The two things that are the most important to Timitra Kelly of Maple Grove are her family and volunteering her time through service projects. She figured why not combine the two elements to create a combination that brings love and positive energy that can be shared within her family life, as well as with people they help in the community. “Volunteerism and service is something very personal to me. I often describe it as selfish because I get so much out of it, that it really doesn’t feel like serving others,” Kelly says.
Kelly began her life of philanthropy when she was just a young girl, close to the same age that she began involving her children, Mia and Collin, now ages 11 and 13. She remembers being a Girl Scout and participating in small volunteer projects, such as helping her father, who was the St. Paul trash commissioner at the time, distribute compostable bags to residences in the area.
Now, Kelly focuses on teaching her children about the importance of giving time and effort to help improve the lives of others. “I likely learned involvement and volunteerism from my parents, who were amazing role models for how to have a more fulfilled life through involvement in the community. Maybe the love for service is genetic,” she says.
To get her children in the giving spirit, Kelly, along with Mia and Collin, joined a Kindness Book Club, during which the group read books, including Something Beautiful, and participated in activities that taught them how to take the ideas in the books and turn them into positive actions in real life. “We got in the habit of taping $5 bills and gift cards to gas pumps and paying for people’s meals at fast food restaurants,” she says. “The kids learned early about random acts of kindness and paying it forward.”
As they have gotten older, one of the children’s favorite places to volunteer is Feed My Starving Children. Kelly and her kids also put together bags of supplies, which include toiletries, snacks and cash, and offer them to homeless people.
One of their most memorable volunteer experiences is going on a mission trip together to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to work with the Lakota Sioux. Looking back on their time there as a family really put things in perspective for Collin because he experienced how other children his age lived, as well as assisted with a program that provided kids with free dinner. “My favorite memory was from our family mission trip. I liked being there and helping lead [a program] because I got to work with the kids that we were serving and see who we were helping,” he says.
Part of the benefit for Kelly is seeing her children express themselves and showcase their creativity by working to alleviate problems they see and identifying and pursuing causes they are passionate about through service. The children have two different focuses, homelessness and animals, so she makes sure they spend ample time working on projects for their special causes. “Kids are not only smart but passionate, so give them a venue to use their intelligence and passions, and watch them flourish,” Kelly says.
Choosing to live this volunteer lifestyle has taught her kids values, such as being grateful for their lives, selfless and compassionate; and showing kindness toward others, as well as developing passions and using them in positive ways.
“I love my family best when teaching them to love others. We started serving together because we do want to change the world—one family at a time,” Kelly says.