Parents, children bond by volunteering together at Washington-area nonprofits

A Wider Circle volunteers

By Caitlin Gibson

The family of four took more than a week to fashion turkey centerpieces out of cinnamon-scented pine cones and colorful construction paper, to make cardboard-cutout pumpkins and paint them with inspirational words: “Compassion, sharing, community.”

The family took one weekend afternoon to bring their homemade decorations to a nonprofit organization in the District and transform a large dining room into an autumnal wonderland, creating a feeling of home for those who do not have one.

For Jodi O’Hern, ex-husband Kyle Beckman and their two teenage children, few experiences mean more than volunteering as a family at So Others Might Eat. SOME is an interfaith organization that provides food, clothing and social services to the District’s homeless. The four family members have been devoted volunteers since they moved to Fairfax County four years ago.

“It’s been such a blessing,” O’Hern, 49, said. “Not just for the people SOME helps, but even more so for us as a family. It’s such an important way to teach compassion.”

As the approaching holiday season encourages thoughts of charitable giving, nonprofit groups across the Washington region field many calls from local families looking for opportunities to volunteer together. Although the need for help exists year-round, volunteer coordinators said they welcome the chance to introduce new families to community service — and maybe to cultivate a long-term commitment to volunteering.

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