Seeking family fun and rewarding experiences this summer? Learn about Summer of Smiles

Update: The Summer of Smiles Social and volunteer appreciation party is 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 16, at Bryant Square Park, 3101 Bryant Ave. S., Minneapolis. Click here for more information.

Summer is a time to make memories. Days are long, school is in the rearview, and usually there’s a little extra time for family activities. If you’re looking for an extra-rewarding way to spend time together this summer, Meals on Wheels Summer of Smiles is perfect for you.

We’re calling on families to give delivering meals together a try, and we’re providing all kinds of helpful materials that will help you make the most of this activity. Not only will you have the chance to build this fulfilling activity into your summer routine, but you’ll get to join us for an end-of-summer soiree where you can share your stories with other families, and have the chance to win a number of great prizes.

We’ve laid out six simple steps that will help ensure a spectacular summer delivery experience.

1. Sign up

Getting started with the Summer of Smiles is easy. Contact Meals on Wheels Volunteer Manager Emily Lund at [email protected] or by calling 612-623-3363.

Mention that you’re calling about the Summer of Smiles and Emily will help direct you to your neighborhood Meals on Wheels site, as well as answer any questions you might have. She’ll also be able to direct you to additional resources that you might find helpful during your delivery experience. You can also sign up for email updates specific to Summer of Smiles throughout the summer:

2. Read together to prepare for the meal delivery experience.

Delivering Meals on Wheels is a volunteer opportunity that’s appropriate for children of all ages. You can jump straight to the delivery if you’d like, but delivering together is also a great chance to teach your children about volunteering and helping seniors and people with disabilities in our community.

We’ve compiled a reading list that can help prepare you for delivery and initiate thoughtful discussion about some of the issues you might encounter along the way. Here’s a list of children’s books that touch on intergenerational issues in a thoughtful manner and can aid your children’s understanding of aging:

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead
Miss Tizzy by Libba Moore Gray
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco
Albert the Fix-it Man by Janet Lord

Other resources:

Doing Good Together: Learn and Reflect – Seniors and Aging
Lindsey McDivitt’s Intergenerational Resources
Societal Education About Aging for Change (SEAChange) Booklist

3. Discuss the delivery process with your children

If your child is prepared for the volunteer experi­ence, you’re more likely to have fun and enjoy yourself. Here are some additional preparation tips:

  • Talk to your child about the different kinds of people you’re likely to meet. Some of the folks may be friendly and talkative. Others won’t want to visit with you. Some will be elderly, while others are ill or have disabilities.
  • Talk about the different kinds of houses and apartments you’re likely to see. Some may be quite small and others large. Some may be messy or even smell bad.
  • If you have a younger child, practice knock­ing on a door at home and saying (loudly) “Meals on Wheels.” Also, depending on the age of your child, you might want to practice gently handing over a meal.
  • Explain that once you ring the doorbell or knock loudly, you may have to wait a bit. It takes some recipients a long time to get to the door. Talk to your child about the importance of being patient.
  • Go over the basic rules of etiquette, such as say­ing hello when you arrive, saying goodbye when you leave.
  • Explain that some elders may be hard of hearing. Remind your child to speak slowly and loud enough for meal recipients to hear.
  • Talk about the fact that since you signed up for a route, folks are counting on you. So even if you’d rather not go one day – because it’s cold and rainy or you’re having fun play­ing with a friend – it’s important to follow through on your commitment. This is a great opportunity to have a conversation about responsibility.

4. Deliver the meals

Now comes the fun part! Once you’ve identified a route, consider going on the route once by yourself so you can explain exactly what it will be like before you start. Additional tips for delivering as a family can be found on our family volunteer page.

5. Reflect on your experiences

You can have many conversations with your child about what you’re doing to help in the community. Reflection fosters the development of critical think­ing in children and can stimulate some interesting discussions.

Consider these questions to jumpstart the conversation:

  • Why is it important that we bring meals to seniors and people with disabilities in our community?
  • How did you make a differ­ence today?
  • Did anything surprise you? If so, what?
  • Did anything happen that made you feel uncomfortable?
  • What have you learned from delivering meals that you didn’t know before?
  • What do you like most about delivering meals? What is most difficult part?

Here are some fun ways you can help your children record their experiences:

  • Create a journal or scrapbook of your Meals on Wheels adventures. You can include quotes, photos, mementos and journal entries. Add something new each time you volunteer.
  • Write and illustrate a book together about your delivery experience, with your child as the main character. You can include photos or drawings.
  • Write a letter together with your child to someone (grandparent, aunt, friend) about your experience. Or have your child describe the experience to someone on the phone.
  • Share your Meals on Wheels story on our website.

6. Celebrate and share your story with other families

Join us for a volunteer celebration at the end of the summer. All families who participate in Summer of Smiles will get an invite to the celebration. Everyone who comes will have an opportunity to share their delivery stories and we’ll bring the food and fun prizes.