How to Build Your Neighborday Around Youth Service

Posted by Steve Culbertson


Remember sitting in front of the tube, munching Goldfish, as that nice man in the cardigan asked, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” Even at a tender age, you were learning what it means to be a nice, caring member of your community. It’s never too early to help kids along the path to good citizenship, and Neighborday is a chance to include the littlest members of your community.

By happy coincidence, Neighborday coincides with Global Youth Service Day, when kids and their adult mentors in more than 100 countries and all 50 states will make a big difference in their communities. In Atlanta, 14-year-old Evan is leading 20 volunteers in building the area’s first Braille trails, so that the visually-impaired can more fully experience nature. In Austin, 3rd graders studying local hunger issues have partnered with a local food bank to advocate at the State Capitol and encourage elected officials to remember those in need. In Colombia, more than 1,000 children will exchange notes of hope and peace with their U.S. counterparts.

These kids inspire us to do better and be better, so celebrate Neighborday and Global Youth Service Day (who doesn’t love a two-for-one deal?!) by intentionally connecting with young people. Here are some tips to get started.

1. Party! If you’re planning a neighborhood block party, help kids have a stake in the event by asking them to bring dessert, make the decorations or plan a music set list. Gather for a picnic or BBQ, a pizza or ice-cream party… and take the time to share the good work you did on Neighborday too. 

2. Kids ask so many questions. So why not ask them a few? Are the kids in your neighborhood in love with animals, the environment, Justin Bieber? What can they do to connect their interests with the community? Just by engaging in a real conversation, adults can help kids to identify the things they care about in their community, and then connecting them with volunteer projects that play to their strengths and interests. 

3. The more the merrier! Already planning a Neighborday activity? Invite kids! Remember to provide activities and beverages that will appeal to the under 21 set (sparkling cider, anyone?).

4. Mind your manners. Grown-ups are always reminding kids to say please and thank you. On Neighborday, remember to thank the kids in your life for all that they do. Recognition and appreciation build esteem and connections. 

5. Many hands make light work. Join in a Global Youth Service Day/Neighborday project in your area. You can find a nonprofit or community group in your neighborhood to volunteer with here. Double count it for Neighborday! Search the GYSD Map at www.GYSD.org/map to see if there’s a project near you.

6. Service in a Snap. Create your own easy-to-do project. Help kids set up a bake sale to benefit the No Kid Hungry Campaign, or a lemonade stand to raise money for the local community center. Find more simple service ideas and resources at http://www.gysd.org/easyprojectideas.

7. You get a gold star! Give kids who participate in Global Youth Service Day/Neighborday a certificate, a prize, an award or a big round of applause.

Hang out with your neighbors on the last Saturday of April (a day we're calling "Neighborday"). Click here to say you'll Do It, and here to download GOOD's Neighborday Toolkit and a bunch of other fun stuff