Many of us reach a point in our lives where we realize it’s time to give back to the community that nurtured us over the years. Not only is volunteering your time deeply rewarding, if you involve your family it can show your kids compassion and selflessness, and how to lead by example.
Often, however, this desire to give back to the community is hampered by a lack of direction. Where to start? Who to help? Who to talk to? Where to find the time? If you haven’t done this sort of thing before, the logistics of initiating these acts of kindness can be overwhelming and can easily scare you away. Happily, there are a lot of easy ways to make a big difference in your community without needing to concoct a grand strategy.
Volunteer with local sports
Giving back to your community could come in the form of coaching a local junior sports team, refereeing games for local teams, organizing sporting and charity events or running fitness classes for the elderly or disabled. There’s always a need for volunteers in the local sports world. It’s a super easy way to help people out while getting outside, meeting new people, building on your social and leadership skills, and even getting some incidental exercise along the way. All you have to do is call or email local sports clubs, fitness charities or contact your local municipality for help.
Provide dinner for an elderly neighbor
Next time you make a meal for your family, make enough for one or two more people and take it to an elderly neighbor. If they’re agreeable, ask if you and your family can come inside and eat it with them. They’ll really appreciate the gesture, and you’ll see how you can make a big difference with a little company and conversation.
Work with local schools
There are loads of things you can do to make a difference in your local schools. Pick up the phone and call a local elementary or junior high school and ask about the biggest needs. This might be helping to organize and oversee a school field trip, helping out on sports days or school-run charity events, or taking a class out on a nature walk to educate kids about the importance of ecosystems. Teachers are often more than happy to lend their class out for a few hours, allowing them a brief respite and time to catch up on their grading!
Become a mentor
Many kids can really benefit from receiving additional support over and above what they get through the regular school channels. Mentoring someone could mean helping them with their studies or tutoring them on subjects they need to improve on. It could also mean helping them secure work experience, assisting with the college application process, or even just hanging out and being a role model. You’ll be making a huge difference in someone’s life and probably make a new friend in the process.
Help your furry and feathered friends
Giving back to your community doesn’t mean limiting yourself to helping members of your own species. Because they generally can’t help themselves, animals are often in far greater need than people. For this reason, you won’t have a hard time finding ways to assist your animal friends. Volunteer your time at an animal shelter or animal rescue organization, host fundraisers to raise money for local humane societies, adopt an animal from the local shelter, build a birdhouse or plant native trees in your backyard. This is also a great family exercise, as kids love working with animals. The more people involved, the better.
Do something creative and spontaneous
Your gift back to the community doesn’t have to be something revolving around organized social interaction or planned events. Get outside and if you see something that needs doing, do it! An example of this would be picking up trash on the street, pulling weeds from your neighbor’s driveway, helping someone search for their lost cat or repairing a neighbor’s fence. It’s small things like this that really make a difference. If people see you doing something helpful, you’re sure to inspire a trend.
Donate used or unwanted clothing and gear
The everyday family has far too many possessions lying around not getting used. At the very least, you have clothing and equipment in the house that has been outgrown. Rather than throwing them out, donate backpacks and school supplies to local schools or students. Donate old toys and outgrown clothes to orphanages, or have a garage sale and donate the proceeds to a local organization. You can do this year-round, rather than just during the holiday season.
Giving back to your community doesn’t have to be a complicated affair. However, if you’re lacking inspiration, try carrying around a notebook and pen. Whenever you see something in your community that needs assistance or repairing, write it down and consider it on your “to-do” list.