. alone, the average American spends approximately $700 each year on gifts. However, many people cannot afford to buy gifts for their children or other loved ones. Give back by volunteering to shop for new toys to hand out to children in need this holiday season.

Bring food for a shelter.
Finally, the winter season can also put a strain on community shelters, as people in need rush indoors to try and stay warm. This often results in a lack of available resources. Get involved by bringing food for the shelter to give away. Check a list online to see what food they need most, or contact your local shelter to see what you can give to help.

Winter is the most wonderful time of the year, but for those who can’t afford the cold, it can also be the most challenging. As we head into the holiday season, give back to your community by using these volunteering ideas during the cold winter months.

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7 Things to Feel Thankful for This Thanksgiving

Can you smell it? The faint scent of turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie drifts through the air this week, as we all gather around our family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving. The holiday of Thanksgiving has a long and often conflicting story throughout U.S. history, but throughout the years one thing has remained the same: the season of gratitude. 

With such busy lives, it can be difficult to slow down and take time to feel thankful for what we do have. However, Thanksgiving marks an important season for all of us to take a moment and remember the little things in life—and every little thing we’re thankful for. If you want ideas for how to feel grateful this week, here’s a list of seven things to feel thankful for this Thanksgiving.

1. Sense of Safety
Many people throughout the world and even within the United States do not have a secure sense of safety this Thanksgiving. If you feel safe where you live, where you engage in the community and who you interact with, consider how fortunate you are to not live in fear this holiday season.

2. Good Health
Our health is one of the most important things to recognize and take care of in our lives. Without good health, we can’t move forward with much else. If you wake up this week with air in your lungs, medicine on the shelf and no pain in your body, take a moment to feel thankful for the good health you have.

3. Faithful Family
Without our family, many of us would not be where we are today. Whether you’re single and live miles away from your nearest relative, or you’re married with a house full of children, feel grateful for your family this season, and recognize how they formed you into the person you are.

4. Strong Friendships
Of course, for many of us, our friends are actually more like family than some relatives. Strong friendships get us through the hard and good times, and often shape us into better people. Use this week as an opportunity to consider the impactful friendships you have in your life, and if you have a chance, reach out to those friends and tell them thanks.

5. Loving Animals
Maybe you’re not really a “people person,” but are more of an “animal lover.” Give thanks for the furry—or scaley, slimey or feathery—friends in your life by recognizing all of the love they have to offer this Thanksgiving.

6. Job to Work
We know, we know—jobs can often feel like more of a chore than something to feel thankful for. But, without work, many of us would struggle to feed ourselves, afford a home and even support our families. Many unemployed people long for a job to work, so if you find yourself employed this Thanksgiving season, take a moment to feel grateful.

7. Place to Call Home
Finally, if you have a roof over your head and a place to call home this week, feel thankful. People throughout the world do not have a permanent place or home, so let the feeling of gratitude seep into your heart. Better yet, see who you can invite into your home to celebrate Thanksgiving with this year.

As we go about our lives, we often get caught up in the things we want, and forget about all of the little things we already have. Thanksgiving is a remarkable time to sit down and think through everything we have in life to be grateful for. Use this list as a start, then see how many things you can add. Not only will you have a great Thanksgiving because of it, but you’ll end up feeling happier for weeks to come.

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How to Encourage Teenagers to Volunteer

Whether you’re young, old or somewhere in the middle, everyone has something they can bring to the table and improve the community. One age group in particular which can truly help and benefit from volunteering is teenagers. Teenagers are at a critical point in their development, so engaging them in volunteering is a great way to expose them to different areas of the community—and show them the impact they can have. 

Not only can volunteering help the organizations teenagers work with, but it can actually help the students, as well. Volunteering can teach valuable life skills, communication techniques and even instill an innate motivation to serve. However, teenagers aren’t always eager to get out there and get involved. Sometimes, inspiring them to take action can be challenging. If you have a student in your life who you want to serve the community, here are some tips for how to encourage teenagers to volunteer with a cause they care about.

1. Show them the purpose.
First, show teenagers the purpose behind the action. Oftentimes, schools will offer extra credit or even require volunteer hours from students. While this is a great way to get students exposed to volunteering, it often does nothing to show them the genuine purpose behind serving. Instead, make sure teenagers understand the impact of volunteering by explaining how the work makes a difference. For instance, watch a documentary, introduce them to a staff member with the nonprofit or even walk through how the organization impacts the community. By showing them the purpose behind volunteering, teenagers will feel more encouraged and engaged.

2. Give them independence.
Nobody likes it when someone is constantly checking in on them. Teenagers are the exact same way. Make volunteering enjoyable for them by giving them their own independence and autonomy whenever possible. Let them make their own decisions and choices about what organization to work with, when or even how to get involved. Giving them independence during the volunteering process will show them you trust them, and they will naturally take on more responsibility in response.

3. Lead by example.
This one is simple: if you want teenagers to volunteer, then you should be the first to lead by example. Although teenagers might not always be the best listeners, they do watch and mimic the actions of the adults in their lives. Be sure you are consistently volunteering and giving back to a cause or organization you care about in the community, in order to show your teenager how it can tangibly fit into their daily lives.

4. Get social.
There’s no doubt about it: we live in a social world, and teenagers are at the forefront of this new, social technology. If you want to encourage teenagers to volunteer, then you have to meet them on their level—by getting social. Post pictures on your Instagram story, ask them to tweet about their experience or Snapchat friends while volunteering. Volunteering doesn’t have to be boring; instead, you can help teenagers have fun by encouraging them to get social and invite others in on the experience of volunteering.

5. Provide positive feedback.
Finally, no one wants to do work if they don’t feel appreciated in return. When teenagers do volunteer, be sure to provide plenty of positive feedback, affirmation and recognition. Thank them for the work they did and talk through how they made a tangible difference for someone else. By recognizing the teenager’s efforts, you can encourage them to keep coming back and continue volunteering.

Volunteering is a valuable part of anyone’s life, but it can play an incredibly impactful role for teenagers. Use these tips to encourage the teenagers in your life to get involved in the community and give back through volunteering. Not only can volunteering benefit their lives now, but it can also create positive habit which will influence them for years to come.

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Honoring our Veterans

To our veterans and their loved ones,

The team at Brain Injury Services (BIS) wants to thank you for your service on this Veteran’s day.

In the words of John F. Kennedy, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

In 2017 alone, the Department of Defense reported 17,841 traumatic brain injuries.

BIS has more than 25 years’ experience providing community-based services to survivors of TBI, and has programs which can help veterans. Through our Veterans Integration Program (VIP), veterans and military personnel living in Northern Virginia and Fredericksburg area can access our specialized programs and services. Our services, designed specifically for survivors of brain injuries, are intended to work alongside and compliment other veteran services that may already be in place. 

Kind regards,

Denise Hyater

Executive Director

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November is National Family Caregivers Month

Welcome to November! This month, we celebrate Election Day, Veterans Day and of course, Thanksgiving. However, one major celebration which can often goes unnoticed is National Family Caregivers Month. What began as National Family Caregivers Week in 1997 has now blossomed into a full month’s worth of recognition and appreciation for caregivers across the United States.

As President Obama stated in 2012 during the NFC Month Proclamation, “Family members, friends and neighbors devote countless hours to providing care to their relatives or loved ones. During National Family Caregivers Month, we recognize and thank the humble heroes who do so much to keep our families and communities strong.” Caregiving is a valuable position in our community which often goes unrecognized. Let’s look at what National Family Caregivers Month is and how you can celebrate it.

What is National Family Caregivers Month?
Caregiver Action Network originally established National Family Caregivers Month as a week-long celebration in 1994. Then, in 1997, President Clinton signed the first NFC Month Presidential Proclamation. Since then, every president has followed suit by issuing an annual proclamation which recognizes and honors family caregivers. The month has also taken on its full-form and grown into an immersive experience of recognizing and supporting caregivers. NFC Month encourages and enables all of us to:

  • Raise awareness of family caregiver issues.
  • Celebrate the efforts of family caregivers.
  • Educate family caregivers about self-identification.
  • Increase support for family caregivers.

For those of us who strive to live an altruistic lifestyle, the month of November is the perfect opportunity to consider caregiving roles in the community and the impact they have. 

Each year, Caregiver Action Network chooses a theme to recognize the month and spearhead the national celebration. This year’s theme is Supercharge Your Caregiving! From their website, Caregiver Action Network states: “Caregivers are superheroes. Managing medications. Getting to doctor appointments. Balancing work and home. How can family caregivers handle it all? Even superheroes need tools! Thankfully, new caregiving tools can help lighten the load.” The month focuses on the crucial work caregivers provide, and emphasizes how tools and individuals can come alongside caregivers to support them.

How can you celebrate National Family Caregivers Month?
So now that you know what National Family Caregivers Month is, how can you celebrate and support it in your community? First and foremost, identify what a caregiver is, because chances are you have one in your life. Loosely defined, a caregiver refers to a family member or paid helper who regularly looks after a child, or a sick, elderly or disabled person. For instance, the average family caregiver is a working mother of school-aged children. However, as parents age, many children can even become caregivers to their parents. Caregiving means tracking schedules, managing medications, helping with physical ailments and juggling multiple responsibilities during the day. The term “caregiver” can mean a lot of different things to different people, and it can present itself in various ways. The important thing is to maintain a loose definition for caregivers, in order to better recognize caregivers you might come in contact with.

This National Family Caregivers Month, the greatest thing you can do to get involved is show a caregiver how much you appreciate them. Write a caregiver a thank you note, cook them dinner or simply buy them flowers. More often than not, caregiving is a 24-hours a day, seven-days a week job. There are few—if any—breaks. Show how much caregivers mean to you by giving them a break. Take them out, show them they are appreciated and consider how you can say thank you.

Caregiving is no easy task, so National Family Caregivers Month intends to show appreciation, recognition and gratitude to the caregivers in our lives. This November, thank the caregivers you know for everything they do to make a difference for their families and communities.