Do you feel like your family is being pulled in different directions? Between work, school, sports and other activities, it can be difficult to find time to simply be together. Spending time as a family creates unity. Eating dinner together, enjoying a family game night and going on an outing together are simple ways to bring your family closer. One of the most satisfying ways to unite as a family is to plan and give service to others. says that volunteering makes you feel good, brings satisfaction and pride, strengthens your community and more importantly, strengthens your family. Here are 10 ways your family can serve others.

1. Donate clothes and toys

Choose a time each year to go through your children's old things. Decide which toys they don't play with anymore, and collect the clothing that they have outgrown. Pack them up in boxes or bags and call a local charity to pick them up.

2. Have a service scavenger hunt

Make a list of small service activities like sweeping the floor, taking out the trash, vacuuming the carpet, pulling weeds, dusting or sweeping the porch. Then divide your family into groups with a parent or older teen in each group for safety. Go to your neighbors' houses and see which group can complete their list first.

3. Bake treats for a neighbor

You can bring brownies to someone who just moved in. You can "Boo" your neighbors during Halloween to foster friendliness in your neighborhood. You don't need a reason; simply double the batch the next time you are baking and choose someone to share it with.

My family and I bake cookies each Christmas. Then, we dress up in reindeer antlers and elf hats. We go to the houses in our neighborhood, sing carols and leave them with treats. Many people now look forward to our yearly tradition. When we moved, a few of our old neighbors asked us to please continue to remember them. It has been a wonderful way to build friendships.

4. Clean up the neighborhood

You can teach your children to take pride in their neighborhood. Unfortunately, many people have a habit of littering. Grab a plastic trash bag and walk up and down the streets of your neighborhood collecting trash. Talk about the environment, and how you are helping take care of our planet and the animals that co-exist with us.

5. Perform random acts of kindness

One young girl was turning five. For her birthday, she wanted to make people smile. So, her mother bought a dozen long-stemmed red roses, and the little girl handed them out to people who she felt needed it. The results were profound. Several people said that she changed their bad day to great, some cried, and many took pictures.

You can make it a family habit to perform random acts of kindness. When you are shopping and your child asks for a treat, buy a second treat for him to give away. Smile at people. says that you can pay for the person in line behind you at a fast food restaurant. Let someone go ahead of you at the check-out line in the grocery store. Encourage your children to eat lunch with someone who doesn't have a lot of friends, or invite someone who looks lonely to play. Hold the door open for someone. With your family, pray for opportunities to be kind, then be on the lookout for them to happen.

6. Feed the needy

Help your family organize a canned food drive, then donate the canned goods to a food bank. Volunteer to help serve food to the homeless one night.

7. Make gifts for children in hospital

Enjoy a craft day together as a family and make gifts to give to children who are in the hospital. You can make nature crafts to bring the outdoors to them. You could make jewelry from beads and buttons. You can create artwork to brighten their hospital room. You could also make homemade books or toys to help them pass the time.

8. Visit the elderly

Many people who live in rest homes do not have family nearby. They love to be visited by the youth. Your family can visit a rest home and sing carols at Christmas time or drop by for a visit any time of the year.

9. Adopt a grandma or grandpa

Choose someone from your church or a rest home who is widowed and doesn't have family nearby. Invite her to your home for Sunday dinners and holidays. Send her cards in the mail. Offer to go shopping for her. Visit her regularly in her home.

10. Donate warm clothes, boots and blankets to the homeless

When your children outgrow their boots and winter coats, set them aside in a special pile. Go through your cupboards and find extra blankets that you don't use regularly. Gather the items together and donate them to a homeless shelter.

Serving others not only blesses the lives of those you serve, it will bless your family, as well. You will notice family members showing greater love and kindness towards each other. Your children will grow in self-esteem, and you will enjoy greater unity as a family.

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