Make a Family Reunion Box

 

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I have a family reunion box.  I started the box because I got tired of  getting to the family reunion and finding out that I had forgotten to bring things like tape or scissors. 

It seems like my friends and family with trailers have everything stashed behind their trailer doors but I don’t have a trailer- I have a family reunion “box”.

Here’s what I’ve stashed inside my family reunion box: Gloves, rain ponchos,  first aid, tarp, all sizes of rope and string, plastic table cloths, collapsible shovel, plastic ware, serving spoons, can opener and rags.

I always keep things like balls of every size (including wiffle and volleyballs), horseshoes, marshmallow blow sticks, Frisbees, blindfolds, dice, huge checkers set, crayons and coloring books just in case we need some extra fun at our reunion.

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Inside the family reunion box I have a smaller box with lots of compartments where I keep things like tape, scissors, pens and pencils, markers, over the counter pain medicine, reflector tape, bug spray, sun screen, wet wipes, crayons, thumb tacks, toothpaste, new toothbrush, string, nails, extra lantern supplies, matches and batteries.

I usually have what we need at our family reunion in my box- except for this year- someone needed a stapler.  I didn’t have a stapler in my box this year but you can bet I will next year!

How do I generate funds to pay for family reunion expenses?

From Hope T., Location Oakland, TN. U.S.A

That’s a very good question, Hope.  It’s bad enough that family reunions take so much time but they can be expensive too.

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In 2010 our Stewart,  3 day reunion cost $16.00 a person which is a screaming good deal for those that attend.  We don’t charge for family reunion so the money has to come from somewhere and doing the math, I figure that we are going to need about $1,500 to pay for reunion expenses.

On both sides of our family, Grandma and Grandpa, Nana and Gramps have paid for the reunion location and accommodations which has really been a blessing. They pay for the campsite, the park or the condominium for the reunion but that still leaves the food (big expense) decorations, crafts, activities and prizes.

On the Wells side of our family we "divide and conquer". We rotate through all the original children (myself and my three brothers) the responsibility for the reunion and that family makes the assignments. They assign out meals and if you are responsible for breakfast then you provide the food, prepare it and clean up. Another family will be responsible for lunch and another dinner etc. This works out quite well as each family can choose for themselves how much work and expense they choose to take on. Assignments for other activities can also be made.

On the Stewart side of our family, Aunt Peggy Sue suggested that we hold a family auction. I have to admit, I wasn’t very excited about a family reunion auction. I just couldn’t get the vision for how an auction would work. Well, work it did. Our reunion auctions have paid for all the food, activities, prizes and crafts for the Stewart family reunion and we’ve been holding auctions for almost ten years.

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Everyone brings something to donate to the auction. Some family members work all year to make a quilt or other special item for the reunion, some offer services such as haircuts and some bake cookies, brownies or bring produce from their garden The best sellers at our reunion are always the crocheted dishtowels Grandma makes ($40.00- $80.00) and the hand-stitched heirloom quilts that Grandpa makes ($200.00- $400.00). Other popular items are restored and framed photos of ancestors and photo memory books- anything with sentimental value. No one counts the items someone brings or judges them on how much they bid, everyone does the best they can, sometimes more, sometimes less.

I have the great pleasure of going around and talking to people about family reunions and many have shared their ideas for paying for their reunion. 

Some families divide all expenses equally, or have everyone pay individually for expenses as they incur.

Collecting recipes and producing cookbooks and many other publishing projects such as directories, scrapbooks, and history books to sell at the reunion.

Pass the hat

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Food, beverage and white elephant sales. Food sales can net a nice profit if you consider carefully your reunion customers. A bake sale could feature desserts to eat right there as well as whole bakery specialties to take home.

Family yard sale

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Order personalized  (imprinted) products such as t-shirts, caps, coffee mugs, pens, pencils…and many more items to sell

Charge a traditional registration fee to families. Some families charge per family unit and others charge different prices based on age and family size. Average cost families are charging for their reunions are adults (ages 13 and over)- $70.00, children- $40.00. Pay electronically or elect to pay with a bank check or money order.

If some families can’t afford to pay then give them opportunities to provide service in exchange for paying fees- for instance could type in recipes for a family cookbook, maintain a family website or do family history research.

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The easiest way to reduce reunion expenses is to cut back on the time your reunion lasts. If you normally have a three day reunion cut back to two or just get together for a Saturday afternoon and evening. Make your meals potluck and enjoy the time, however short, that you have with each other.

With finances in mind, some families opt not to have reunions every year.

Ask for reunion dues and ask family members to send a portion of their dues on a quarterly basis so that it isn’t a one-time large payment.

A lot of people at my family reunion presentations hold a raffle of donated items from companies or family members during the reunion. Plane tickets or electronics are good money generating items. 

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Collect corporate donations or pledges for a fundraising event like a bike or 5K race. Corporations sometimes donate to large reunions where knowledge of the company’s name and contribution reaches many people.

Family reunion pocket change. Ask family members to save their pocket change during the year and bring it to the reunion. Count money by hand or take to a counting machine. Announce the grand total at your reunion.

Families all over the world are having family reunions and there are hundreds of ways to pay for them.  The most important thing is to choose the idea that you think will work best for your family and move forward.  As the years go by you can tweek your plan until it’s perfected.  Paying for a family reunion is a little like getting married- if you wait until you can afford it you’ll never do it. So make a plan, Hope, and do it! Thanks for asking the question and good luck!

Aunt MO

Do I Have to Invite Everyone To My Family Reunion?

I received a question from someone planning a family reunion in August this year. This reunion planner expressed some concern over who they should invite to their reunion. There was one family in particular that she didn’t feel comfortable inviting to the reunion for various reasons.

imageIf this is your first family reunion then deciding who to invite to the reunion is one of the first questions you have to ask when planning your reunion. There are all types of reunions. You can plan reunion with just your brothers and sisters and their families for a reunion on a smaller scale. Every generation you go back makes your reunion bigger and the more people and food you need to plan for.

If you are concerned about including a family in your reunion you may want to stop short of inviting families from that generation. There are plenty of reunions or “parties” you could have that won’t include that family. For instance have a “Cousins” party or a “descendants of _____” reunion. If you are inviting the descendants of _____ and they are part of that group it is difficult to not include them, but you can invite anyone you want to a party.

image Edith Wagner of Reunions Magazine puts it this way, “A family reunion is not a wedding where you pick and choose who to invite. A family reunion should include everyone or at least you should invite everyone. Occasionally there may be family members you’d rather not encounter. On the other hand, not everyone wants to come, either, which is how it often works out.”

A good rule of thumb when deciding who to invite to your family reunion is to start with your closest relatives and work out. Begin with “Mom and Dad”- not much of a family reunion, then invite brothers and sisters and their families. Ask yourself if you have access to a reunion site that will accommodate this number of people and if you do then start adding branches from your family tree- grandparents, great grandparents etc.

Keep in mind that the further back you go the greater the numbers and keep in mind that families tend to multiply. We began with about 20 people at our first family reunion and now we’re pushing 100.

Hint: Large reunions need to be announced very far in advance to give everyone enough time to plan around it and save up. All family reunions require a significant amount of planning but larger reunions require many more hours of planning and lots of help from reunion committees.

So basically the question we should be asking is “What KIND of a reunion do I want to have?”  Those are the people you should invite.

Thanks, Linda, for a great reunion planning question.

Aunt MO

Annual Proclamations and Observances

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I just became aware of three official proclamations pertaining to family reunions and thought it was interesting that there are basically three “official” family reunion month.

Make your family reunion official by issuing an official proclamation. You can ask for a proclamation from your city for many reasons including the date of your family reunion. You could ask that the day of your reunion be declared, “Wells Family Reunion Day” or “Stewart” Family Reunion Day.

Use a proclamation to recognize an ancestor or a special family member. Dignitaries are anxious to grant such requests especially if the family has a long history of service in the community. Some communities will even dedicate a week to your special event, cause or industry.  Reads more about obtaining an official proclamation for your family reunion here.

 Family Reunion Month A Proclamation in 1985 To raise awareness of a growing trend of runaway children and newly formed organizations to help reunite families of runaways the Congress, by House Joint Resolution 64, has designated the period between Mother’s Day, May 12, and Father’s Day, June 16, 1985, as "Family Reunion Month" and authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this period.

National Family Reunion Month While some commercial enterprises have dubbed August as National Family Reunion Month many social groups including churches observe National Family Reunion Month in the month of July.

Annual Family Reunion Planning Month A family awareness group with a focus on genealogy and traditional family reunion planning established in 2005 named November as "Annual Family Reunion Planning Month". Mark A. Askew, Founder, Legendary Heritage Heirlooms, "Family Reunion Planning Month." (November, annual monthly family reunion awareness observance)

Our Family Reunion is Going Green

 

image We had our annual family reunion planning meeting and we all agreed- it’s time to “Go Green”! Since this is a new thing for our family reunion we planned to make changes to our reunion by using the  Three R’s of Going Green- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Reduce or prevent waste to reduce greenhouse gases by using less and throwing away less. Instead of using lots of paper and plastic products we are going to use mesh “dunk” bags and each family member at our reunion will wash their own dishes.

To do this, we are assigning each person to bring their own mesh bag, utensils, plate, bowl and cup to our family reunion.  After each meal, we will fill three dishpans with water. In one we will put liquid detergent, bleach in the other and leave the final bin full of clear water. Each family member will then wash their dishes in the detergent water, then the bleach water and finally the clear water.  All wet dishes be put in a mesh bag and then hung on a line outside.

Mesh Dunk bags are available at  http://www.outdoorpros.com/ for under $4.00 or may be available at your local dollar store.

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Reuse products by giving them to other people who want or need them instead of throwing them away.

It seems we are always finding half full water bottles at our family reunion.  This year we are making plans to reuse water bottles.  Family members will write their name on each water bottle and then refill it with water from coolers when it is empty.  We’re hoping that one bottle a day is all that each person will need.

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Recycle items made of materials such as glass, metal, plastic, or paper.

We have always collected empty aluminum cans for recycling at our family reunions but this year we’re planning to add other items to our recycling list.  At our 2011 family reunion we will also include a container for paper and one for plastic.

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I know that there are other ideas we could use to “Go Green” at our family reunion but I feel pretty good about the three changes we are planning on implementing in 2011. 

Aunt MO

"Today’s mighty oak is just yesterday’s nut that held its ground."
- Anonymous

Planning to Pay For Your Family Reunion

Today I will meet with our family reunion committee to plan our 2011 family reunion. Because of the current state of the economy our fund raising auction last year was not as productive as in years past so we are faced with some new challenges this year.  How are we going to pay for our family reunion?  We always joke about plugging our “money tree into the “currant” bush but this year I think we’re going to need some new ideas.

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I can tell you that our 3 day reunion cost $16.00 a person in 2010 and that included everything!  Doing the math, I figure that we are going to need about $1,500 to pay for reunion expenses.

I needed some  new ideas so I  talked to everyone I knew and did a lot of research on the internet and these are the ways I found you are paying for your family reunions:

Divide all expenses equally, or have everyone pay individually for expenses as they incur.

Collecting recipes and producing cookbooks and many other publishing projects such as directories, scrapbooks, and history books to sell at the reunion.

Pass the hat

Food, beverage and white elephant sales. Food sales can net a nice profit if you consider carefully your reunion customers. A bake sale could feature desserts to eat right there as well as whole bakery specialties to take home.

Family yard sale

Order personalized (imprinted) products such as t-shirts, caps, coffee mugs, pens, pencils…and many more items to sell

Charge a traditional registration fee to families. Some families charge per family unit and others charge different prices based on age and family size. Average cost families are charging for their reunions are adults (ages 13 and over)- $70.00, children- $40.00. Pay electronically or elect to pay with a bank check or money order.

If some families can’t afford to pay then give them opportunities to provide service in exchange for paying fees- for instance could type in recipes for a family cookbook, maintain a family website or do family history research.

The easiest way to reduce reunion expenses is to cut back on the time your reunion lasts. If you normally have a three day reunion cut back to two or just get together for a Saturday afternoon and evening. Make your meals potluck and enjoy the time, however short, that you have with each other.

With finances in mind, some families opt not to have reunions every year.

Ask for reunion dues and ask family members to send a portion of their dues on a quarterly basis so that it isn’t a one-time large payment.

Hold a raffle of donated items from companies or family members during the reunion. Plane tickets or electronics are good money generating items.

Collect corporate donations or pledges for a fundraising event like a bike or 5K race. Corporations sometimes donate to large reunions where knowledge of the company’s name and contribution reaches many people.

My favorite idea, and the one  am going to suggest at our planning meeting is:

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Family reunion pocket change. Ask family members to save their pocket change during the year and bring it to the reunion. Count money by hand or take to a counting machine. Announce the grand total at your reunion.

In hopes that our reunion committee will adopt this idea I quickly made some labels using fun fonts from Lettering Delights. http://www.letteringdelights.com/  I hope they’ll like this idea and that along with our annual auction we will be able to fund our Stewart family reunion.

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Keeping in Touch When the Reunion is Over

All good things must come to an end, but saying goodbye at the end of your family reunion doesn’t mean you have to wait until next year’s reunion to visit with your favorite cousin. In today’s high tech world it’s pretty simple to keep in touch through emails, web pages and social networking. Why just this month I learned, through social media, that Cousin Bobbie has a new car, Cousin Lindsey is having dog problems and I don’t dare say who… is expecting another baby.

Take Advantage of Email

clip_image002E-mail is a great way to send a spontaneous note. People love to catch up on the latest family news, and you’ll find that they will reply to your message more often than not!

It’s hard to beat the convenience, and cost savings of sending emails when planning your family reunion. You do have to be sensitive to those that haven’t yet discovered email and be sure they aren’t kept out of the loop.

Online Chat
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A unique way to plan your family reunion and to keep everyone up to date on reunion plans is to invite your relatives (or those who can participate) to join in an online family chat. It’s easy to set up a private chat room on America Online just by going to People Connection and selecting Private Room. Tell everyone the name of your room and when you plan on "talking." Use the chat to plan the event and the details of travel. Roundtable chats are also an excellent way to keep in touch after everyone returns home. Other chat options are Google Talk, Skype, Yahoo Instant Messenger or MSN Live, a Microsoft program. Talk to family members at your next family reunion and find out what chat method will work best for them when planning your family reunion.

Family Newsletter

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A family newsletter is a great way to keep in touch with each other between reunions. A monthly newsletter is great but often difficult to keep up with. A quarterly newsletter can be a better option. Ask family members to email information about family activities and upcoming events such as weddings, baptisms and births. Include information about your upcoming family reunion. A family newsletter is a great family reunion planning tool. To save on postage expenses only mail your newsletters to family members that don’t have email.

Family Webpage

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By creating a website for your family, you can share special events such as birthdays, graduations, family reunions and parties. A family webpage can also be a great place for family reunion planning and to share ideas. For a family webpage to be successful family members have to be committed to participating by checking the site regularly and contributing to conversations.

You might consider using websites such as Carepages, Caringbridge, www.mygreatbigfamily.com or Blogger for your family webpage. They need very little computer knowledge to "operate", yet provide an excellent forum for families communicate and to send out family reunion planning updates.

Technology has changed how we keep in touch. Studies have shown that almost half of the baby boomer generation is on social networking sites, and 31 percent say the first time they saw photos of a new grandchild or family member was through the internet. Two-thirds of boomers, or about 64 percent, E-mail friends and family more frequently than they call them on the phone. The internet helps us be more connected to loved ones and when used appropriately can help with family reunion planning and distributing reunion information.

Aunt MO

“Trees without roots fall over.”

Family Reunion Evaluations

A guide to help you plan future family reunions

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If you have a sincere desire to improve your family reunions, consider asking family members to fill out a family reunion evaluation form. Evaluating your past reunion gives you pertinent information to use when making plans for your next family reunion and can make planning future reunions easier.

We all hope that the reunion we plan will be without problems and will run smoothly and we hope that everyone will love every activity and meal that we plan, but unless you evaluate you’ll never know for certain. Sure, people will talk and some may complain but it’s difficult to get good constructive comments unless you ask for them using an evaluation form or survey of some sort. Even though there may not be big changes that need to be made in your reunion planning there are always little differences that can help you plan a better family reunion.

clip_image004One year a family member had a concern about all the soda cans and water bottles that were left around our reunion site. Most were still half full but had to be thrown away because we didn’t know whose they were. Because of that one comment on our reunion evaluation we now use water bottle holders or write names with permanent marker directly on water bottles.

But here’s a word of warning- Don’t ask if you don’t want to know! Sometimes I feel disappointed when I receive an evaluation back and there is a criticism or negative remark of some sort. I work so hard to plan a perfect family reunion and I tend to get defensive and have my feelings hurt. I have to make myself give careful consideration to suggestions and remind myself not to take negative comments too personally.

clip_image006Evaluations are basically just a way to find out what your family is thinking. For instance, in the evaluations we received this year, one family expressed a desire to go “green”. What a great idea- an idea I would not have thought of. As we plan our next reunion we will try and incorporate some of this family’s ideas for “going green” in our reunion plan.

Edith Wagner of “Reunions” magazine said, “The reunion, after all, is the product of the person or persons who organized it. The evaluation offers some ideas that, if regarded seriously, can make the reunion the product of many more people. Knowing that their opinions, comments, ideas, suggestions and, yes, criticisms will be taken seriously makes your members offer constructive responses.

It was through evaluating our Stewart family reunion that the idea for having an auction to raise reunion money came to be. Uncle Richard and Aunt Sue had some experience with the auction idea and were able to share their ideas on the evaluation form. A reunion auction is now something we do every year at our annual Stewart reunion.

Finally, try and get family members to fill out your reunion evaluation before leaving the reunion. It can be very difficult to get evaluations returned after everyone has returned home. I usually go through the evaluation forms before our first planning meeting and type a summery for the reunion committee.

I have to admit there have been times when I have read a suggestion or criticism on the evaluation and thought to myself, “Maybe they should just be in charge next year.” But it basically comes down to this- you’ll never learn and your reunions won’t improve unless you open yourself to the additional ideas and suggestions that evaluations can generate. You don’t have adopt every suggestion and implement every idea into your reunion plan but who knows- you might just get a great cost or time saving idea or start a new tradition that will make a great memory for generations to come!

Click the following link to download a sample evaluation form.

family reunion evaluation form download

Win a Family Reunion for 200 of Your Favorite Family Members

A couple of years ago I wrote a family reunion article about our  reunion traditions and won monogrammed Lands’ End polo shirts for our extended family.   It was so fun to be able to provide shirts for our entire family and it didn’t cost us a cent!  Because of my positive experience with Lands End I’m always on the lookout for other contests that support family reunions.  House-Autry has a great “Southern Fried Reunion Contest” going on right now!

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Southern Fried Reunion Contest 

House-Autry Mills and the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) are celebrating family and tradition in advance of the 2011 CIAA Tournament in Charlotte, N.C. The “Southern Fried Reunion Contest” will award one grand prize winner a family reunion for up to 200 people, fully-catered by House-Autry, as well as a pair of tickets to the 2012 CIAA Tournament.

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Plan to enter soon because this contest ends February 25th, 2011.  To enter the contest, visit www.House-Autry.com/Contest and submit your name and contact information to be included in the random drawing. Get an email out to everyone in your family and have them enter too! (One entry per valid email address.) The winning family’s guest list can be a group of relatives, a sorority or fraternity, a church group or any other kind of close-knit group. House-Autry will coordinate with the winner to schedule and help plan the reunion this spring or summer.

Gatherings Sweepstakes reunion: up to $5,000

Another family reunion contest is one sponsored by Modern Woodmen ofAmerica.      Register to win a complete family gathering. You supply the family, the sweeps will pick up the bill, up to $5,000. You will automatically be entered in a monthly drawing for prizes worth $350: a digital camera, steaks for a family barbeque or a Gatherings Getaway weekend from Modern Woodmen of America. Enter http://www.gatherings.info/Contest.aspx.  

Good Luck!

Aunt MO                                                                                  
“I’ve been lucky. I’ll be lucky again.”  Bette Davis

Planning a Family Reunion? Its Time to Get to Work

Planning a family reunion can be a nightmare. But the good news is that you are not alone, we can do this together. I don’t know your specific situation but I can tell you that if you will follow three important keys you will be on your way to having a successful family reunion. So let’s get to work- first key is…

clip_image002Choose a permanent reunion date!

This is the most important aspect of reunion planning- it’s not much of a reunion if no one can attend.

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When we began planning the “Stewart” family reunion we were only working around about 20 people and it was fairly easy to find a date that was good for everyone, but now that we are more than 100 family members strong we would never be able to find a date that met everyone’s needs. Lucky for us, about 20 years ago we set Labor Day weekend as the permanent date for our family reunion.

We have found that holding the reunion at the same time every year helps family members plan their busy lives around that weekend. They always know when the Stewart reunion will be and although the location may change the date never does. Unbelievable but true- we usually have all but about 3 family members attend our reunion each year.

If you can’t choose a permanent date, plan your next reunion date before you end the reunion you are currently attending. Planning in advance will increase the odds that more people will be able to attend the reunion, which translates into more fun for everyone. If you book early, you can most likely get better rates and/or reserve your preferred hotel or retreat site, flights and other travel arrangements. Most campgrounds and parks can be booked a year in advance.

Last of all, stick to your decision. Changing dates in the middle of planning can create a huge amount of anxiety and additional work.

To read the complete article,  “The Three Keys to a Successful Family Reunion” , follow the link below.

"Three Keys to a Successful Family Reunion"