A few days ago our local listserve had a request for people to help with the eruv mailing. It was for stuffing and stamping envelopes. I figured it is something my boys and I could do, so I responded. I just asked for it to take place out of my house since my husband was on call and I did not want to commit and then not be able to make it. The person in charge agreed and said that another lady was coming to help, too.
They came last night. The mailing was going out to the members of both orthodox shuls, which consisted of a bit over 600 families (that's how many labels we stuck on!). I would guess that at least a half of those use eruv. We got one of those letters last year, so I asked what kind of response do they get. I was told that it is about one hundred responses. Obviously people here are very comfortable using the eruv and not contributing anything towards its maintenance: hey, somebody else will pay for it. Judging by the fact that only two people responded to help with the mailing, eruv is not on the list of communal priority. I suggested taking it down for a Shabbos, to raise awareness. The response was that eruv has barely been down ( true, in three years we were here, it has not been down ONCE), but when it goes down, there is no end to complaining.
My kids have never stuffed envelopes before, so we showed them how to do it. 7 yo was in charge of the first step: placing a response envelope inside a folded letter. He could not stop marveling at the assembly line and the importance of his work. He was fast and careful, and remarked again and again how each step follows another, to produce a complete letter. 9 yo was in charge of sticking on address labels. He was calling out every time we got to the next letter in the alphabet, or he got to someone we know. He also helped remove some for people who moved away.
Overall, the mailing took a bit over two hours, way past the boys' bedtime. My boys worked the entire time, not slacking. I had a little discussion with 7 yo on the halachic importance of eruv. Having not lived in a city without eruv, he was taking all his Shabbos carrying for granted. He also asked whether we will be getting paid for this job. The lady in charge told,him it's a mitzvah, and I said it is a chesed that we are doing, and Hashem pays us for our work. He beamed.
I am on the lookout for more chesed opportunities where I can be involved with my kids. I think doing meaningful volunteer work produces a sense of well-being that is hard to replicate otherwise.