Ten Simple Ways to Serve Your Local Community

Volunteer with Operation WarmFrustrating, isn’t it? You want to make a difference in your community and the people around you, but just don’t know where to start. We are trying to solve that problem ourselves, which is why we have a model that supports both individual donors who want to make an impact in a particular part of the country and donor managed programs that allow donors to fundarise and deliver brand new Operation Warm coats to a particular school or other group of children in need.

Brandon Smith, an experienced volunteer in his community, has offered to share ten additional ways to serve in a local community. Let us know your favorite idea in the comments.

So, you decided to volunteer. Congratulations! We know serving others is not just about altruism or feeling good about yourself. Helping others is a simple way to learn, teach, and bring people together. Here are a few suggestions I’ve compiled that differ from the ordinary “soup kitchen” ideas:

1. Work at events.
Help set up or tear down for concerts, a community theatre, or youth sporting events. Though venues usually hire professionals to handle the sound and heavy equipment, volunteers could run cables, set up folding chairs, or operate the concessions stand. Triathlons and 5k or 10k races need extra hands to track time, hand out water, or direct competitors.

2. Drive for others.
If you have a car, offer to pick up a neighbor’s child for school or take someone to work. The elderly with poorer vision may appreciate a driver accompanying them to the grocery store and a strong arm to carry their purchases.

3. Visit those in need of company.
It is common for folks in local senior living facilities to only get visitations from out-of-area family seasonally on holidays. Taking the time during a leisurely summer day to stop by retirement community and talk to people (or just listen) can do wonders for lonely souls. The same goes for those in hospice or veterans.

Alternatively, the local youth are always in need of constructive company in the form of tutors and mentors. This may cater to your own academic strengths or provide a group of kids with someone to hang with after school while their parents work late.

4. Help outdoors.
It’s usually best to ask permission first but surprising your busy neighbor by mowing their lawn, trimming hedges, or shoveling their walkway can be a great surprise that encourages community service.

5. Give food.
Whether or not cooking is your specialty, everyone appreciates a good meal. Drop off a prepared frozen meal or ask them a good time to bring by a hot meal for their family (tip: beforehand, check they have no specific food allergies). Food banks are always looking for either volunteers and canned goods if you tend to burn anything you cook. Neighborhood firefighters would always appreciate a few pizzas delivered during a night shift.

6. Offer your skills to others.
From carpenters to musicians, accountants to seamstresses, nearly everyone has a valuable skill they can share with others free of charge. However, be mindful that performing the same tasks you do at your day job as a volunteer opportunity may cause burnout.

7. Build a home.
You don’t need licensing, an architect degree or a power saw to help build a home. Habitat for Humanity operates in cities all over the world building homes and communities for those in need. If you can swing a hammer or use a screwdriver, you can help them.

8. Spring clean.
Donate gently used clothes and shoes, kitchen utensils and furniture to places like the Salvation Army or Goodwill. PickUpPlease will pick up your unwanted furniture and give it to veterans.

9. Become a foster parent.
Everyone needs a home. If you’re a stable adult with extra love to give, consider opening your home to others. This doesn’t just apply to children. PETA and ASPCA let you adopt or foster kittens, puppies and full grown animals until they find a forever home.

10. Write a note.
Sometimes, the best thing you can give is a word of encouragement to someone: a struggling single parent, a depressed teenager, or the owner of your favorite local diner.

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