As parents, we can be overwhelmed with the pressure to help our children grow to be good people. How can we support them at school, engage them in learning about others, teach them to experience and care about their world? Community service is something many families value, but finding opportunities for children, especially young children, can be difficult. They can collect cans for the soup kitchen, but can’t serve the food. They can tag along while you clean kennels at the animal shelter, but typically can’t go inside the kennels.
Seeds of Caring was founded to fill that need. Seven years ago, Brandy Jemczura, now founder and executive director of Seeds of Caring, couldn’t find anywhere age-appropriate and meaningful for her children to engage in community service. Jemczura spent her college and early adult life volunteering, and knew she wanted to instill those values into her own family. When faced with the realization that she couldn’t find what she wanted, she designed the opportunities herself.
“There are a lot of great reasons to not include children in service, primarily efficiency or safety,” explains Blair Everett, Indianapolis program manager for Seeds of Caring. “So we find opportunities that eliminate those issues.”
Helping Kids Help Others
Seeds of Caring provides curated service programming appropriate for children ages 2-12. And these aren’t projects where your child stands by you while you do the work. The programs are created intentionally for kids to dig in, learn, engage, discuss, and most importantly act.
“We have found that kids in this age group learn best through empathetic reflection,” Everett says. “So, we aren’t just making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the homeless shelter. We are also talking about what is food insecurity and building those social emotional skills of understanding.”
As programming grew in popularity, there arose an interest to expand beyond Seeds of Caring’s home base of Columbus, Ohio. After a study of six cities, Indianapolis was chosen, primarily because of its philanthropic nature and cultural similarities to Columbus. The first service project began on March 1, 2023, and already the reception has been larger than anticipated. “We had to close our first project early due to overwhelming demand,” Everett says.
Making Volunteering Easy for Parents
Currently, Seeds of Caring Indianapolis offers Anywhere Kits, which can be completed anywhere by individuals or groups. Each Anywhere Kit project takes 60 to 90 minutes and includes a self-facilitated discussion guide. These guides are developed by in-house staff with the support of topic experts and offer guidance for how best to use the guide for the age of the participating children.
“These are tough topics, so we are trying to give parents the tools to tackle those topics,” Everett says. “We believe strongly in introducing kids to their community and in understanding inclusivity.” You can learn more about the Anywhere Kit options via the website (seedsofcaring.org).
Once complete, kits are delivered to a Seeds of Caring ambassador, who has volunteered to collect and deliver completed kits to the donor site. Best of all, there is no commitment needed to participate in projects. Select as many or as few to suit your needs and schedule. “We know people with young kids are busy,” Everett says. “By eliminating barriers to participation, we can make volunteering something that could be more common and prevalent.”
How to Get Involved
By 2024, Seeds of Caring hopes to hire a staff to oversee Indianapolis programming and launch Kindness Corps, a program through which the team works with teachers to provide lesson plans and service curriculum for classroom use. They are excitedly planning the first in-person event for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2024 and hope to have more in-person events ready throughout that year.
If you’re interested in getting involved, visit seedsofcaring.org/indianapolis for the current list of Anywhere Kit projects. The team is also looking for ambassadors. “With more porches [to serve as drop-off locations], we can have more projects for more children” Blair says.