Outdoor Volunteering for Families

outdoor volunteering girls
Our daughter, Jamie (right), and her good friend, Linnea, help chop and stack firewood for a northern Minnesota non-profit ministry.

Outdoor volunteering is a perfect activity for families to do together.

We recently were up in the far northern reaches of Minnesota for our family’s 4th Annual Woodcutting Extravaganza (I just made that title up). Our three kids were 13, 15 and 17 when we started what’s become a tradition of outdoor volunteering for us.

We’ve had close ties to a small Christian ministry up there for over 25 years. Since they go through multiple cords of firewood each winter to heat their homes and cabins, we’ve been volunteering a day or two the past four Octobers to split, haul and stack.

It’s been one of the highlights of our year as a family…and for some of the friends we’ve brought along too. This year we were a group of 14, ages 17-79 (my father-in-law came along).

Our kids and most of their friends have grown up in the city in homes with a thermostat and furnace. Learning how to use an ax or splitting maul to split wood to heat homes is a new experience for most of them—and one they thrive on (especially the boys!).

outdoor volunteering
Our family has looked forward to our “Woodcutting Weekend” each year. My husband, Nick (right), and our son, Travis.

Personally I’m past my wood-splitting prime! But I can still haul and stack. I’m plenty stiff from the physical labor of it, but it’s a good stiff—knowing I’m working my body and doing it to help those who would struggle to get the work done themselves through their long winters.

We value this time with our kids so much. It’s worth the time, expense and effort for reasons like these…

  • It teaches them and reminds us to focus on the needs of others.
  • We’re working hard physically—not necessarily common for city dwellers in the 21st Century.
  • It’s a great chance to invite our kids’ friends along for the same reasons.
  • Going out of town for it gives us an extended time together—not just for working, but just for being together. That’s precious for me these days as our kids are in school, working and starting to move away from home.
  • We’re working together to accomplish a project that’s tangible—it’s very satisfying to see the “fruits of our labors”…row upon row of neatly stacked firewood.
  • The evenings are spent playing cards and other games together. There’s no cell phone service or internet access there, so we have an entire group of people interacting with each other and not their devices for a few days!! Priceless.
  • This particular annual event gets us up in the north woods in October when it’s cool (or cold!), bug-free and beautiful. Hiking, grouse hunting and rousing games of football and ultimate frisbee were also fit in.
  • We commonly see one of our favorite birds this time of year—the Canada jay, or whiskey jack. They’re so friendly and fearless…and always ready to accept a snack.
outdoor volunteering bird
Our Jason takes a break from splitting firewood to buddy up to a friendly Canada jay.

Do you have outdoor volunteer opportunities you do with your whole family?

If not, it’s worth it to look for some.

Not only do you get the benefit of time with your family, giving to others and working hard…it gets you outside and away from the tv and computer. And if you pick the right location, it’ll get everyone away from their phones, too…quite a feat these days!

There are loads of opportunities out there. Check out some of the ideas I listed here.