When my children were wee I was fond of the bromide "volunteering is its own reward." Years later, after we began volunteering as a family at one of our local food drives, my kids began to understand what I meant, that the act made them feel nice and warm inside.
But then a funny thing happened when my eldest hit middle school: from then on, whenever she volunteered, she'd receive hours toward her school's mandatory community service requirement.
Suddenly, volunteering went from being its own reward to having its own reward. And just as suddenly, given all the demands and distractions that my daughter has in her life, I realized that if it took an incentive to get her to do a good deed, I was fine with it.
Likewise, I'm just as fine with what has become a quietly popular deal at the Westin St. John Resort & Villas, nestled on the Great Cruz Bay shoreline. Through the end of 2012, the property will give a $100 resort credit to guests who volunteer at Virgin Islands National Park, about 10 minutes northwest of the resort.
The Westin is offering this "reward" in exchange for volunteering with the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park, which invites you to come pick up debris from the park's coastlines and beaches, help maintain ruins and park trails, and other similar chores. There is no minimum age to participate and the work doesn't involve a high degree of strenuous labor, but as with any physical activity, travelers are asked to be the best judge of their family's' health.
The volunteering opportunity at the park is available on Tuesdays or Thursdays beginning at 8am, and the resort provides you with a round-trip ride. Volunteers are not required to work a set number of hours, but be prepared to spend at least a few hours helping out. Once done with their service, guests must present their volunteer voucher at the Westin front desk to claim their resort credit.
Not incidentally, the Westin, with nightly double occupancy rates from $399, is a stunning property inside and out. Another plus is the resort's private beach and proximity to the gentle bay, whose gradually increasing depth makes it friendly to your younger kids--especially if you're introducing them to snorkeling (which you should). And if you're a fan of kids clubs, the Westin has a good one for children 3 to 12, along with a new, sprawling teen games arcade.
See our St. John destination guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, packages, and more travel deals.