No matter who you are or where you live, life can be challenging sometimes. When the going gets tough, it’s natural to focus just on the basics — yourself, your immediate family, your job, and your home. However, it’s easy to forget to re-emerge from your bubble once your situation stabilizes. If you’re currently stuck inside that bubble, here’s a gentle reminder: your community needs you.
Why To Give
Your community is where you live and do life. It’s your neighborhood, the businesses where you shop and get your groceries, the schools your children attend, and the outdoor spaces you frequent to get some fresh air. Most importantly, your community is the people who make up the framework of your everyday life. You and your community are interconnected and interdependent; you need each other to live and to live well.
How To Give
There are virtually endless ways you can plug in and give back to your community, and the beauty of it is that you can choose what feels right and best for you! Here are just a few ideas to get your creativity flowing:
- Do you have more money than time? Donate to charities within your community or to your local school fundraisers. Find out from your chamber of commerce or town council where the greatest needs are or donate to the local facilities you use most. Purchase bus or mass-transit tickets and hand them out to people in need at the stations.
- Don’t have extra money but have a small amount of time you could invest? Spend a couple of hours volunteering at your local soup kitchen or cleaning up one of your parks or green spaces. Pay a visit to a nursing home or hospital to spend time with the elderly or infirmed. Volunteer at a local elementary school to read stories or fill in where help is needed.
- Have stuff to donate? Shelters need coats and blankets in good condition for the winter months. Donate to clothing drives sponsored by groups like Sullivan Community Space, to pass on some of your gently-used clothing and shoes. (Visit Sullivan Community Space About Us to find out more about this great space in Oakland!) Libraries, schools, nursing homes, and after-school programs could use some nice books and arts-and-crafts materials. Dog pounds and animal shelters are always looking for donations of food, treats, and other pet supplies. Donate groceries to a food bank, or furniture to a furniture bank.
- Looking for extra-big impact? Mentor a teen; tutor a student at one of the local schools; volunteer at an after-school program or daycare. Invite others in your neighborhood, family, or circle of friends to participate with you in any of the above suggestions. Include regular giving towards your favorite local charity in your monthly budget and put it on auto-pay so you don’t forget.
When To Give
Giving back to your community — and giving in general — is always appropriate and needed. There’s never a bad time. That being said, people often think of it around the holidays but don’t necessarily remember that the need is still there the rest of the year. For those in colder climates, winter brings its own set of needs, especially for the homeless population. School vacations are particular times of need for kids whose parents work full-time. The holidays can be challenging and sad for shut-ins, those in nursing homes, or anyone without families.
Whether you are an individual, family, neighborhood, or business, you are a valuable part of your local community and have so much to give and receive in return. Donating your time, money, and resources is an incredibly rewarding experience in and of itself. However, as you get out there and connect with others as you’re giving back, the relationships you build will have a lasting impact on you and your community, far beyond any tangible thing you could ever give.