The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted all of our lives in profound ways, including families and teenagers. Youth and their parents have adapted to a challenging, “new normal” often including difficult changes such as virtual learning and reduced social connectedness.
In a time of so much isolation, many families have decided to try something new and volunteer with one another, serving their community while growing closer. Volunteering has been shown to have many positive benefits including increased happiness, feelings of togetherness, and heightened self-esteem- especially in teenagers.
Here at Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland (MOWCM), there are a variety of opportunities for families to get involved, whether that be packing meals with your teens or creating greeting cards for isolated clients- there is something for everyone! Visit our volunteer website to learn how you can help.
We recently asked some of our volunteer families to share their experiences. Here is what they had to say about volunteering with MOWCM.
The Brown Family
Melanie Brown’s teenagers, Zach and Josh are currently working towards their Church Confirmation and had service hours to complete. With so many opportunities being cancelled due to COVID-19, Melanie began searching for something new. After reading a post about MOWCM on her sons’ high school Facebook page, she thought it would be a great volunteer opportunity, not only for her own family, but also for other families she knew. Working with the Volunteer Services team, Melanie created a group of families and arranged several volunteer days packing meals at the Haven Street office. It was a perfect activity to engage the teens and parents together. Melanie has been amazed at the packing operations at MOWCM and really feels her family is making a difference. Zach Brown agrees saying, “The entire experience has been really positive for me. I have enjoyed working together with the group and giving back to others.” Likewise, Josh says that volunteering, “makes me feel good inside. Giving back to people in need is what it’s all about.”
The Laughlin Family
Teresa and her family moved to Maryland a little over a year ago. As a military family, they have lived in many places and have often enjoyed volunteering at local food banks. Teresa had always heard of Meals on Wheels programs, and was eager to get involved with MOWCM, signing up to pack meals with her teenage sons. During one meal packing shift, Teresa learned about the Teen Ambassador Program (TAP). Her freshman son was interested in participating and signed up. Every Sunday for ten weeks, Teresa brought her son to volunteer- and would stay to help! Overall, she felt that the program was very beneficial, and it was great to see him learning about the lived experiences of homebound clients. Teresa has been so impressed with MOWCM, and the number of meals that are provided each week to Maryland seniors. All in all, it has been a great experience for the whole family.
The Seba Family
The social issues of hunger and food insecurity are really important to the Seba family, especially during the COVID pandemic when so many are in need. Rachel and her son Wes, decided to volunteer at MOWCM by packing meal boxes together. Rachel learned about the Teen Ambassador Program from a fellow parent and thought it would be a great opportunity for Wes to make an impact on an issue for which he felt so passionate. Wes was immediately interested, wanting to prioritize the issue of hunger and giving back to the community. After completing the program, Wes has been able to truly see the impact of his work first-hand. He thought it was such an awesome touch that MOWCM at times included donated cards into the meal boxes. The cards went a long way in making a client’s day. Rachel loved how the TAP program gave Wes a sense of how each action fits into the larger picture and operation. The program provided context to his giving and a real-life, functional way to really make a difference.
The Peljovich Family
Alan Peljovich, MOWCM Board President, cherishes being a part of the MOWCM family. Over the past decade, he has given his time as a volunteer for the Home-Delivered Meal Program and Grocery Assistance Program. Over the years, he has involved his children in volunteering and was delighted about the inaugural Teen Ambassador Program. His son Ryan participated in the Fall 2020 session. Ryan really enjoyed the program and thought packing meals was fun and worthwhile. Alan also enjoyed coming in to pack meals with Ryan. After experiencing the fast-pace environment of packing meals at MOWCM, Alan found a new respect for the staff and teens. He loved being able to get to know those he was volunteering alongside. It was amazing to see a “million-little kindnesses” in action as volunteers and staff worked together to serve those in need.
Visit www.mealsonwheelsmd.org/teentakeover to learn how your teens can get involved.