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Volunteer Time is Family Time for a Mother and Son

By May 4, 2018December 30th, 2022Community Volunteerism

It isn’t easy to get quality time with your family — just ask any busy parent.

But Blue Crew volunteer Denise Green has a solution. Once a month on a Monday night, she and her son, Dwayne, volunteer together at MANNA to prepare and package nourishing, healthy meals for people struggling with illness.

Denise felt connected to MANNA’s mission because of her experience caring for her husband while he was ill. She began volunteering with the Blue Crew when he passed away, and she encouraged Dwayne to join her, so together they could find solace by serving those in need.

My Son, the Supervisor

The saying goes that variety is the spice of life, and it’s one of the things Denise loves most about volunteering at MANNA.

The volunteers’ duties are different every time, whether it’s chopping vegetables, preparing entrees like chicken and fish, baking cookies, or labeling meals. MANNA volunteers typically make between 400 and 500 meals in one night.

While Denise may be the boss at home, in MANNA’s kitchen, it’s Dwayne who takes charge.

“The other volunteers refer to him as ‘the supervisor’ because he’s so outgoing and keeps everyone motivated while they’re working,” she says. Dwayne enjoys his role as the supervisor so much he volunteers on his own even if Denise can’t make it.

Faster Isn’t Always Better

Working with people from all walks of life and different generations is something else that keeps Denise coming back to MANNA. She keeps a watchful eye on the college students who volunteer, and sometimes winds up teaching them valuable life lessons, as only a mother can.

“One student was trying to work too fast and rush through everything and was handling a slippery container of soup,” Denise recalls. Despite warning him that if he wasn’t careful, it would spill, he didn’t listen. As she predicted, the soup spilled all over the floor, and the team had to make more.

Accidents happen, Denise says, and things can be fixed — but she emphasizes that rules are there for a reason, experience counts, and faster isn’t always better!

Volunteering Brings Busy Families Together

After seven years, Denise and Dwayne still look forward to mother-son bonding time on Monday nights. Denise encourages parents to use volunteering as an opportunity to bring a busy family together. It’s also an opportunity for skill building. At MANNA, for instance, young adults learn basic cooking skills and recipes they can use to help in the kitchen at home.

To make the experience even more special, Denise suggests making it an outing if you can. She and Dwayne try to go out for dinner or do something to spend more time together after their shift.

Most importantly, Denise says volunteering together is a chance to teach children to understand the needs of others and appreciate what they have.

If you volunteer through your employer, find out if you can bring family members, or visit the United Way website for family-friendly volunteer opportunities near you.


Mary Eileen O'Connor

My personal philosophy about health and well-being is to have simple goals and stick to them — whether it’s drinking more water, working in a few extra steps each day, or just making time to unplug. When I’m not busy writing creative content for a variety of audiences, my favorite ways to unwind include enjoying local arts and culture, reading a good book, and watching TV cooking shows.