One Atlanta-Area Mom Turns Giving Back into a Family Affair
It’s the season of giving. And perhaps more this year than any other, finding ways to bring joy to those around us seems like an important part of the holiday. But if you don’t know where to start, perhaps Jennifer Riser’s story will give you some ideas. The Senior Research Scientist at the global chemical company Kemira and mom of two teen girls has a long running tradition in her family that she calls “25 Days of Giving”.
For the past ten years, starting on December 1st, Riser and her family members open up a section of their advent calendar. But instead of chocolates or candies, Riser’s calendar is filled with 25 acts of service or kindness. When her daughters Emma and Chloe were younger, the tasks were simple: hold the door for someday, give a compliment or maybe donate a toy from their room. The girls are older now and the service acts are more ambitious. But Riser said the joy remains the same. “At 15 or 16, for a teenage girl to still be excited about opening the advent calendar and finding out what their act is that day, it’s still special to see.”
This year, of course, is different. Many of the family’s typical in-person activities are not possible due to the pandemic. So Riser and her daughters decided to choose four areas of focus for their 25 Days of Giving, one for each week of December. The first week was dedicated to their local Atlanta area schoolteachers. They created handmade face masks and collected classroom donations as well as $600 worth of gift cards from the community. Riser said the teacher’s wish list items were not the usual requests.
“It’s kind of sad almost that they didn’t ask for any classroom materials. It was all Lysol spray, wipes and hand sanitizer. Just things to keep their classrooms safe, that’s literally the only thing they asked for,” said Riser. “They’re doing so much, teaching in person, they’re teaching virtual at the same time. They’re putting themselves out there and watching over our kids, I mean they are really going above and beyond this year.”
To round out the month of December, Riser and her family are also donating to the local healthcare workers, their high school’s food pantry and nearby elderly residents. She said they chose these particular groups because they all represent the true heroes of their community.
“Something I tell my girls all the time – and especially now that they’re teenagers – is that every interaction you have with somebody is an opportunity. And you can either be a person who makes or breaks that person,” Riser said. “And they should always choose kindness, always. I know they get tired of hearing that from me, but it’s something we say a lot in our house.”