Summer of service: Volunteer opportunities for families

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CASA's Community Garden is run by volunteers. Image: casamadisoncty.org

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Summer is here and with it, some opportunities for family bonding that go far beyond a trip to the beach.

Volunteering as a family can be a great way to spend time together, while also teaching children about service.

At Manna House, founder Fran Fluhler says all ages are welcome.

“Bring your baby…and if you’re on a walker, bring your walker. Our oldest volunteer is 93 and our youngest is about 6 months.”

Manna House provides food and other necessities to anyone in need.

No special skills or abilities are needed from volunteers, just a willing heart.

As Fluhler explains, “I think it really makes a family that’s going through a hard time much more comfortable to see another family that’s serving them. They totally relax and that wall comes down and sometimes, they open up and share that, ‘mom’s going through chemo’ or ‘dad’s had a really bad car wreck.'”

Volunteers help with the food distribution. Fluhler says even the smallest person can have a big impact.

“It’s just really sweet when a child hands an elderly person a cupcake or they just smile at them. It just warms everybody’s heart when a kids smiles at you.”

Families can volunteer as they’re able. There’s no commitment to a set schedule.

The Huntsville location is at 2110 S. Memorial Parkway in Huntsville. It’s open to volunteers Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 2:00pm to 7:00pm. There are also volunteer opportunities on Saturday, June 4 and Saturday, August 6 from 10:00am to 1:00pm.

House of the Harvest, at 9144 Wall Triana Highway, needs volunteers every Saturday from 9:00am to 11:00am.

Two other locations, one in New Market and one in Lacey’s Spring, offer additional opportunities. You can contact Fluhler at (256) 503-4848 or by email at fran@mymannahouse.com for more information.

For families with children in 6th grade or above, CASA of Madison County‘s Community Garden is another option.

Executive Director Ann Anderson says, “we have a service coordinator. So, if somebody says, ‘I don’t know anything about gardening. I don’t know anything about harvesting,’ we have hands-on learning experience. Plus, you’re bonding.”

All food from the Community Garden, which is located at 4725 Bob Wallace Avenue, goes to the agency’s elderly and home-bound.  Anderson says it’s the only fresh produce many of their clients will have all season. They simply can’t afford it at the store.

Here, too, there is no need to commit to certain hours. Families may simply show up during garden hours, as their schedule allows.

For the summer, those hours are as follows:

  • Tuesdays: 1:00pm – 6:00pm
  • Wednesdays: 8:00am – 4:00pm
  • Thursdays: 1:00pm – 6:00pm
  • Fridays: 10:00am – 4:00pm
  • Saturdays: 8:00am – 1:00pm

Church and civic groups are also welcome. However, to arrange a group work day, you are asked to contact CASA of Madison County beforehand. The number is (256) 533-7775.