Volunteering: A Family Affair

by JR Irvin

We are a blessed family and are fortunate to have the ability to give back to our community.  In 2007, we began searching for volunteer opportunities as a family.  We volunteered at several different places, including Target Hunger, Project Cure and Beach Clean-up.  Each of these organizations are terrific, but it was challenging to find an organization where we could volunteer as a family which included our preschooler.  In 2009, I met Beth Harp from Kids’ Meals. After touring the facility and learning more about the Kids’ Meals mission, we knew this was the perfect organization for our family.  Kids Meals’ mission of feeding preschool children found a special place in our hearts, and we’ve been volunteering as a family ever since.

Kids’ Meals makes volunteering easy and it only takes a few hours, which is an important factor because, like a lot of families, our schedules are a bit hectic between school activities, work, and life.

We love volunteering together as a family at Kids’ Meals, and we enjoy our time spent together making lunch bags or going out on delivery routes.  When we go out on deliveries, I drive, Vivien navigates, and our three kids count and deliver the lunch bags to the houses. It is a great opportunity for our family to work together as a team, accomplishing something that improves lives and makes us all closer as a family. Whether we are making sandwiches, packing lunches, or going out on deliveries, we are serving our Houston community together.

I see Kids’ Meals as a Philanthropic Charity.  Charity is about meeting a current need, such as filling an empty stomach.  Philanthropy is more about addressing the root cause of the need, like providing nutrition to a growing child so that he or she can grow up healthy, and hopefully break the cycle of poverty. The lunches that Kids’ Meals serve feeds Houston’s hungriest children and provides them with the nutrition they need.

Our children have seen hungry kids run out of their houses, excited to receive their lunch bags, rain or shine.  By volunteering with Kids’ Meals, our children are growing up with an appreciation for our many blessings.  They are learning to serve others who are at a point in life when they need a helping hand, and the experience is teaching them to give of themselves with joy and gratitude. These are virtues that could not be taught at school or even through preaching at home.  When we all see the smiling faces of the children, it creates a feeling of satisfaction by knowing we are meeting a deserved need and making a positive impact on our community’s children. It is the most rewarding and heart-warming experience ever.

At Christmas time, our family adopts two or three Kids’ Meals families to deliver Christmas dinner and presents. As a family, we shop for the gifts, we wrap and decorate them, then together, we deliver a little extra joy to a home.  As a father, it is awesome for me to watch my children bring so much joy to another family.  

Volunteering as a family is an amazing experience that has opened our hearts to give of our time and share our blessings with those who are less fortunate than us.  I believe giving is a learned behavior.  I believe that the more you give and share of yourself, your life will continue to be blessed even more.   As parents, Vivien and I are showing our children this giving spirit so they, too, can grow up to be appreciative, compassionate, and giving adults.

JR Irvin and his wife Vivien are the proud parents of three munchkins, Vanessa (22), Brandon (20), and Hailey (14).  Vanessa recently earned her bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Texas, Austin (UT), Brandon is in his third year at UT, studying Chemical Engineering, and Hailey is a 9th grade cheerleader at Seven Lakes High School in Katy. In 2006, they moved from Orange County, California to Katy where they reside with their three dogs.

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