Growing up as a military family, service and giving back to others has been an integral part of the Pickup Family’s life. With a fundamental truth that helping others is critical to raising caring and successful adults, parents Stephanie and Nate Pickup continue to seek opportunities for their children, Taylor, Abby, Olivia, and Nathan Jr. to make an impact in their community.
From handing out fresh produce, packing supplies for mothers in need to helping pack thousands of Thanksgiving meals, their eagerness to respond to the needs of their community cannot be ignored. With a “How else can we help” mentality, the family of six has volunteered countless hours to make an impact in the Greater New Bedford community. The extent of service that is deeply rooted in the Pickup family’s DNA is unparalleled, and will grow from generation to generation.
What inspires you to volunteer as a family, and when did your family start volunteering?
My husband graduated from West Point, so we’ve always been a military family and service-oriented. My service began before I had the kids, as a military wife supporting the military community and the loved ones of service members. Once we transitioned out of the military life, I felt a little lost and I didn’t know exactly how to channel and bring the energy as I had serving the military community into civilian life. But as the kids got old enough to volunteer, we jumped right into new avenues of service.
When they were young, we found age appropriate activities to do at home, like taking old jeans and milk jug to make templates for people in need to construct shoes with our church and friends. We’ve always wanted the kids to grow up being service-oriented. As they grew older, crafts at home turned into activities with United Way of Greater Bedford and other community organizations. I believe that helping others is critical to raising caring successful adults and builds character.
Describe your volunteer role with the United Way of Greater New Bedford, and any other organizations your family is involved in.
We are heavily involved in our local United Way of Greater Bedford, which is grassroots and locally run and solve issues at the community and local level. One of the kids favorite programs through United Way’s Mobile Market, which runs from summer through the fall, and donates fresh produce to low-income working class families. These families are doing all of the rights things, but just aren’t able to afford fresh produce. This program allows them to get locally grown organic products at no cost. The kids even got to volunteer at the farm to plant and harvest produce, and now help at distributional sites around the city.
We truly enjoy connecting with our community and meeting the families that we get to serve. When you have the hands on face-to-face time with the people that you are serving, it’s so much more rewarding. You really can see who you’re helping and how thankful they are. One bag of vegetables has such an impact and produces a reaction. It’s really creates perspective. It’s important for kids to see this and not take for granted everything that they have, like vegetables.
On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, our family also helps pack thousands of holiday meals with the Hunger Heroes Project. Volunteers usually grab a tin pan and go through stations of traditional Thanksgiving dishes to create full meals. These are wrapped, distributed and given out to families and local food pantries. Volunteer sign up slots filled up in eight minutes last year!
One of the other activities that our family looks forward to is Our Heroes’ Tree, a national initiative that honors the service and sacrifice of our nation’s military families. The kids help craft ornaments and help me set up local OHT events. We also help Baby Bundles Project drives where we collect baby items for local moms in need. We raise money for local school drives and supply classrooms with supplies they are in need of. We sell and design a T-shirt every year, and 100% of the proceeds are used to multiply any supplies list that a teacher needs by 25.
Our family also sponsors families during the holidays and puts together a bundle that matches their needs at the time. We are also involved in our church’s youth ministry events, youth mass, a Valentines Day card campaign and visits to the local nursing home.
How has volunteering impacted your family?
With technology, kids sometimes can be so disconnected. Volunteering allows them to have human face-to-face connection with other people. Volunteering is an opportunity to interact with people and understand the importance of community. We maintain this mentality, and really try to build relationships. I want to raise caring, compassionate and productive adults, and volunteering has been crucial to that.
Volunteering also puts actions to words. By volunteering, the kids are actually living out service. They aren’t just virtually supporting something; they are going into the community and making a real difference. It also helps us spend time with one another. Since our schedules are so busy and there’s usually at least one person missing, it makes us enjoy the moments of being together and be present.
Describe a meaningful experience that you’ve had as a family volunteering in your community.
The United Way Mobile Market has become a tangible giving experience that really helps us connect to families. The moments when the kids see and realize how much other people struggle, and how difficult life can be for other people are special. There are so many moments like this that just keep us coming back for more.
It’s also special to see the kids take their service into the next season of life, like to college. Volunteering doesn’t just stop at home, and I see the effects of volunteering as a family grow as the kids take their service-oriented hearts into other communities. They’ve been raised to understand the importance of volunteering, and now they’re going into the world to volunteer while not being told to under supervision. It’s so awesome from a mother’s point of view. It’s a ripple effect. Giving will multiply for generations, and that’s the goal.
What have you learned through your experience as a volunteer?
It’s self-reflective. It shows me how much I can take for granted and helps me appreciate so many things like health, our home and my family.
What do you want people to learn from your family’s service story?
It’s so important for families to do, and it doesn’t have to be big acts of volunteering – it can start small! You can start right in your own living room and community. Find age appropriate things to do as a family. You don’t have to expect grand things with a four-year-old. We started with so many home based activities.
You also just have to make time for it. It’s easy to give the excuse of busyness, but only one or two hours anytime is still important to carve our for volunteering. You’ll fall in love with it and want to give it more and more time. We all have our own individual passions – channel them into your community and it will benefit so many people. There’s an opportunity for everyone.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like The Pickup Family? Find local volunteer opportunities.