As we enter into the season of giving, many of us begin to look for ways to make a difference in the lives of others. The problem is that our lives are busy, which makes our time limited. When we think of helping the community, it's hard to not picture a long-term commitment.
However, before you become hesitant to help, it's important to note that giving back to the community can take an hour or less. Here are a few ideas of how to make these quick charitable acts happen!
Why Is it Important to Give Back to the Community?
There are lots of great reasons to volunteer or do good in your community — and even small acts can benefit everyone. Did you know that when you give happiness, you get happiness back in return? Research shows that doing good deeds pays out in dividends, making the simple act of helping the community well worth the effort. Not only does volunteering help other human beings, but it also makes your community a better place to live!
Giving Back to Your Community: 13 Easy Ways to Make it Happen
You don't need a lot of time to make a difference in the lives of others. Giving back to the community can take mere minutes. Here are some ways of how you can start helping today!
1. Donate Items
Do you have gently used clothes, baby items, toiletries, or outerwear? Donations of these items are almost always needed at homeless and women's shelters. By clearing out your closets and bathrooms, your spring cleaning efforts can help others in your community.
Contact local churches to see if they know of any organizations looking for new or gently used items. This can be a great way to ensure that these essentials get to people with the most immediate need.
2. Support Local Farmers
Giving back to the community literally starts with supporting community members. Local farmers strive to provide fresh, farm-to-table products, which are in high demand these days. When you buy directly from the source, you cut out the middleman and ensure that the profits go to the people who are working hard to provide you with a superior product. (Plus, the farmer's market can be fun for the whole family.)
3. Pay It Forward
Speaking of food insecurity, if you have the means, a fantastic way of giving back to the community is to buy gift cards to local groceries, gas stations, and big box stores like Walmart and distribute them to community members.
You can do this anonymously through a place like your church or community center, or by slipping them under people's windshield wipers. You can also simply walk up to random folks, tell them to have a nice day, and hand them an envelope with the card inside! Amounts can be as little as $10, but for many, that is the difference between eating a meal and going hungry.
If you like the idea, but don't have the funds, consider reaching out to family and friends to join in on this kindness initiative.
4. Help an Elderly Neighbor
Helping the community doesn't need to cost money. There are likely people all around you that could use some help, but just don't feel comfortable asking for it. If you have elderly neighbors, swing by and see if they need assistance raking their leaves, watering their plants, tending to weeds, or shoveling their driveway. This may seem like a small gesture, but it can have a huge impact!
5. Write a Letter to a Soldier
Operation Gratitude is a fantastic organization that allows you to show your appreciation to our nation's heroes. Write letters, birthday cards, or send a list of jokes! The intent is simply to make them smile and the gesture only takes minutes of your time.
6. Build Homeless Bags
Many of us see homeless individuals on street corners near big intersections, at the exits surrounding local grocery stores, and while wandering throughout downtown. Big cities are filled with an unprecedented number of homeless individuals who need help. One of the easiest ways to give back in 30 minutes of less is to assemble homeless bags to keep in your car.
Go to your local dollar store and pick up paper gift bags along with toilet paper, toothbrushes, large socks, unscented baby wipes, hand warmers (for the colder months), water bottles, and a small selection of snacks. These are some of the items that the homeless need the most. You can also buy these items in bulk at stores like Costco while you are doing your regular shopping run.
Once you have these essentials, assembling the bags takes mere minutes. Keep them in your car and when you see someone in need, hand them this small package of kindness.
7. Donate a Blanket
For the folks who find comfort in knitting, you likely have a collection of blankets that you have made, but maybe don't get the use they deserve. Did you know that these items can be donated to critically ill children? Project Linus is just one of many organizations across the country that are looking for blanketeers to "provide new handmade, washable blankets to be given as gifts to seriously ill and traumatized children, ages 0-18."
If you are hooked on this hobby and already have some projects underway, consider donating them to kids in need!
Binky Patrol is another non-profit that is looking for blanket donations and you don't have to have any knitting know-how to participate! They have instructions on their website on how to make fleece blankets in minutes! This can allow both you and your kids to get involved in this worthy cause.
8. Volunteer to Talk at Career Day
If you have a friend or family member with a preschool-aged child, and you have a cool career that people might want to know more about, volunteer to be a speaker at their school. Most preschool and early preschool programs run on a half day schedule, so they are only looking for 10 to 20 minutes of your time during their career week.
This small act can help to inspire kids to get excited about different jobs and education in general.
9. Walk the Dogs at Your Local Shelter
Most shelters are filled with animals and lacking staff. This means that those adorable dogs sit in a cage until someone comes by to potentially adopt them. If you have 30 minutes to an hour to spare, swing by and see if any of them would enjoy a walk. This can give both you and some of these loveable animals a bit of joy!
10. Select an Angel This Christmas
Everyone wants presents to open on Christmas morning, but sadly, some families cannot afford this luxury. If you are already planning to be out and about shopping, consider choosing a child or family off the Angel Tree and giving them the gift of Christmas!
11. Donate Your Hair
For those ladies and gents who have exceptionally long hair and are feeling the need to make a drastic change, make your makeover count by donating your hair to be made into wigs for people with cancer! This small act can have a huge impact on the mental health and well-being of someone who has lost their hair and is looking to feel like themselves again.
Typically, these types of organizations require a minimum donation of 12 inches of hair and most have a specific set of cutting guidelines, so do your research before having your hairdresser chop everything off.
12. Turn Your Wedding Dress Into an Angel Gown
It was the outfit you wore on the most magical day of your life, but now it's likely collecting dust at the back of your closet. While it can be fun to pull out your wedding dress for pure nostalgia, this beautiful piece of apparel can serve a much more meaningful purpose.
The Angel Gown Program is an amazing organization that transforms old wedding dresses into bereavement gowns for families who have suffered an unexpected loss. By simply sending off your dress, you can help to give a grieving family a tiny bit of solace.
The needs of this organization change throughout the year. If they are not taking donations in your region, consider reaching out to other local organizations in the area that might offer the same service.
13. Send Food to Your Local Ronald McDonald House
The Ronald McDonald House Charities is a non-profit organization that provides a place to stay and other amenities to the families of sick kids who need to travel from out of town for their children's medical procedures. One of the services that they provide is free meals to the families staying with them.
While you can prepare these meals in house, if you are short on time, you can also reach out to your local chapter to get a list of the approved restaurants that they will accept food from. This can be an easy way to make sure that families get fed, even when you don't have the time to prepare them.
Helping the Community Starts With Small Acts of Kindness
Giving back to the community doesn't have to take a lot of time or cost a lot of money. Even if you have just 30 minutes, you can make a difference in the lives of those around you. Also, never discount the power of your words! Simply smiling at a stranger and saying "have a great day" or "I love your blouse" can brighten what might be a terrible moment.
Show kindness in whatever way you can. You never know how far the gesture will go!