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The Walt Disney Company and generationOn, the youth division of Points of Light, are partnering once again on “#Family Volunteer Day” which is a global day of service which encourages families to engage in volunteer activities that support their neighborhoods and communities. The day of service is November 18, 2017, which is the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving. The generationOn website has DIY, at-home, and group service projects, as well as the ability for you to search for a project near you.

Recently Wendy Rhein, the Chief Strategy and Engagement Officer at Points of Light discussed with us the day of service, it’s importance and her goals for growing volunteer service among families via an exclusive interview.

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Families, volunteering, and tasks

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did Disney and generationOn find each other and why did they decide to partner to create Family Volunteer Day?

Wendy Rhein (WR): Points of Light, the leading organization of volunteer service, and The Walt Disney Company partnered on Family Volunteer Day because they both recognize the power of families to strengthen their communities. generationOn, the youth division of Points of Light, encourages kids and teens to make their mark in their communities and the world, as they learn the value of service and volunteerism. Coming together for Family Volunteer Day, a global day of service, helps us to engage families in creating a brighter future together.

MM: What sorts of tasks are listed on the website across how many states and counties?

WR: generationOn provides easy, at home, DIY, and group volunteer projects for families with kids of all ages.

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Our website has multiple ideas which range from creating cards for seniors and veterans, to park cleanup projects, to collecting healthy breakfast items for children and creating book-share box libraries for foster homes. The website also has a search feature for users to type in their zip code and find a project in their neighborhood.

Family Volunteer Day is a global day of service, and this year tens of thousands of families will activate. Our signature event in the #United States is in Glendale, CA., and our signature events globally will take place in Hong Kong and Mexico City. Last year forty-six states plus Washington D.C., and seven countries held Family Volunteer Day events.

MM: What are some of the best stories you have heard pertaining to the volunteer work?

WR: Last year, nearly 31,000 people served more than 76,000 hours and 422,000 people on Family Volunteer Day, so there are many amazing stories to choose from! This large number makes it hard to choose a best, but we always love seeing stories where the project help kids take on a new perspective on life.

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MM: What are some of the most unusual tasks that people can opt to take on?

WR: There are so many options! The range of diversity in projects is really what makes Family Volunteer Day so special. Volunteers determine what their community is most in need of and then work together to make it happen. In some areas, that may be a creative way to engage youth in.

Program, responses, and values

MM: How, if at all, does the 2017 program differ from 2016 one?

WR: While this is one day of service, it kicks off a year-round initiative encouraging families to volunteer and help make their mark in the world together. This year there are also more than 100 new project ideas that can be done at home or in the community.

MM: At present, what are the limitations of the program and how do you think it will evolve over time?

WR: On occasion, families perceive that there are limitations to volunteering, especially with younger children. It can be hard to get to a volunteer program location during the week. Some families think they are just too busy to add another activity to the family schedule. We want to let every family know that it is easy to volunteer on your time, in your way. There are many opportunities to conduct at home activities around the schedule of your family. Our project guides allow users to search for opportunities based on age, interest, and location. Each guide shares why the project is important, what is needed, provides detailed instructions, reflection discussion topics, and additional resources. If families need help with ideas, we encourage them to engage with us on social media or through email at info@generationon.org. What's important it not what you do as a family to volunteer, but that you do it as a family to help others.

MM: Overall, what has the response been like regarding Family Volunteer Day?

WR: The responses have been incredible. We already have thousands of people committed across the country and the world who will be engaging in Family Volunteer Day. We find it very rewarding to see families and organizations that have been participating with us year after year. Families recognize that serving together is a great way to spend time as a family, to share and pass down values to the next generation, and that service reminds all of us that we have skills and time that can change the lives of others. That's what Family Volunteer Day is all about. #charity