Halloween Candy Collection Shows Kindness to Others

Halloween Candy: Catalyst Towards Service Based Learning

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. On Nov 1 in Easthampton, Easthampton CrossFit will be collecting unwanted candy to donate to Operation Gratitude!

Halloween brings haunted hayrides, cute costumes, and more candy than anyone needs–or even wants–to eat. This year, families can use Halloween candy as a catalyst toward community service by getting rid of unwanted candy and helping our troops at the same time. On Saturday, November 1, at a “Halloween Candy Give Back,” Easthampton CrossFit will accept donations of candy to be sent to the troops serving overseas through Operation Gratitude, a California-based non-profit that sends military care packages.

“Halloween candy brings a memory of home,” says Jim Rego, a military veteran and a coach at the gym. By donating their candy to the troops, children can learn about service and giving back, and also cut down on eating Halloween candy.

This is a great event for kids who want to trick or treat, but either can’t eat candy due to food allergies or who just don’t want to eat too much. Parents can allow kids to pick out a few pieces of candy to keep, and bring the rest to Easthampton CrossFit ((180 Pleasant Street) on Saturday morning from 11am to 1pm to be donated.

Can’t make it? Want to organize a similar event in your community? Find out how you can organize a collection drive in your community through Operation Gratitude.

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event: November 22nd!

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event
Saturday, November 22nd 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, November 22nd 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 important social issues and the value of community service. Space is limited, so reserve a spot for your family today!

Join Hilltown Families for a Saturday morning of volunteering together with your family during our fall Family Community Service Event on Saturday, November 22nd from 10am-1pm in Northampton, MA!

Two years ago was our inaugural Family Community Service Night where we focused on human service organizations, and last year was our Spring Family Community Service Event where we focused on animal welfare and food security. Through both events, families were able to put in 750 hours of community service!  Check out this great video that shares the joy and excitement families experienced together while engaged in volunteerism for their community at two of our family community service events… and then make plans to join us for our newest event this fall!

Our third community service event will be on Saturday, November 22nd and will again be held at Leeds Elementary School in Northampton.  We will be offering five volunteer stations for families to participate in hands-on service projects for ALL AGES that support education, children’s welfare, and human services.  Families will also be able to bring home one of their service projects to continue their community service together from home.

Find out more! Sign up your family!

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 »

Just Roots Community Farm Fosters Youth Collaboration

Innovative farm program uses accessible skillshare as community builder

Just Roots Community Farm isn’t “just” anything – never just this or just that, the farm incorporates many different projects, practices, and goals into its overarching purpose. Located on the former Poor Farm in Greenfield, MA, Just Roots works to promote knowledge of, demand for, and access to local food in Franklin County. Through a variety of offerings including community workshops, affordable CSA shares, volunteer workdays, and educational programming, Just Roots serves as a community-centered vehicle for resiliency, self-sufficiency, sustainability, and endless learning.

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Grassroots Diaper Drive to Support Families in Need

Spring Diaper Drive in Franklin County to Support Community

Host a Diaper Drive this spring in your place of work, faith community, neighborhood, school, civic organization, or any group you belong to. It is easy and a positive way to support families and a great way to incorporate service-based learning with your children.

Diapers matter in a big way!  The health and social consequences for babies and families who do not have sufficient diapers can lead to a whole mountain of problems. To help mothers and families in need, Spring Diaper Drives are being organized to benefit young children and families living in Franklin County.

Sponsored by the Perinatal Support Coalition and the Early Childhood Mental Health Roundtable, two groups of professionals from a range of organizations that serve young children and families, this Spring Diaper Drive can help “close the diaper gap” and help low incomes mothers and families meet their diaper needs… and organizers are looking for families who want to volunteer by organizing a diaper drive in their community to donate to the Spring Diaper Drive!

Reducing diaper need for low income mothers has huge ramifications for maternal and child health, mental health, the child’s development and school success, and the mother’s access to future economic opportunity.  Did you know that….  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 »

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!

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!

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 »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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…

Read the rest of this entry »

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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…

Read the rest of this entry »

Get involved! Service-Learning Opportunities in Western MA

Get involved! Service -Learning Opportunities in Western MA

How better to participate and learn through your community than a service-learning project? Service-learning projects can help youth connect with others while learning about their world.

Since just about anything can be a learning experience, this list will include both opportunities where the learning is obvious, along with opportunities where the learning is more subtle.

While there are lots of “Projects,” and opportunities for children to volunteer, why not just ask an organization that you respect if they need some help? Most groups need regular help with administrative tasks, including Hilltown Families. Asking is an easy way to get your family involved in something that you care about. Just about every social service agency, not for profit, and community can benefit from the support of others.

Here are some specific projects to check out:

Read the rest of this entry »

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Pen Pal Program for T(w)eens

Best Buddies E-Buddies E-Mail Pen-Pal Program

e-Buddies is an e-mail pen pal program that provides opportunities for e-mail friendships between people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their peers who do not have IDD. Each participant is matched in a one-to-one e-mail friendship, and matched pairs are asked to exchange e-mails once a week for at least one year. Matches are made based on similar age, gender, geography, and shared interests.

Best Buddies, an organization that works to provide individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities with inclusive opportunities, offers a unique program for teens and tweens. E-Buddies is an e-mail pen-pal program, where teens and tweens from all over the country are matched with a buddy with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) in order to begin regular pen pal style communication via the internet. By participating in the program, both volunteers and individuals with IDD will benefit greatly. Volunteers will learn about what life is like with IDD, and will learn how to cultivate a special type of friendship. Buddies who have IDD are able to gain experience building a friendships and communicating insight into their life and understanding of their world.

Open to kids 10 and older, the program is free for participants under the age of 18…

Read the rest of this entry »

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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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 »

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

Read the rest of this entry »

20 Community Service Opportunities in Western MA for Families this Spring

Park Clean Ups & Community Service Activities for Families this Spring in Western MA

In addition to these volunteer park clean-ups and trail maintenance opportunities, Hilltown Families will be hosting a Family Community Service Event on May 4th bringing families together under one roof to participate in hands-on volunteer projects for seven non-profit and community organizations in Western MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

As spring warms the landscape across western Massachusetts, opportunities for outdoor adventures increase exponentially. What would have been a snowshoe trek and bark inspection a month ago has become a woods hike where families can identify plants, trees, and wildlife of all shapes and sizes.

However, as the ground awakes from its snow-covered slumber, trails and parks are in need of some restoration and there are plenty of opportunities for families to volunteer together, including during DCR’s Massachusetts Park Serve Day on Saturday, April 20th, Mass Audubon’s 7th Annual Statewide Volunteer Day on April 27th, and stocking the Connecticut River Watershed with Salmon Fry throughout the spring.

All  of these volunteer opportunities, and many other community service work days, aim to bring together community members for a day of reconnecting with nature and cooperative work while providing service based learning experiences! Community service is a great way to show your appreciation for local resources as a family, and participating in volunteer work can help kids develop a strong commitment to their community and their surroundings. Kids can use volunteer work to learn useful skills for everything from hands-on tasks (like trail maintenance) to social skills (such as working in intergenerational settings).

20 Community Service Opportunities in Western MA this Spring

  • Wednesday, April 10th from 5:30-7pm: Families with older children and train with the Housatonic Valley Association to be part of their Stream Team Project volunteer crew.  Walk or paddle a stretch of the river and report your findings.  Interest meeting at the Dewey Memorial Building. 413-394-9796. Sheffield, MA
  • Saturday, April 13th from 9am-12noon: Look Park is open for the season, but the grounds need some attention!  There are leaves & down branches galore from the October blizzard that need to be cleaned up.  Bring your family and come to the park ready to work (BYO rake and gloves).  Your help ensures that the park remains a valued community resource!  413-727-8457.  300 North Main Street.  Florence, MA.
  • Sunday, April 14th from 1-4pm:  Looking for a way to give back to your community by volunteering with your family? How about a spring clean-up? Greenfield Energy Park’s opening performance will be its annual spring clean-up. Greenthumbers invites families with children of all ages to come and join the fun. Some tools will be provided, but please bring your favorite clippers, rake, shovel, tarp or bucket. 413-774-5667. Energy Park.  Greenfield, MA
  • Wednesday, April 17th from 5-6:45pm: Families with older children can train with the Housatonic Valley Association to be part of their Stream Team Project volunteer crew.  Walk or paddle a stretch of the river and report your findings.  Interest meeting at the Mason Library. 413-394-9796. Great Barrington, MA
  • Saturday, April 20th from 8am-1pm Earth Day Cleanup!  Meet at the Masonic Lodge and volunteer for the morning cleaning up the environment.  Families welcomed.  Bring waterproof boots, work gloves, and a desire to help clean the environment! Meet at the Masonic Lodge. 413-572-6281. 72 Broad Street. Westfield, MA
  • Saturday, April 20th from 9-11am: Clean up Whately for Earth Day!  Bring the kids and pick up roadside litter debris.  Meet outside of the Town Hall (rain date: 4/21). Whately, MA
  • Saturday, April 20th from 9am-12noon: Families with children ages 10 and older are invited to the annual Meadows Spring clean-up at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary.  Working out in the field, wear work clothes and bring gloves & water. Pre-register. 413-584-3009. 127 Combs Road. Easthampton, MA 
  • Saturday, April 20th from 9am-1pm: Clean up the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail! Families with children ages 8yo and older can assist with cleaning up the trail and landscaping. Call for exact location: 413-499-7003. Cheshire, MA
  • Saturday, April 20th from 9am-1pm: Chicopee State Park clean up!  Families with children ages 8yo and older can help plant flowers, spread mulch, stain picnic talbes and do general trail maintenance.  Meet at the DCR Park Headquarters. 413-594-9416. 570 Burnett Rd. Chicopee, MA
  • Saturday, April 20th from 9am-1pm: Lend a hand to The Trustees of Reservations sprucing up Peaked Mountain.  Bring work gloves, water & snack.  Call to pre-register. : 413-532-1631 x21. Butler Road. Monson, MA
  • Saturday, April 20th from 9am-2pm: Join the patrons of the Ramsdell Library for a day of cleaning up along the banks of the Housatonic River.  Meet at the library for an assigned route to clean-up. Pizza at the Brick House at noon for all volunteers. Screening of “Fold, Crumple, Crush” in the library theater at 2pm. 413-274-3738. 1087 Main Street. Great Barrington, MA
  • Saturday, April 20th from 9:30am-1pm: Families with older children can help clean up DAR State Forest.  Help prepare for the upcoming camping season by raking campsites & day use picnic areas.  Meet at the campground pavilion. 413-268-7098. Route 112. Goshen, MA

Read the rest of this entry »

Families Gather to Pay it Forward with Small Acts of Kindness!

Flowers for Friends Combines Art, Spring Blossoms and Small Acts of Kindness

On Friday, April 5th, Hilltown Families and the Art Garden presented a Flowers for Friends Workshop, the second workshop in a 3-part free Friday family workshop series in Shelburne Falls. This past Friday families gathered to paint terracotta flower pots, planting them with violas to pass along to others in their community. Participating families were encouraged to give their flowers to an elder in their neighborhood, or their librarian, classroom teacher, receptionist at the hospital or animal shelter, or other community space of their choice.  — Paying it forward with a small act of kindness!

❤ Big thank you to Home Depot in Greenfield, Shelburne Farm & Garden, Hadley Garden Center and friends of The Art Garden for their donations and discounts for terracotta pots, soil and Violas!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Getting creative with family, friends and neighbors in a community art space like The Art Garden, builds relationships, affords opportunities to share and connect, and allows the space for creativity that our otherwise busy lives might not offer.

Volunteer with Gray House in Springfield

Support Neighbors in Transition
Volunteer with Gray House in Springfield

Looking for community service opportunities to do as a family? Whether you’re hoping to fill a few free afternoons with an engaging activity or are planning to make a long-term commitment to lending a hand with a community organization, opportunities for service learning abound at The Gray House! Located in Springfield’s North End, The Gray House offers a thrift shop and food pantry twice a week, along with after school programming and a place-based summer program for Springfield students.

Families can spend time sorting donations at the thrift shop or food pantry on Mondays and Wednesday-Friday. Volunteers on these days help to sort donations, prepare distribution bags, and fill displays of food, household items, and clothing – activities that are all necessary to keep the services running smoothly. Both the shop and the pantry are always in need of volunteers, but families don’t have to commit to regular visits – perfect for busy families, or those with regularly changing schedules.

If you’re hoping to become involved in a long-term service learning project, volunteers are also always needed to help out with The Gray House’s Community Education Support Program (CESP) and the Kids’ Club after school and summer programs. Best for teens and parents, these programs offer valuable education-related resources to the community. People from more than 16 countries utilize the English language and literacy skills classes that CESP offers, and the Kids’ Club provides a fun, safe, and engaging after-school environment for students (not to mention that participants also get free dinner!). No experience with education is necessary in order to volunteer for either program, but volunteers must make at least a 4-week commitment and will receive training before beginning.

Volunteering for a community organization is a great hands-on, experiential way for families to learn about supporting their community. Kids old enough to participate will learn valuable lessons about helping their neighbors and giving back. There are many powerful lessons that can be learned through community service!

The Gray House is located at 22 Sheldon Street in Springfield. Contact Katie Manning at 413-734-6696 for information on volunteering and the services offered.

Hilltown Families’ Family Community Service Event: May 4, 2013

Click here to find out how this wonderful community-service event went: 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
Saturday, May 4, 2013 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

Read the rest of this entry »

« Older entries

%d bloggers like this: