5B45: Teaching children empathy through regular service projects

Feb 8, 2023, 5:32 PM | Updated: 5:40 pm

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – When the Stoddard family learned about the nearly 14,000 students in Salt Lake City schools who don’t know where their next meal will come from, they knew they needed to help.

The young family of seven signed up to serve at USANA Foundation’s warehouse where they packed bags with non-perishable food items. They started participating in the program years ago and have made it a monthly service project.

Ella Stoddard, 7, said she enjoyed racing to the tally machine to see how many snack bags she could package up in an hour.

“I put some squeezies, some trail mix, and some like, breakfast bars in the bag and then press the button,” she said.

She said thinking about the children who receive these bags gives her joy.

“Some kids don’t have enough food to feed their families so we pack these bags to get them food, so they don’t have to starve,” she said.

Her mother, Natalie Stoddard, said she has seen her daughter grow through these service opportunities over the years.

“She loves coming now and participating and doing things that the big kids are doing and it’s just part of who she is now,” Stoddard said. “She has something to give, and I think that helps her to look outside of herself.”

Mike Moon with UServeUtah feels it is never too early to start serving regularly with your children.

“Ages three, four, five is not uncommon,” Moon said. “It is really interesting to see how much they gravitate toward it.”

He said these types of activities help them feel a sense of connection and teache them empathy.

“Volunteerism gives them an opportunity to look outside of themselves, and think, ‘Gosh it’s such a bigger, broader world and there are other people with issues’,” he said.

So how do you get your children involved? A good place to start is around the national days of service, Moon said. He encourages parents to make these regular activities you do together as a family.

“Your children see you doing it and you’re able to share that magic together,” he said.

UServeUtah is the state’s central coordinating body for service and volunteerism. They have partnered with JustServe to connect Utahns to service opportunities in the community.

For more activity ideas and resources on how to help your child serve, visit 5B45kids.com.

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5B45: Teaching children empathy through regular service projects