The pandemic kept us isolated for quite a while, but now we’re able to make plans, and many of us—in every auxiliary– are already thinking not only of Thanksgiving and Christmas, but our calendars for 2022.
The best way to get acquainted is to serve together. So, focus on giving rather than getting. When our daughter was nine, she loved animals so much that she wanted to be a zookeeper. When she asked to be a “petter” at the local animal shelter, she learned what they desperately need: pet food, blankets and newspapers. So for her birthday that year, instead of bringing presents for her, she asked all her friends to bring those items, then we delivered them together. It was such a great experience that she decided to benefit a charity every year.
Here are 20 ideas to help you have fun parties that can include the whole family, nonmembers, and also benefit your community. You can also modify them for ward gatherings:
- First, the animal shelter party, where everyone brings blankets, pet food, and newspapers. We served “poodle punch” which had scoops of sherbet floating in soda, cupcakes frosted like cats’ faces, and pear halves designed to look like cartoon dog faces. You could also play “pin the tail” on a drawing the guests make, and give a reward for the person who knows the most about local wildlife, or rare animals.
- Showering parents at a women’s shelter or homeless facility. Like a baby shower, guests could bring items families with infants use—diapers, bottles, formula, wet wipes, baby food, blankets, clothes—all would be appreciated by folks in need. Online invitations make it easy. Guests can bring baby pictures of themselves, and guess who’s who. Decorate with pink and blue balloons, let guests drink from sippy cups, use a baby blanket for a tablecloth (washed and later donated), and display a “cake” made from baby diapers. Make place cards from toy blocks.
- Fruit baskets for the elderly, but with even more love. As you assemble the baskets, let youngsters listen to old radio comedies, have an old-fashioned taffy pull, and have a visitor talk about “the olden days.” When you deliver the baskets to a senior care home, bring along a choir of young kids singing a song or two from their era. Be sure to take time to ask them about their memories of dating, working, what cars and homes cost then, etc.
- Hygiene kits for refugees or for a local food bank. There is constant need of toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, combs, shampoo, towels, etc. You can get an assembly line going and compile everything into resealable bags.
- Donate books (in good condition) to the school library. At the party, they can sew or decorate canvas book bags for the school. A rectangular cake could be decorated as a book, and party favors could be fancy book marks. Sandwiches could be “fastened” on one edge with circles of pretzels to look like binder rings. (Inside is the “meat” of the story, plus a Gummi worm or two!) You can play charades with book titles, and have a contest to see how far each person can walk, balancing a book on their head.
- Brighten the day of a child in the hospital. Put together a skit or clown show and take it to a children’s hospital (or retirement home). This can be arranged in an area socially distanced, or even outside. Invitations could look like suns with the rays folded in. All decorations bright and cheery. A giant card, signed by all, would be a treasured memento. Enjoy clown cupcakes afterwards.
- Make small quilts for preemies. Tiny quilts are easy to tie and even kids could make several at one party.
- Record stories on your phone, and send an audio file for hospitalized kids, or kids in shelters. Teach youngsters how to read stories slowly, and with dramatic flair. A take-home favor could be a church book-on-tape, or a best seller voiced by a well-known celebrity.
- Donate new teddy bears to ambulance drivers, to comfort the young patients they pick up.
- Save the Rain Forests. Decorate with a jungle theme, and learn about endangered species in rain forests. Show some short videos. This can be purely educational, to raise awareness. Or, done privately, it can be a fund-raiser.
- Clean up the world—Let guests make posters to promote World No Tobacco Day each Spring. Display them in doctors’ and dentists’ offices. The Lung Association would love this. And remember to alert local media—you just might get covered on the news!
- Help the Hungry – Have a carnival and use canned goods for tickets. Then donate them to a soup kitchen. Many wards have a Trunk or Treat event with an indoor carnival; this could make the event more meaningful.
- Benefit the local nature center. Use a campout them (or have an actual campout). Make paper butterflies, print fabric with actual leaves, plant a tree. See what the nature center needs and go there in the morning to sweep, paint, weed, etc. Serve food cut to look like flowers.
- Shower of Love—Have everyone bring boots, raincoats, or umbrellas to decorate, then donate them to a homeless shelter. Continue the rain and umbrella theme with games and food.
- Be a Sport—Donate sports equipment to a community youth center. Decorate cookies like various balls, and play versions of the actual games.
- Put together welcome kits for new move-ins. If it’s a snowy area, give them a box with all they need to build a snowman—scarf, hat, buttons, and carrot nose. If you live where it’s warm, give them beach toys or a desert survival kit including sunscreen.
- Have a Family History night and get the whole ward up to speed. And speaking of speed, have a race to see who can find the most relatives, or the most ordinances to do. Serve food from various members’ nationalities.
- Do a “Twelve Days of Christmas” for a chosen family, each night bringing them a different person or animal to go in the manger. On the final night, bring Baby Jesus. Kids could even sculpt these figures from clay. Include scripture verses or songs.
- Speed Friendshipping. Many auxiliaries have done this, and if you haven’t, plan one! Let everyone gather at a long table, and ring the bell after 60 seconds. During their minute (or two), the people on both sides have to answer the question on a card before them. What did you like best in school? Where would you like to go on a vacation? What famous person are you told you most resemble? What’s your favorite movie?
- Start up popular lessons in someone’s home: Sign language, gardening, cooking, woodworking, sewing, gospel study, etc.
Above all, don’t just have parties for yourselves; see each gathering as a fellowshipping opportunity to meet nonmembers in your area. Get to know and love them as well.
Hilton is an award-winning playwright and the author of many best-selling LDS books. Those, her humor blog, and YouTube Mom videos can be found on her website.