4 Tips to Raising Kids Who Give Back

I believe strongly in raising future leaders who see giving as an important part of their leadership character.  I felt inspired, as a parent of two boys, to share a bit of my story and what I have found to impact their behavior and character.

In 2008 I organized a “hotdogs for the homeless” event in downtown Detroit.  At the time I was running a Detroit based social network and a few of my advertisers jumped at the opportunity to donate a bunch of hotdogs, water and supplies to grill and serve those in need.

We set up at St. John’s Church Detroit right next to Comerica Park on a Detroit Tigers game day.  With a big grill and a group of volunteers we started grilling dogs and packing bags.  The big memory for me that day was not just feeding the homeless, but watching my son, who was 5 years old.

To get the word out that we had food for those in need, we walked the streets with bags of food and hunted down the homeless.  My son tagged along.  With bags in hand, he took part in handing out the food and letting them know we had more food down at the church.  After 20 minutes of walking around we headed back, and waited.

As people began to pour in, the demand got hot.  I found manning the grill trying to keep up with the demand.  The rule for the group was no more than 2 dogs and 2 waters per person.  As I grilled I watched my son, Ethan, in the corner of my eye talking to a man in a wheelchair.  It wasn’t long before I saw him shoving 4+ bags of food into the pocket of his chair.  I smiled with joy – my son was righteously rebelling.

Having involved my children in volunteer work for 10 years, here are 4 tips I can offer to raising our future leaders who give back.

Choose Something that Kids Can Get Involved In

Providing them the opportunity to get in on the action is far more important than them seeing you do it.  Don’t get me wrong, seeing you in action does far more than just telling them they should care for others, but allowing them to be a part of it builds their confidence and character.  By choosing family friendly volunteer projects, you also can invite other families in the community to take part.  Most parents will see the value in it and appreciate the fact you organized something that they and their kids can get involved in.

Allow Them to Shape You

Since moving to Orlando in 2010, our family got involved with Matthew’s Hope, an organization here locally that doesn’t give handouts to the homeless, but provides counseling, health/medical, jobs, housing and many other forms of care to help rehabilitate those that want to get off the streets.  At this time my second son was getting involved.  While we were serving food to the homeless, who were working on houses, I asked my youngest to give one of the men a water.  Out of shyness, he refused.  A few minutes later, he asked if he could have some of the cookies – Frustrated, I told him that the food wasn’t for us, but for them.  When he started to whine I told him to eat the cookie because I didn’t feel like battling anymore.  Soon he was enjoying food with the homeless.  I felt like an idiot, because that’s exactly what we should have been doing.  Fast forward to the end of the day, he was working with others to pack to-go bags and has been a part of working with us since.  That day was a big wake up call for me to see the homeless as not my “work” but as people like you and I who need human interaction more than being served.


One time projects are better than none, but molding a child’s character and leadership takes consistency.  They need to see that giving is a way of life and is one of the most important roles as a leader.  Consistency also allows them to find where they fit in.  I recommend choosing something that your family can do once a month.  Your kids may start out focusing on one area of that project, but later find themselves focusing on something else.  As they get better at doing it, their confidence and ownership of the role will reap the benefits.

Stop Telling Them it’s Fun 

This is an interesting one.  When our family goes on a serving opportunity we always bring the fun.  This is just the way we’re wired.  However, serving projects are often met with non-perfect weather, hard work, and a sacrifice of personal time.  I don’t ever tell my kids it’s going to be fun, I focus on telling them we are there to care for others.  That is the focus, and that is the belief we have as leaders to help.  We can always make it fun, but the focus is giving.

Our current monthly project is providing 30 dinners for the homeless who come in once a week to Matthew’s Hope for lunch, counseling, haircuts, medical and more.  We invite our community of friends to take part, and this last month, I decided to shoot a video to show what we do and encourage others to support the organization. Here is my family:

After serving Matthew’s Hope for 6 years I was invited to join the Board of Directors in 2016.  I have never met a better organization that has proven to help the homeless get off the streets, and I am proud to serve alongside with my family, the homeless community in Orange County, FL.

Toys For Hope Brings Toys and Gifts to Homeless Children in Orange County

Thank You to Our Community

I want to thank everyone who stepped up and supported my family yesterday with our Toys for Hope event. We are so grateful for the people who helped spread the word about the event, and of course, all of you who came by to drop off gifts and say hi. Thanks to those who stayed and helped pack up the donations and thank you to Windermere Preparatory School who graciously allowed us to use their property as a drop-off point as well as help draw people in to support the cause.

A Successful Toy Drive

Our Toys for Hope event collected over 300 gifts in just 3 hours! The event took place from 1-4pm on December 6th and by 4pm we needed to call in reinforcements to help haul all the goods.  Three car/truck loads were packed to the max and were hauled off to the Matthew’s Hope warehouse in Winter Garden.

Matthew’s Hope Christmas Carnival

All the gifts collected at our event will be set up on display at the Matthew’s Hope Christmas Carnival, which takes place on December 12th.  There, children who are homeless, and whose families are working with the Matthew’s Hope program, will walk through a room of toys and gifts filling out a list of things they want to ask Santa for.  They will then meet Santa who arrives on a fire truck courtesy of the Winter Garden Fire Department.  With the help of their families, and of course Santa, Christmas morning will become a magical moment for these beautiful children.

What is Matthew’s Hope?

Matthew’s Hope is a program that works hard day in and day out helping rehabilitate people who are homeless.  The program, which refers to the homeless as Guests, provides healthcare, counseling, transitional housing, jobs and services such as haircuts, showers and more.  Guests who enroll in the program are given jobs that help them earn points that they can use towards purchasing needed items.  There is a large pantry on-site at Matthew’s Hope where Guests can buy things such as food, diapers and toiletries.  Once Guests have reached a certain level in the program they will receive career counseling and help in finding a job.  Matthew’s Hope is dedicated in the community to providing people in need with a hand up rather than a hand out.  For more information, you can find them at www.matthewshopeministries.org.

Matthew’s Hope
Address: 1460 Daniels Rd, Winter Garden, FL 34787

Toys for Hope Plans to Bring Joy to Kids who are Homeless

New Toy Drive

This year Amy and I are hosting the Toys for Hope event which is a New Toy Drive for kids who are homeless and at-risk families who will be attending the Christmas Carnival put on by Matthew’s Hope in our neighboring town of Winter Garden, days later.

Please help us spread the word on this event

[fbvideo link=”https://www.facebook.com/givetoysforhope/videos/558828654266600/?permPage=1″ width=”500″ height=”400″ onlyvideo=”1″]

Toys For Hope Supports Matthew’s Hope in Winter Garden, FL

Each year, Matthew’s Hope puts on a Christmas Carnival where volunteers organize games for families who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless.  Kids walk around and have a chance to win prizes while they wait for the arrival of Santa Claus, who comes in riding on a Fire Truck courtesy of the Winter Garden Fire Department.  When Santa arrives, the kids are guided through a large room of new toys, and with the help of volunteers, they put together a Christmas list of items they want to ask Santa for.  The children then meet Santa and he takes their list to fulfill their wishes.

We are asking everyone in the Metro Orlando community to join us in helping bring joy to all these children by buying new toys and dropping them off at Windermere Preparatory School from 1-4pm on December 6th.

If you are unsure of what to buy, we can provide a list at your request.  Because of the daily involvement of Matthew’s Hope in the community there will be no limit of donations as they are in tune with the community and have the ability to bless others that may not attend the Christmas Carnival.

Windermere Preparatory School is located at 6189 Winter Garden Vineland Rd, Windermere, FL 34786

Thank you all!  If you have any questions, please call or email to our info below


Dave & Amy Vanz