A few years ago on the way to a downtown concert, my daughters and I walked past several homeless people asking for money on street corners. I rarely carry cash and always hate those situations. I kept my eyes forward and a tight hold on my girls. When we arrived at the concert, my oldest made a comment I’ll never forget: “I think we are basically nice people, but we don’t really do much to help anyone do we?”
Ouch. She is of course, wrong. Isn’t she? As a family, we donate ten percent of all of our income to our church. In addition, each month we donate the cost of two meals to help families in need in our neighborhood. But still, her comment created some soul searching. Is there more that I can do? Is my walking past pan handlers an “I gave at the office” attitude that needs repair? How? Even if our family is giving money regularly to help others, my daughters don’t see it. They have little involvement in this part of our family finances. How can I help them to contribute to the community in ways that mean something to them?
Soon after that experience, a friend introduced me to the National Charity League (NCL). NCL is a service, leadership and cultural organization of mothers and daughters that work directly with philanthropies to serve the community. Through NCL, my “how?” questions have been replaced by preparing and serving meals at the Road Home, volunteering at the YWCA boutique, organizing dress up clothes at the Sharing Place, and numerous other volunteer experiences I get to share with my daughters. This week we are decorating doors for Christmas at the Neighborhood House. Next week, my daughter is helping with a Camp K field trip to the Festival of Trees. Helping out in the community isn’t a mystery anymore. All we have to do is log-in to our NCL calendar and sign up.
This work is helping my daughters. After an afternoon volunteering as a teacher’s assistant at the Children’s Center, my teenager said she she realized she didn’t need to be nervous about volunteering there because, “It wasn’t about me. It was all about the kids.” If you have a teenager, you’ll appreciate why I want to repeat that statement: “It wasn’t about me. It was all about the kids.”
This work is changing our perspective. I’ve lived in the Salt Lake Valley all of my life and never knew many of these good charities existed. Or if I did know about them, I walked past not realizing ways to contribute. NCL is changing this and helping our family reach beyond our immediate circles and augment our church service. Instead of eyes forward, I find our eyes open and searching for new ways to help.
This work is strengthening our bonds. NCL is something we do as mother and daughters. Each meeting, tea party, service day and event gives us something in common during a time when we seem to have less and less in common. NCL is helping to strengthen our relationship.
If you think you might be interested in joining NCL, here are a few insider notes:
- It is designed for girls ages 7th grade through 12th grade. Girls can “join” the spring before 7th grade and begin volunteer hours that summer.
- There are member dues each year.
- There is one yearly fundraiser.
- Girls follow a “curriculum” each year called the “NCL Experience” designed to take them through all six years. This experience focuses on leadership, service and cultural experiences.
- After the first year, mothers are expected to have a leadership position in NCL. It is similar to a PTA job or a church job. Girls also are given opportunities for leadership positions, but not required to serve.
- In Utah, we now have two NCL chapters, one in Salt Lake and one in Park City–the Summit County Chapter.
- The Salt Lake chapter’s “homebase” is the Holladay City Center.
- The women I’ve met in NCL are extraordinarily committed.
- It is a lot of work.
- It is worth it.
One final NCL note, I don’t share this post with any degree of self-regard, only gratitude for an organization that is helping us grow. There are many vehicles of service. This is one that is working for us.