Family Volunteer Event Helps to Close the Summer Meal Gap!

Summer Family Volunteer Event at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts
Tuesday, July 1 from 12noon –  4pm

You can help close this “Summer Meal Gap” for working families in Western Massachusetts by bringing your family to The Food Bank’s Summer Family Volunteer Event on Tuesday, July 1 from 12noon-4pm in Hatfield, MA. Everyone is welcomed.

Without school meals, grocery budgets are stretched to the brink, and many parents find it difficult to replace the two to three free meals they receive five days a week during the school year. Nearly half of the families must make tough choices between paying for food and paying for utilities, fuel, rent, mortgage or medical care, because they don’t have enough money to meet all these basic needs.

How important are school meals to kids in our area?

  • 1 out of 5 children in Western Massachusetts are classified as “Food Insecure.”
  • More than 365,000 children (nearly 2/5 of Massachusetts students) receive free or reduced meals in school.
  • Families that rely on school feeding programs must provide an additional 10 meals per child for each week of summer!

You Can Help

You can help close this “Summer Meal Gap” for working families in Western Massachusetts by bringing your family to The Food Bank’s Summer Family Volunteer Event. Read the rest of this entry »

We (heart) the Deerfield River: A Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night

Art Garden Event: River Fest Parade

Hilltown Families and The Art Garden partner for a final community-service art-making event for the season

Our watersheds are vital and important ecosystems for animal and plant species. Celebrate the Deerfield River Watershed with friends, family, Hilltown Families and The Art Garden on Friday, June 6th, from 4-7pm in Shelburne Falls for our final community-service art-making event for the season.

At this event we will be focusing on what we love about the Deerfield River Watershed and preparing for the annual Deerfield RiverFest’s Frog and Flower parade on June 7. Be a part of creating large cardboard fish, frogs and flowers for the parade, as well as individual processional artworks. All ages can participate! Materials provided. Takes place at The Art Garden.

Engaging your family in community service teaches kids positive values while opening up channels of communication between parent and child, and can increase their participation as future volunteers. Join us for an evening of community service art-making on Friday, June 6th from 4-7pm at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, MA, for We (heart) the Deerfield River, the final event in a series of five free family community service nights!

The Art Garden is located at 14 Depot Street in Shelburne Falls, MA (in the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum building.) SEE MAP. Questions? Email Sienna at swildfield@hilltownfamilies.org.

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5 Featured Community Service Events

Clean-up With Your Family
Community Clean Up Days for Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

Families can participate together in community service at one of the many spring clean ups happening in the region. Here are five featured community service opportunities happening this Saturday, May 3rd, 2014.

  1. EASTHAMPTON: Spend time with community members cleaning up Easthampton at the city’s Community Clean Up Day. Starting at 8am, meet at the Chamber of Commerce office and bring gloves, rakes, shovels, and brush cutters, if possible. This is a great chance for older students to gain valuable community service experience by making a visible difference in their community. 413-527-9414. 33 Union Street.
  2. LENOX: Older students and adults can help prepare Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary for summer at Cleanup Day from 9am-1pm. There will be a variety of projects for volunteers to help out with. Call for more information. Registration is required. 413-637-0320. 472 West Mountain Road.
  3. SPRINGFIELD: Help out the City of Springfield at an Earth Day Clean-Up event at Duggan Middle School from 8am-12noon, coordinated by the Springfield Science Museum and Keep Springfield Beautiful. Join the group and get hands-on experience making a difference in your community with your family. Call to register. 413-263-6800 x404. 1015 Wilbraham Road.
  4. SPRINGFIELD:Do some Spring cleaning for your community at the Downtown Springfield CleanUp at Court Square from 9am-12noon! All ages can help sweep away signs of Winter and get the city ready for Spring at this community-service event. Clean up days get kids engaged in community service and give them hands-on experience making a difference in their city! Court Street.
  5. WEST SPRINGFIELD: West Springfield’s Friends of Park and Recreation are holding a cleanup day for Regan Park from 8-11am. Come do some Spring cleaning and bring tools if you can. Community clean ups are a good way for students to discover the importance of community service and gain hands-on experience helping their communities. 413-736-3878. Overlook Drive.

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Support Language Art & Community Engagement Through Poetry

Poem in Your Pocket Day
Supporting Language Art & Community Engagement

Thursday, April 24th, 2014, is national Poem in Your Pocket Day, a day when people select poems to share with others they encounter throughout their day. We love what the community in Charlottesville, VA, organized for this national day that celebrates poetry while supporting literacy. This great community building event was a collaboration between their library, schools and senior center.  It encouraged community engagement in various locations throughout their town, including their library, town common, hospital, and local businesses.  It also encourages literacy development and a love of language.

Wouldn’t it be great if communities, groups or individuals in Western MA did something similar? Tell us if you do! It could be as simple as a youth group doing something similar to this VA community on a much smaller scale, passing out poetry to passersby in Northampton, Greenfield, Pittsfield, Amherst or Springfield. Or you could become guerrilla poets, posting poems on community bulletin boards in your town. Share your ideas and be inspired!

Check out archived column, “One Clover & A Bee: Poems for Families to Learn & Love” for more encouragement that supports a love for poetry in our children and ourselves.

Global Youth Service Day

Global Youth Service Day
Community Service-Based Learning

Families interested in participating in community service can use Global Youth Service Day as an opportunity to choose a cause and begin donating their time and efforts to it.

Every single day, kids are making a difference in their communities. Whether it’s through collecting donations for a food bank, volunteering to walk dogs at a local animal shelter, delivering meals to senior citizens, or helping to raise awareness and support for an important cause, kids can (and do) accomplish some really wonderful things through community service. Not only do such efforts benefit communities, they also help kids to learn important lessons about fairness and equality, community activism, and leadership.

This year, GenerationOn honors the efforts of youth around the world with Global Youth Service Day – an event designed to celebrate kid-lead projects and to encourage youth to become engaged in service within their communities. Taking place from April 11th-13th, 2014, Global Youth Service Day honors youth on six continents and in over 135 countries for their service. In addition to celebrating efforts that are already being made, Global Youth Service Day is designed to promote community service and to draw in youth as volunteers to support a wide variety of causes.
Read the rest of this entry »

Service-Based Learning: Volunteer Land Monitors

Service-Based Learning: Volunteer Land Monitors
Hilltown Land Trust

Participating in land maintenance with a conservation organization can be an empowering experience for teens. Building on experiences from their childhood, they will experience nature in a new way – not only will they be enjoying its beauty while immersed in it, they will be responsible for helping to ensure that an area continues to be available to them and to others. Making close observations of an area can help volunteers to develop a deeper connection to the area, and can help to open their eyes to tiny details of nature. Teens who are required to do community service in order to receive a high school diploma can use work with the Hilltown Land Trust to satisfy that requirement – and as an added bonus, their work will overlap with concepts that they learn in biology and environmental science courses! (Photo source: HLT)

Land conservation, like many things, begins at home. Young child can learn to appreciate natural resources by exploring and caring for their immediate surroundings, and in doing so will develop respect and appreciation for the environment. As they get older, their appreciation for their local environment begins to broaden into the larger community. Community-service opportunities, like Land Monitors for the Hilltown Land Trust, are ways older students can participate in service-based learning while supporting natural resources they have grown to care about.

Teens and their parents can help to promote conservation and land preservation together by serving as Volunteer Land Monitors for the Hilltown Land Trust. The Hilltown Land Trust’s many properties are set aside as protected land to ensure that the numerous species that call them home will continue to do so for years to come. However, as these lands are also open to human visitors and have human neighbors, they require some monitoring. Truly caring for preserved land means ensuring that it has been properly used – a task designated to the organization’s Volunteer Land Monitors.

On Saturday, March 15th, 2014, the Hilltown Land Trust and the Kestrel Trust will hold a Volunteer Stewardship Training Workshop at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton…  Click here to find out more about this community service opportunity!

The Children’s Garden Project Brings Garden-Based Learning into the Community

The Children’s Garden Project

Working on garden bedsA childhood filled with playing in the dirt is something that rural folks can almost take for granted. Small lessons about seeds, plant growth, weather, and seasonal changes almost teach themselves when kids are able to explore the earth – and the things that grow in it – for themselves. But what happens when the dirt to dig in is covered with pavement? How do we help children to learn these lessons when the materials aren’t quite so handy?

Thanks to The Children’s Garden Project , kids in the urban areas of Hampden and Hampshire counties have easier access to dig-able, plant-able, fascination-inducing earth! The organization – which begun their work just last year – has helped to bring gardens to locations in Holyoke and West Springfield. This year, the organization has partnered with Head Start to bring gardens to seven new locations in Holyoke, Springfield, and Chicopee.

While school gardens are becoming increasingly more and more prevalent, the founders of The Children’s Garden Project saw one major flaw with the model of using school gardens as a tool for teaching…  Read the rest of this entry »

Random Acts of Kindness with Handmade Valentines!

Handmade Valentine Workshop for Families on Friday, Feb. 7th from 4-7pm The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls

Make Your Own Handmade Valentines with Hilltown Families at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls during a free family workshop: Friday, February 7th, from 4-7pm.

Handmade valentines are wonderful expressions of thoughtfulness that can be shared with neighbors and friends, or with people you might not know. Join us to make many! Think about making a valentine for your librarian, postal worker, or teacher. Make several and deliver them to a nearby homeless shelter, nursing home, or an elderly neighbor in your community. Send them in the mail to long lost friends or relatives you have never met!

Handmade valentines are lovely tokens of kindness to share with others!  Join us to make a batch of your own! Drop in anytime. All materials included, but feel free to bring any materials you’d like to incorporate into your handmade valentines. Space is limited for this free event and pre-registration encouraged. Click here to sign up!

DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition: A Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night
at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, MA
DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition
Friday, January 17th, 2014 from 4-7pm

Engaging your family in community service teaches kids positive values while opening up channels of communication between parent and child, and can increase their participation as future volunteers. Join us for an evening of community service art-making on Friday, Jan. 17th from 4-7pm at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, MA, for DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition, the second in a series of five free family community service nights!

What better gift to receive in the winter than a warm pair of handmade mittens or cozy handmade scarf; and what better gift to give to someone in your community than something you have lovingly made?

On Friday, January 17th from 4-7pm, Hilltown Families will be hosting a Free Family Community Service Night with The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls.  We are inviting families to join us for an evening of DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition. Come with an outgrown felted wool sweater, and/or fleece outerwear to be repurposed into easy-to-sew mittens and scarves to donate to New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT).  No previous experience is needed and there will be tasks for all ages… Join Us!

Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in western Massachusetts

No matter what kind of activity you choose to do to celebrate MLK Day, it’s important to be sure that your family shares an understanding of the significance of the act. Of course, children will need to know some of the history behind the holiday, but the amount of depth with which they understand it will vary based on their age. In addition to learning about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and accomplishments, try to identify together some of the themes threaded through his work. A discussion of the importance of kindness and gratitude alongside an examination of your family’s role within the community can be especially useful – children will be inspired to find ways to share some of King’s big ideas with those around them. Once your family is inspired, transfer their enthusiasm into accomplishments and further learning!

Next week, the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 20th, 2014, presents families with a three-day weekend. Instead of spending your extra day off sleeping in and lazing around the house, highlight the historical significance of the holiday for your family and find a way to make it meaningful. Families can find special events and service opportunities taking place across western Massachusetts, each of which presents students with the chance to learn experientially about the history of oppression in our country, community activism, and the importance of kindness and a commitment to serve others.

Mass Audubon will be hosting the annual Martin Luther King Day of Service at both Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton and Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Hampden. Both events will begin with readings of King’s writing about justice and service, and families will learn how to relate his ideas to environmental justice. Afterward, families will be able to do hands-on work to help maintain the sanctuary, such as trail clearing and maintenance, upkeep of buildings, and invasive species removal. The events at both sanctuaries will begin at 9:30am, and will include outdoor work – so dress warmly! Productive participants of all ages are welcome to volunteer at Arcadia, however the work at Laughing Brook is more appropriate for older teens and adults.

Families interested in participating in a community service project that directly serves other community members can participate in the North Berkshire Community Coalition’s MLK Jr. Day of Service in North Adams. Open to teens and adults, the event will include tasks like home insulation and winterizing, painting, knitting, cleaning, and organizing. The event will take place from 9:30am-12:30pm, and includes lunch. Volunteers should meet for the event as Mass College of Liberal Arts’ Church Street Center (61 Main Street, North Adams), but may participate in projects at other locations during the event.

Discover more events…

Handmade Valentines Workshop: Spreading Random Acts of Kindness with Hilltown Families & The Art Garden

Handmade Valentine Workshop for Families on Friday, Feb. 7th from 4-7pm The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls

Make Your Own Handmade Valentines with Hilltown Families at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls during a free family workshop: Friday, February 7th, from 4-7pm.

Handmade valentines are wonderful expressions of thoughtfulness that can be shared with neighbors and friends, or with people you might not know. Join us to make many! Think about making a valentine for your librarian, postal worker, or teacher. Make several and deliver them to a nearby homeless shelter, nursing home, or an elderly neighbor in your community. Send them in the mail to long lost friends or relatives you have never met!

Handmade valentines are lovely tokens of kindness to share with others!  Join us to make a batch of your own! Drop in anytime. All materials included, but feel free to bring any materials you’d like to incorporate into your handmade valentines. Space is limited for this free event and pre-registration encouraged. Click here to sign up!

Family Volunteers Can Help Children in Transition Celebrate Their Birthdays!

Volunteer Opportunity with Birthday Wishes
Because Every Kid Has a Birthday!

Volunteering together with your children teaches positive values, like kindness, empathy and tolerance, while opening up channels of communication. Thanks to Birthday Wishes, a nonprofit organization serving much of New England and New York, children living in homeless shelters are able to celebrate their birthdays with games, cake, and gifts – and there are lots of ways that families can help to support the organization’s efforts…

The celebration of birthdays is an important childhood activity. Birthday parties honor a child, and acknowledge the growth that has taken place during the past year. Children, to whom the length of a year feels much longer than it does to an adult, look forward to their birthdays with excitement and can hardly wait to have a new number to represent themselves. Even older children who have lost some of the excitement of early childhood look forward to birthdays – a birthday means a special day when you’re the center of everyone’s positive attention.

Imagine, though, that you’re a small child and your birthday passes without celebration or perhaps even without mention. Imagine that after spending the whole year sharing cupcakes at school for friends’ special day or getting invitations to the parties of others, your own much anticipated day brings nothing special. Children whose families are experiencing homelessness often have this experience. Families whose lives lack stability and financial resources are forced to make sacrifices, and non-essentials like birthday parties are no longer a priority when these families reside in a shelter.  Thanks to Birthday Wishes, there are several ways families can help children in transition celebrate their birthdays…

DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition: A Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night
at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, MA
DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition
Friday, January 17th, 2014 from 4-7pm

Engaging your family in community service teaches kids positive values while opening up channels of communication between parent and child, and can increase their participation as future volunteers. Join us for an evening of community service art-making on Friday, Jan. 17th from 4-7pm at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, MA, for DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition, the second in a series of five free family community service nights!

What better gift to receive in the winter than a warm pair of handmade mittens or cozy handmade scarf; and what better gift to give to someone in your community than something you have lovingly made?

On Friday, January 17th from 4-7pm, Hilltown Families will be hosting a Free Family Community Service Night with The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls.  We are inviting families to join us for an evening of DIY Mittens & Scarves for Families in Transition. Come with an outgrown felted wool sweater, and/or fleece outerwear to be repurposed into easy-to-sew mittens and scarves to donate to New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT).  No previous experience is needed and there will be tasks for all ages… Join Us!

Boxing Day: A Day of Gratitude

Boxing Day: A Yuletide Tip

Drawing inspiration from the holiday’s roots, use the day after Christmas to show some appreciation for those in service positions who you see regularly. Kids can make thank you cards for the workers who stock shelves and bag your groceries at the local co-op, bake and deliver cookies to the farmers at a local CSA, or make prayer flags covered with messages of thanks and gratitude for the doctors and nurses working at a local community health center.

Boxing Day, St. Stephen’s Day, Day of the Wren, Second Christmas Day, Day of Goodwill – known by many names in countries around the world, December 26th brings a second day of celebration. Following the traditional Christmas Day, the holiday most commonly known as Boxing Day is a bank holiday – a day when banks and other similar service-based industries are closed, allowing workers an extra day off. Though the holiday has evolved over time, its roots are quite similar to its modern manifestation. Boxing Day gets its name from the practice of giving Christmas boxes filled with food and gifts to servants and tradesmen – something that took place after the members of the upper class had enjoyed a day filled with celebrations (during which many of the service workers hadn’t had a day off)…

Read the rest of this entry »

Spread the Bread: Community Service from Hearth & Home

Connecting and Supporting Community with Bread (and Biscuits!)

“Through tradition, culture, religion, taste or memory, we all share a connection to bread.” – www.spreadthebread.org

Does your family do a lot of baking during the holidays… or on a snow day!

Why not make an extra loaf or two and share with someone in need or a local hero?

Spread the Bread, a global grassroots bread-spreading initiative, is encouraging families to do just that!

Community members are encouraged to bake (or buy) bread, wrap it with a note of hope, inspiration or gratitude, and offer that bread to honor a hero (firemen, veterans, first responders), donate to a food pantry, share with an elder in your community… offering a gift and connecting with your community.

Download these cards to color and attach to your “small loaves of kindness!”

Another initiative is Spread the Biscuits, to honor our animal heroes and animals in need. Download a Spread the Biscuits Starter Kit to get started

[Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield]

Children’s Volunteer Morning at The Food Bank

Children’s Volunteer Morning at The Food Bank
Monday, December 23rd, 2013

This community service-based learning opportunity will take place during school vacation week on Monday, December 23rd, 2013, and offers kids and their families a chance to volunteer together while learning about food security and the important work the Food Bank does to support food security in the region.

1 in 5 children in Western Massachusetts live in food insecure households. The holidays are a particularly difficult time for families in need, who must juggle higher heating costs, children needing more meals at home (instead of at school), and recent cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), all while trying to put food on the table and make the holidays a special time for the whole family.

You and your family can help the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts provide food for your neighbors in need during a special Children’s Volunteer Morning in Hatfield.   Find out more…

Community Service: Creating Care Bags for Giving

Hands-on volunteering experiences can sometimes be hard to find for families with younger children. There are many terrific of organizations within our community that need volunteers to help with a variety of jobs, but often these jobs are skill-specific or take place in environments that may not be welcoming to young children. However, there are lots of community service projects that kids can do at home that make just as large an impact as in-person volunteering.

Care bags are an example of an at-home community service project that families with young children can do together with parents or teens facilitating. Care bags can be created to donate for people of all ages to a variety of organizations, but creating them for children can help young children feel a particular connection to the process. While your own children may not have experienced anything like what those who will be receiving your bags may have (homelessness, foster care, major illness, etc.), they will already have one thing in common: they’re kids, and they know what is fun and interesting, as well as what would be comforting during a scary time.

There are many different ways to participate in the creation and distribution of care bags, and the process of creating them can be tailored to the age and specific interests of those involved. Families can research organizations that solicit donations of items or create their own bags from scratch.  [Continue reading...]

A Serving of Art: A Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night
at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, MA
A Serving of Art: Placemat Making
Friday, December 13th from 4-7pm

Engaging your family in community service teaches kids positive values while opening up channels of communication between parent and child, and can increase their participation as future volunteers. Join us for an evening of community service on Friday, Dec. 13th in Shelburne Falls at The Art Garden, for A Serving of Art: Placemat Making, the first in a series of five family community service nights!

During the holidays, many families find themselves wanting to give back to their community by supporting food security and connecting with their neighbors. This time of year can also see children with a bad case of the “gimmies.” A family night of community service is one way to support your community while helping children focus on the needs of others. Using art and making your own gifts creates a well rounded recipe for the holidays.

Hilltown Families and The Art Garden will be collaborating again this year in a series of Free Family Community Service Nights! The first in the series will be on Friday, December 13th from 4-7pm: A Serving of Art: Placemat Making.

Join us in Shelburne Falls for an evening of art and community service, making reusable handmade canvas placemats and collecting nonperishable foods, both to donate to Stone Soup Cafe in Greenfield, MA. Families will also be invited to make a second canvas placemat to take and give to an elder in their life or a home-bound senior in their community… Find out more about this community service event…

Support Seniors with a Sock Hop!

Community Service Learning: Socks for Seniors

Of all the possible ways to give back to your community during the holiday season (and the entire year, too), collecting socks might seem like the smallest of ways to make a difference. In reality, it’s not such a small gesture! The socks that you collect or donate don’t have to be boring six-packs of plain white gym socks…. they can be whimsical or even hand knitted!

Spread the spirit of giving and build community this holiday season by organizing a collection drive to support Socks for Seniors!

The organization has been collecting socks all over the country for more than ten years, thanks largely to the support that they have received from families, businesses, schools, and other community groups. The socks collected in each drive are then given to elderly community members in order to keep their toes nice and warm throughout the winter and share some of the holiday spirit that inspired the project in the first place… Read the rest of this entry »

A Serving of Art: A Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Night
at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, MA
A Serving of Art: Placemat Making
Friday, December 13th from 4-7pm

Engaging your family in community service teaches kids positive values while opening up channels of communication between parent and child, and can increase their participation as future volunteers. Join us for an evening of community service on Friday, Dec. 13th in Shelburne Falls at The Art Garden, for A Serving of Art: Placemat Making, the first in a series of five family community service nights!

During the holidays, many families find themselves wanting to give back to their community by supporting food security and connecting with their neighbors. This time of year can also see children with a bad case of the “gimmies.” A family night of community service is one way to support your community while helping children focus on the needs of others. Using art and making your own gifts creates a well rounded recipe for the holidays.

Hilltown Families and The Art Garden will be collaborating again this year in a series of Free Family Community Service Nights! The first in the series will be on Friday, December 13th from 4-7pm: A Serving of Art: Placemat Making.

Join us in Shelburne Falls for an evening of art and community service, making reusable handmade canvas placemats and collecting nonperishable foods, both to donate to Stone Soup Cafe in Greenfield, MA. Families will also be invited to make a second canvas placemat to take and give to an elder in their life or a home-bound senior in their community… Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown Families Virtual Holiday Food Drive

Hilltown Families Virtual Holiday Food Drive

Every $1 donated through the Hilltown Families Virtual Holiday Food Drive equals $13 worth of food distributed to families in need (the equivalent of nearly 10 meals!). In other words, your $1 dollar donated through our virtual food drive to The Food Bank of Western MA will feed 10 people a much needed meal!

According to the Food Bank of Western MA, one in eight people in our region—at least 135,000 region-wide—struggles to put a meal on the table or has to choose between paying for utilities or buying food. Many more may miss meals every now and then, or rely on alternative ways to get food they can’t purchase, like dumpster diving or visiting a meal site. Tens of thousands of families, elders and children in our region daily rely on emergency food assistance, such as community pantries or meal sites. Hunger can strike anyone, including working families, elders on limited incomes and people faced with a sudden illness or layoff.

This holiday season, Hilltown Families is hosting a Virtual Holiday Food Drive in support of food security in our region. While organizing food drives have many terrific benefits and are great ways to bring families together in a community gathering space to support western Massachusetts residents in need, there are many benefits of a virtual food drive too, including: cost savings to The Food Bank of Western MA in staff time; no extra driving for participants; and accessible to families near and far who want to support food drives in our region…

Read the rest of this entry »

The Stone Soup Cafe: Community Engagement One Meal at a Time

Greenfield’s Stone Soup Cafe
Bringing Community Together One Meal at a Time

It can be easy to go through your family’s daily, weekly, and monthly routines without actively engaging with a diverse cross section of the community. Even families who routinely do volunteer work or explore new areas are somewhat limited in their ability to connect with others whose experiences – in the same physical location – are very different from their own. Strong communities, though, depend on interconnectedness amongst all of their members. In order to be resilient, a community must allow for those from all walks of life to have a voice, to be respected, and to be understood.

Greenfield’s Stone Soup Cafe offers a venue that supports just that! Stone Soup is a weekly pay-what-you-can community cafe that serves fresh, homemade food to community members of all ages, backgrounds and dietary restrictions (gluten-free & vegan options). Located at All Souls Church in Greenfield, MA, (and supported by the congregation), the cafe is run based on the idea that food is a common thread in all communities, and that in sharing it, people from all backgrounds can bridge differences and connect with each other. In addition to community-building efforts, Stone Soup is also helping to address the issue of hunger in Franklin County. The cafe is the only place in Greenfield to get a free meal on Saturdays, making it a necessity in the lives of many families and community members.

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How to Hold a Holiday Food Drive, Anytime of the Year!

Community Service Learning: Food Drives

What’s in the very back of your pantry? It’s likely filled with back-ups of items that your family eats often, like peanut butter, pasta, and dry beans. While it’s good to have extras of these things for times when there’s a lag between grocery story trips (or winter storms!), items like this – nonperishable and in sealed packages – can be the perfect starting place for a community food drive.

Food drives are just one of the many ways to help support those in need within your community, and food banks and survival centers are generally so easy to support and access that even teens and tweens can facilitate food drives at their schools or in their neighborhoods. GenerationOn, an organization that works to inspire and support youth in engaging in community service projects, offers simple (yet comprehensive) instructions for creating your own food drive. Using these steps, kids will not only be able to successfully collect food to donate, but they will learn and practice useful skills that will help them be successful in completing future service projects as well…

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Community Service: An Alternative to Halloween Candy

Community Service & Hands-On Learning as Alternatives to Candy Consumption

Halloween candy can be donated or repurposed for educational and scientific value by donating to members of the military deployed overseas to candy science experiments…

After the magic of Halloween has ended and bits of costumes have been strewn about the house, kids are left with fond memories and gigantic piles of candy. While the candy can be of moderate educational value, it primarily serves as an unnecessary dietary supplement that, if well-rationed, can hang around the house for months to come. As much as most children love to eat candy, health-conscious parents may not want the collected treats to hang around and be consumed. Never fear! There are lots and lots of alternatives to Halloween as it is most often celebrated…

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HFVS Community Service Episode with Guest DJ, Charity Kahn (Radio Show/Podcast)

Hilltown Family Variety Show
Community Service Episode
with Guest DJ, Charity Kahn

Listen to Podcast:

This week on the Hilltown Family Variety Show, through music and mindfulness, Charity Kahn (of Charity and the JAMband) explores some of the ideas at the heart of community service: helping those less fortunate, practicing kindness, loving ourselves so we have something to give back, practicing gratitude for the role our communities play in our lives, having awareness around what our various communities are and who makes them up, and seeing the reality that we are all part of a global and interdependent ecosystem. So sing along, listen closely, and then go out and help someone today! – www.jamjamjam.com

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
September 21st & 22nd, 2013
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA


 Archived Podcasts Radio  Facebook Twitter

PLAYLIST

  • The Beatles — “With a Little Help From My Friends” [Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band]
  • The Youngbloods — “Get Together” [The Best of the Youngbloods]
  • Malvina Reynolds — “Magic Penny” [Ear to the Ground]
  • Carole King — “You’ve Got a Friend” [Tapestry]
  • The Beatles — “Help!” [Help!]
  • Charity and the JAMband — “Lovingkindness” [Family Values]
  • Coyote Oldman — “Clouds” [Rainbird]
  • Pete Seeger — “To Everyone in All the World” [The Rainbow Quest]
  • Charity and the JAMband — “Green Beans Everywhere” [Family Values]
  • The Pointer Sisters — “Yes We Can, Can” [The Pointer Sisters]
  • Charity and the JAMband — “We Are the Ones” [Family Values]
  • Dr. John — “Helping Hand” [The Very Best of Dr. John]

Kids Day of Community Service Benefits Many!

Hilltown Families &  Whole Foods Market
Kids Day of Community Service Benefits Many!

This past Saturday at Atlas Farm in Deerfield, Hilltown Families collaborated with Whole Foods Market and brought families together in the fields for a day of community service, gleaning 669 POUNDS of organic kale, collards, chard and broccoli leftover from a recent harvest to donate to the Food Bank of Western MA!

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This community service-based learning experience is one in a string of events Hilltown Families has organized over the past year in a effort to support food security in the region, offering families opportunities to participate in community service together. Last September (2012), Hilltown Families organized a field trip to the Food Bank of Western MA where families were able to see how the Food Bank operates while learning about food security efforts in the region and participating in hands-on community service projects. This past May (2013) at the Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event we partnered with Grow Food Northampton and empowered families to grow an extra row of vegetables in their home gardens to harvest and donate to their local food pantries.

When Whole Foods Market in Hadley approached Hilltown Families this summer with the idea of collaborating in a community service event during Hunger Action Month, we wanted to tie it in to this theme of supporting food security in the region.  We suggested collaborating with a local farm and organizing a trip to glean left over vegetables from their fields to donate to The Food Bank. Atlas Farm, a local vendor at Whole Foods Market, welcomed the idea and together we were able to bring in families and glean 669 pounds of organic vegetable! Whole Kids Foundation provided a build-your-own salad-bar lunch following work in the field, giving families a chance to enjoy healthy eating together.

“Hilltown Families and Whole Foods Market Kids Day of Community Service was a wonderful service learning experience for my son,” writes Ronna Kullberg of Northampton, MA. “Not only did he get a deeper understanding of community involvement, but a closer look at where his food comes from. Terrific experience all around!”

Collaborating in the creation of community service experiences gives Western MA families opportunities to be engaged in their community.  This directly supports Hilltown Families mission to nurture and create resilient and sustainable communities by developing and strengthening a sense of place in our children and citizens.  Whole Foods Market in Hadley has consistently been a supporter of the community building work of Hilltown Families and we thank them for their ongoing support and service to our community!

In this video, volunteer Andy Wallace covered a couple of Hilltown Families community service events, including our collaboration with the Art Garden for Flowers for Friends,  and our Family Community Service Event this past May. Check it out and get a glimpse into the mission of Hilltown Families and how community service-based learning is an important piece of community engagement and in developing a sense of place in our children:

Thank you Andy Wallace for the video and Steve Roslonek of SteveSongs for the soundtrack!

Hilltown Families & Whole Foods Market Kids’ Day of Community Service: Join us!

Kids’ Day of Community Service with
Hilltown Families & Whole Foods Market
at Atlas Farm in Deerfield, MA
Saturday, Sept. 7th from 11am-2pm

PRE-REGISTRATION REQUIRED: Registration Ends September 5th, 2013

Kids’ Day of Community Service is a free, family-friendly 2-hour project with tasks for everyone ages 2 and up.  Join us in a service learning opportunity, giving kids a hands-on look at how their food is grown while supporting the food security efforts of the Food Bank of Western MA. Space is limited and all participating families are asked to pre-register online.

Last September, Hilltown Families organized a field trip to the Food Bank of Western MA where families were able to see how the Food Bank operates while learning about food security efforts in the region.  Families were also able to participate in community service projects during their visit by lending a hand with sorting food donations and with preparations for the Food Bank’s annual “Will Bike 4 Food” Fundraiser.

One of the issues participants learned during this field trip was how difficult it can be for some families to have access to fresh organic fruits and vegetables.  This past May at our Family Community Service Event we partnered with Grow Food Northampton and empowered families to grow an extra row of vegetables in their home gardens to harvest and donate to their local food pantries.

Coming up this September, in collaboration with Whole Foods Market in Hadley and Atlas Farm in Deerfield, families are invited to come together again on Saturday, September 7th, 2013 from 11am-2pm in Deerfield for a day of community service, gleaning organic vegetables leftover from a recent harvest to donate to the Food Bank. We will also be rolling up our sleeves to help prepare the Farm for winter.  Jerod Shuford, the Education Coordinator at the Food Bank, will be attending our Kids’ Day of Community Service, speaking to families about food security in the region and how they can continue to support the work of the Food Bank…

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Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event Generates 450 Hours of Community Service in a Single Morning… and a whole lotta fun!

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event Gives Back!

This past Saturday, May 4th, was the second Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event, a one of a kind event for families to volunteer together at seven different community service stations in a single morning!

From teens to tots to grandparents, together families were able to generate 450 hours of community service at this intergenerational event for different non-profit and community organizations in our region that work on behalf of animal welfare, conservation and food security.  Held at Leeds Elementary School in Northampton, MA, families traveled from station to station with Passport in hand, participating in facilitated hands-on projects:

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Thank you to all of the families, volunteers and facilitators who joined us! The event was a great success with 150 folks participating in a fun morning of community service.  And thank you to WGGB ABC 40 for coming out and covering the event for the 6 o’clock news!

Together we were able to:

  • Make 46 bluebird house to donate to Franklin Land Trust!
  • Braid 50 fleece chews to donate to Kane’s Krusade to be distributed in their C.A.R.E. (Canine Assistance, Resources and Education) Kits!
  • Fill a couple bags full of handmade catnip toys for cats waiting for adoption at the Dakin Humane Society!
  • Upcycle & take 50 old tshirts into Giving Bags to collect nonperishable food to donate to local food pantries!
  • Make & take egg cartons full of seed bombs for promoting conservation!
  • Plant & take 50 seedlings and seeds while promoting the idea of sowing an extra row of food in family gardens to grow and harvest for local food pantries.
  • Write letters to legislators on issues of animal welfare, conservation and food security.



VOLUNTEERS WANTED

We look forward to hosting another Family Community Service Event, but we can’t do it without your help!  Want to join our Community Service Committee? We want to hear from you: Read the rest of this entry »

23 Community Highlights: Building Birdhouses to Making Giving Bags. Jurassic Roadshow to Long Island Express.

Northampton’s annual Pride Parade and Celebration takes place on Saturday starting at 12noon! Celebrate LGBTQ culture and rights – there is a specially designated youth space at the event just for families!

Building Birdhouses to Making Giving Bags. Jurassic Roadshow to Long Island Express. Wild Flower Walk to Historical Fashion Show…

These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week!

Get out into your community and learn while you play!


Service-Based LearningPlaygroups & StoryhoursDinosaurs/FossilsNature & HistoryFashionScienceAnimal/Nature StudiesParent Workshop


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Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event: May 4th!

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event
Saturday, May 4th from 10am-1pm
Leeds Elementary School in Northampton, MA

Volunteer with your family to help local non-profits in a single free event on Saturday, May 4th from 10am-1pm during the Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event, held at Leeds Elementary School in Northampton— a one of a kind event for families to volunteer together while educating children about animal welfare, conservation efforts and the value of community service. Space is limited, so reserve a spot for your family today!
“Our mission is to give families service based learning experiences by collaborating with local non-profits and community organizations in a single event,” says Sienna Wildfield, Executive Director of Hilltown Families. “Many families are interested in volunteering together but may find it difficult due to either a limit in time or to a lack of opportunities. Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event is for all ages and is a fun way for families to volunteer together. It’s also an avenue for parents to discuss and educate their children on important community issues and the value of volunteering on behalf of animals and the environment.”

Join Hilltown Families for a Saturday morning of volunteering together with your family during our spring Family Community Service Event on Saturday, May 4th from 10am-1pm in Northampton, MA!

This past fall at our inaugural Family Community Service Night we focused on human service organizations and families had a great time working together in support of several local non-profits.

Our spring event on Saturday, May 4th will be held at Leeds Elementary School in Northampton. We will be offering seven volunteer stations for families to participate in hands-on service projects for ALL AGES that support animal welfare organizations, conservation efforts and food security. Families will also be able to bring home several of their service projects to continue their community service together from home.

With a Community Service Passport in hand, families can travel to each station and have their Passport stamped after completing their service project. In their Passports parents will find conversation starters, online resources and recommended reading lists for each station, and children can share what they liked best about each project by filling in their Passport. Parents can use the Passport to help guide youth participants in learning about animal welfare, conservation efforts and food security.

Our Spring Volunteer Stations include:

  1. BIRD HOUSE BUILDING: Bluebird houses will be constructed on site to be donated to the Franklin Land Trust. Families can help assemble & sand houses… something for all ages. (Facilitated by the Northampton High School Woodworking Club)
  2. FELINE FUN: Make catnip toys for cats to be donated to the Dakin Humane Society for cats waiting for adoption. (Facilitated by Dakin Humane Society)
  3. FLEECE CHEWS FOR CANINES: Make and donate chew toys for dogs of families in need with Kane’s Krusade. (Facilitated by Give a Hoot Pets)
  4. SOW AN EXTRA ROW: Learn about growing extra food in your family garden plot or container gardens to harvest and donate to a local food pantry. Go home with a plant starter and seeds to plant and nurture this summer. (Facilitated by Grow Food Northampton)
  5. SEED BOMBS: Create dirt bombs with native wildflower seeds to use for promoting natural habitats for pollinators. Go home with your very on seed bombs! (Facilitated by Help Yourself!)
  6. GIVING BAGS: Upcycle old t-shirts into giving bags to take home for collecting food for animal shelters, food pantries or other service organization in need of donations. (Facilitated by Knack)
  7. LETTER WRITING: Learn about the work of participating organizations and write letters of appreciation, or participate in letter writing campaigns. (Facilitated by the Northampton High School Key Club)

Donation Stations: In addition to our volunteer stations, we will have several opportunities for families to bring and donate items from home, including:

  • Cat food & cat toys to be donated to Dakin Humane Society.
  • Dog food to be donated to Kane’s Krusade, including: new, unopened dry dog good (no Beneful or Ol’ Roy, please); canned dog food; and dog treats (no treats form China, please).
  • Baby blankets, receiving blankets, baby wipes & kids polar fleece hats to be donated to Urban Wildlife Rehabilitation.

Pet Adoption: Stop by and visit Dakin Humane Society’s pet adoption station. Families can learn more about Dakin’s services and programs, and the adoption process. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet your new furry friend! If a family meets an animal they would like to adopt, they can complete their adoption process at either Dakin’s Springfield or Leverett Adoption Centers.

Food: Cup & Top Cafe will be joining us with food to fuel our volunteering families, selling coffee/tea, beverages, pastries and light lunch fare. So be sure to come hungry (and thirsty!).

Questions? Call 413-961-9367

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