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10 Ways to Volunteer in Your Community

What is volunteering?

According to the online Oxford dictionary, volunteering is “to freely offer to do something” or “to offer help”.

What is community service?

Community service is volunteering your time, money or services directly in your own community.

Why should we volunteer our time?

Volunteering is good for our health, especially if we are performing the work altruistically and not for selfish rewards. It’s a win-win, good for you and good for the community. Volunteering can build our self-confidence and self-esteem by building relationships, it can make you happier because you get a sense of accomplishment, it helps older adults live longer by reducing loneliness and stress while given a sense of purpose…so many reasons. Just do it already.

Is there a down side?

I’ve heard the argument that volunteering takes away low paying jobs from those who need them and that volunteering keeps teens out of the workforce for the same reason. The list I’ve provided is not, in my opinion, work that is taking away from others, it’s simply not being done at all or too few are doing it.

1.Visit a senior center

Visiting a senior center and volunteering your time is a great way to help your community and it can be a lot of fun too. Generally volunteers at senior centers get actively involved by, holding classes in an area they are familiar with like, art, fitness (for seniors), and technology. Volunteers may also provide services such as rides for those who don’t drive, organize games and other entertainments, or assist with other activities the center provides. 

2. Work at an animal shelter

If you are an animal lover, this is a great way to spend time with animals. You can volunteer to cuddle, clean, and donate money or supplies. If you love animals but can’t bear to see the sad eyes or are too tempted to take too many animals home with you, you can volunteer in the office part of the shelter. I have a friend who works on the books for our local shelter. Maybe you could work to raise funds or donations.

3. Work at a local, state, national park, or trail system

If you have a local park or trail system, you can volunteer to do clean-up work. Here in Michigan they are always looking for volunteers for this type of work, especially in spring. Don’t forget about rivers and streams, if you are into kayaking or canoeing this might be a good fit for you.

4. Make meals and take them to elderly neighbors

I have an 82-year-old mother so I have soft spot for the elderly. I get all kinds of sad when I imagine my mother if she didn’t have me in her life. She does luckily, but so many elderly people have no one. Their children may live in another state or may simply not take the time. Out of sight out of mind – sadly. So. Make a double batch of whatever you’re cooking and take it to your neighbor down the street who needs some care or company. If he or she invites you in. Stay and have a cup of coffee. 

5. Shovel your neighbors porch, mow the grass, or rake their leaves

If you have a neighbor that is really “into” their lawn and garden, DO NOT do this. Or, if you have a neighbor that is angry or grumpy and might think you are sending a message about the state of his yard, DO NOT do this. But, if you know a bit about your neighbors, you can assist when the couple next door goes on vacation, the lady down the street gets out of the hospital, or when old man Jones has his hands full with his wife who is going through dementia.

6. Visit a nursing home

I used to visit a nursing home every Sunday after Sunday school. Yup, I went to Sunday school. The home matched me up to someone based on the lack of visitors she received. I was around eight years old when I started visiting Ruth and I was about ten years old when she passed away. It still makes me sad, but I’m so grateful I was able to ease the loneliness for this sweet wonderful lady in her final years. This is how I’m going to volunteer this year. My 82-year-old mother and I are going to hang out at a nursing home every other Sunday.

7. Volunteer for community events

Your city or town will have committees or organizations that plan events for the community. Events like this are staffed mainly by volunteers so if you have a fair, fireworks, or any other community festival, you can volunteer to help. If you are looking for blocks of time that can be picked up depending on your schedule, these types of events might be best for you. If you are looking for something steadier, year round volunteer positions doing clerical work, organizing, and fund raising may also be available. 

8. Plant trees in your yard and community

Planting trees even for yourself on your own property is giving to all of us. But if you don’t have property or a yard that can handle any more trees you can also plant on public lands, with appropriate permission, of course. Contact your states Natural Resources Department and ask for volunteer information for planting trees on state land or contact nationalforest.org for volunteer information on that level.

9. Join a local club who does good community work

So many local clubs do community service. Organizations like the Knights of Columbus, Kiwanis, The Optimist Group…the list goes on. You can join and then do service work through them. I am a member of a local club that does work in my specific community. I live on a lake that has many free community activities and we raise most all the money for those activities with small paid events, donations, and other events. If you are super enthusiastic, you could start a neighborhood group, a subdivision club, or a whatever club for your local area.

10. Practice random acts of kindness

Finally. The simplest way to give to the world and in your local community is to commit to doing random acts of kindness. February 17th is random acts of kindness day. Pay for someone’s coffee, hold the door for someone, when you say thank you – look the person in the eye. If you would like more inspiration for these acts, Google, random acts of kindness and get blown away by all the amazing ideas.

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