Attitude of Gratitude: Act Local with our Staff Appreciation Lunch!

There are so many chances at this time of year to give back to those around us, and we have talked about many of them in here. One very important way to give back at a VERY local level is happening next week — on December 12, we are hosting our annual PTA Staff Appreciation Holiday Lunch! The teachers, office staff, specials teachers, librarians, janitors, lunchroom support, paraprofessionals, special education teachers, curriculum specialists and many more team members at RES will come together to celebrate a successful beginning of the year and wish each other a happy holiday season. Our RES community has the opportunity to make that lunch very special by bringing both homemade and store-bought food and drink to show our appreciation. I know we all wish we could say a special thank you to that one amazing RES team member who helped our child through a rough day or assisted them in overcoming an obstacle — this is one of the best ways we can do that!

Sign up to bring an item — and for working families or just folks who don’t enjoy cooking so much, there are lots of things like napkins and drinks, or even soups (which could easily be those delicious soups from Stew Leonard’s!) that don’t require hours of fussing! You can find the SignUp Genius here. Questions? Reach out to the RES PTA for more information!

Attitude of Gratitude: Volunteering with Kids, Link Roundup!

Several Facebook posts in Redding online communities have been wondering, as we enter this season of giving — how can I involve my kids in service? While most organizations, frankly, need financial support more than anything to achieve their mission, many parents wonder how they can engage their children in the hands-on work of charity, in the hopes of imparting a character lesson as well.

We addressed a bit about some hands-on ways kids in Redding could participate in stocking our food pantry and helping heat the homes of our neighbors in a recent post, but there are many other ways kids can get involved. Here are some ideas that might help your RES student find a way to give back to our community and our world this season and beyond!

40 Ways Kids Can Volunteer, Toddler to Teen – fantastic and practical ideas from volunteering for Meals on Wheels to growing a vegetable garden to help local food banks to starting a kids’ performance group to give free shows to community members.

50 Kid Friendly Volunteering Ideas – Another great list of ideas for getting out there and getting your hands dirty, including things like doing a mini-street cleanup effort to act truly local.

10 Kid-Friendly Volunteer Service Projects – from the Points of Light Foundation, this great list takes the normal suggestions of food pantry drives and makes them more fun and accessible to kids, and also emphasizes the importance of committing to service as a family.

Tips for Volunteering with Kids – even with great intentions, it’s hard to make time to serve others in the community in between karate practice and classical guitar lessons and meal planning and spelling tests. How do you make giving back easy and part of your every day routine? This PBS guide offers some great suggestions.

So go out there and get active in our community with your RES student! The lessons will last a lifetime!

Attitude of Gratitude: Act Local at the Redding Food Pantry.

In our last post about thankfulness, we talked about some ideas for raising grateful kids, particularly in this season of bounty. One of our suggestions was to reach out to our awesome local Redding Food Pantry. We spoke with Redding’s Social Services Director, Angelica Fontanez to learn more about how kids can help and what she wants our RES community to know. 

Right here in Redding, there are 46 households receiving SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) benefits, and many of the Redding Food Pantry clients receive this support. However, others do not. Keeping in mind that the pantry serves many who do get the SNAP benefit is important, though, because those benefits can’t be used for may household necessities like soap, household cleansers, dish washing liquid, laundry detergent, toothpaste, shampoo, paper towels, toilet paper, facial tissues, and much more. All those everyday non-food items that are so important to keeping our house and person clean and safe are not included. This makes them a very special and ongoing priority for our Redding Food Pantry. A great way to involve your RES student in thinking about this is to have them make a list (a picture list of a written list!) of all the things they use throughout the day to make themselves ready for school or to go to bed that aren’t food, then make that into your standard food pantry supply list.

Another exercise Ms. Fontanez encouraged our students to do is, observe the prep and cooking for their favorite meal. What kind of ingredients did we need to make it? Did we use oil? Spices? Salt? Aluminum foil? Those kinds of basic pantry staples are other consistent needs. The food pantry always needs cooking oils, spices and condiments, as well as basic household cooking items like foil or plastic bags. Often people donate the inexpensive box of pasta but don’t bring in pasta sauce or olive oil, for example, Even when it comes to boxed mac and cheese, food pantry clients need perishable dairy items to make it, so consider donating a store gift card so they can get the butter and milk (as well as fresh veggies, fruits, meats and fish that everyone enjoys!).

Kids might enjoy making a list of their favorite snacks — food pantry clients are just the same as every other person, in that they enjoy snacks and treats on occasion, and those who are food insecure may not have the chance to have many treats. Consider making one of your donation choices a winter treat like nice hot cocoa, cookies, tasty crackers, and fancy tea. Getting food from a food pantry can mean eating a lot of generic food that isn’t richly flavored. Encourage your children to choose items to donate that they would themselves like to receive. Ms. Fontanez suggested thinking of the donation as being like buying a snack for a friend to share — you want to get a truly nice, generous snack for your friend, not just try and buy the cheapest thing possible! Involving your RES student in the shopping process is a great way to get started.

For RES community members interested in doing something a little different, Ms. Fontanez suggested making a monetary donation to Redding Shares the Warmth, a program that gives financial assistance to Redding households for electric and oil bills. While there are federal and state programs to help with these bills as well, they have a lengthy and elaborate approval process, and this can bridge that gap. It can also cover those who do not qualify or who have a short-term emergency need. The applicants for this program rose dramatically last year (from an average of 24 households to 37) and that trend may continue this year, so you can help your Redding neighbors stay warm by writing a check, made payable to the Town of Redding, with a note on the memo line saying, “RSW.” It can be dropped off at the Community Center with Ms. Fontanez, or mailed to PO Box 118, Redding, CT 06875.

Is your kid excited to share his gratitude and help people locally? What about helping your child organize a NEIGHBORHOOD FOOD DRIVE? While Redding has notoriously unwalkable neighborhoods (as we all remember at Halloween time!), why not ask a few neighbors near you to do a mini-food drive for the Redding Food Pantry? Your RES student could explain the problem of hunger to your neighbors on a personal level and ask for donations. After collecting items, your child then could organize the donations that are received. It’s important to check expiration dates — Ms. Fontanez mentioned that they often get donations that have expired items that can’t be consumed, and your child could be a real help by weeding these items out for disposal and recycling. The final step would be organizing the items by food type, turning cash donations into grocery store gift cards and bringing it all in to the Community Center during business hours Monday through Thursday, or before noon on Fridays.

So if you’re thankful for all you have this year, help your child see that in action with our Redding Food Pantry.

Here’s a great article from a food bank director talking about how kids can help, if you’d like to read more!

Let’s talk family routines!

As part of our transitions discussion, one key issue is establishing (or re-establishing) healthy, sane morning and evening routines. We’re all going in a million different directions, so how do we get on track and make life easier (and happier) now that school’s back in session? These links might give you some food for thought.

One of the takeaways from all the articles is that kids feel secure in routines, so developing one that is right for your family is a worthwhile endeavor.

Building an Evening Routine for kids of Different Ages

Back to School: How to Get a Good Routine Going

How to Establish a Morning Routine for Kids That Actually Works

Invite Calm By Creating a Morning Ritual

Get Your Child Out the Door In the Morning

What works for your family? Have you made any big changes coming back to school this year? We’d love to hear from you!