Teen Author Helps Kids Get Volunteer Ideas

Every parent has at one time or another told their child, "You need to volunteer and help others instead of playing video games all day!" Yet can a nine-year-old realistically serve soup at a nearby homeless shelter? Sondra Clark, 18, knows first hand the benefits of volunteering. "When I was eight, my mom and I put together Easter Baskets to give to homeless kids coming to a free Easter dinner, said Clark. "It was great seeing how excited kids were to get a few special treats." Since that time, this teenager has made volunteering a high priority in her life.

She's raised over $85,000 to help educate children she met in Uganda and Kenya, spoken to over 25,000 people on the importance of volunteering and collected 12,000 pens to send to school children in Africa. Sondra's latest mission is collecting and distributing shoes through Soles4Soles, a non-profit organization based in Nashville, Tennessee. "Our family went to Guatemala and passed out flip flops to people in remote villages. Many of the kids didn't even own shoes so they were thrilled to get a pair of flip flops" said Clark. "I remember giving a pair of shoes to a little three-year-old-boy sitting on a street with his mother.

She begged all day, and he had no choice but to sit on the sidewalk with her. He not only loved his shoes, but he used them as toys!" Sondra has been fortunate to travel around the world in her volunteer efforts. She knows not everyone has the opportunity to travel overseas and encourages people to volunteer in their own communities. Her latest project involves getting people to use GospelShoes as a ministry tool. (www.gospelshoe.

org)These clogs and flip flops have the same five colors as the Wordless Book. People can give a person in need a practical gift like a pair of shoes and also explain the plan of salvation through the colors on the shoes. "I know I find it hard to witness at times, " said Clark. "But giving a person a pair of shoes opens the door for conversation. Then you can casually explain the gospel from the colors on the shoe.

" Studies show children increase their self esteem by volunteering as they gain new skills and meet positive adult role models. The following are some simple ways children and adults can get involved in volunteering as described in Sondra's latest book, 77 Creative Ways Kids Can Serve. (Wesleyan Press).

- Bedtime Snack Sacks. Children living in homeless shelters seldom get bedtime snacks. Decorate a number of lunch bags with markers, sequins and glitter. Fill each bag with a juice pack and non-perishable treat such as granola bars, packaged crackers or dried fruit. Add a small "Happy Meals" type toy as a surprise. Deliver the snack sacks to a women's shelter.

- Dog and Cat Fun. Local humane societies look for volunteers to walk their dogs. See if your family can register as dog walkers. You'll get exercise as well as the dogs! Kids can also collect old towels and newspapers to donate to shelters to use for animal care. - Reading Fun.

Collect gently used children's books from family and friends. Give the books to an inner city school or Headstart program to expand their library. The next time you want your children involved in a worthwhile activity, consider volunteering together as a family. Let Sondra's practical suggestions encourage your family to help people, animals or the environment.

Silvana Clark is a professional speaker, presenting keynotes and workshops on business-related topics. The author of 11 books, she gained her marketing experience by getting her "ordinary" dog to star in TV commercials. Oh yes, she also appeared on the Fox reality show, Trading Spouses.

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