by Kimberly Blaker
“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.” – H. Jackson Brown Jr.
Volunteer at a soup kitchen or food pantry. The poor and homeless are always in need of nutritious food and meals. Search online for soup kitchens and food pantries, like the Thurman Brisben Center. Call and speak to the director, and offer your family’s service. Be sure to mention the age of your children in case there are age restrictions. At a soup kitchen, you can help prepare and serve a meal or do kitchen cleanup. For a food pantry, help with stocking or putting together food baskets for families in need. Some pantries also need delivery assistance since many poor families don’t have transportation to pick up their food supply.
Help out at an animal shelter. Cats and dogs spend days, weeks and often longer cooped up in small kennels or crates with little opportunity to exercise or socialize. Offer to spend an afternoon walking dogs or playing with cats at any one of the area’s SPCAs. Other things you can do for a shelter include transporting a pet to a new home, cleaning kennels, donating supplies or helping find loving homes through social media.
Adopt a road or park for cleanup. Check out the adopt-a-highway program. These typically require a signed contract for a period of 2 to 4 years with a promise to clean up a designated area 2 to 4 times a year. Alternatively, you could pick an unsightly city street and just head out to clean up the debris. Keep kids safe by requiring them to stay off the road and picking up litter only on the boulevard. If you have younger kids, park cleanup is a safer option.
Paint a park bench. Benches are found in parks as well as shopping districts and along bus routes. Contact city hall or parks and recreation and request permission to freshen up a bench. If your family is artistic, ask if you may do something creative to make it more cheerful.
Help build a house with Habitat for Humanity. This organization helps build and renovate homes for families in need of safe shelter. Visit www.fredhab.org to learn more and ask how you can help. Habitat also offers a teen volunteer program.
Send letters to military members overseas. Veterans, new recruits and deployed troops deserve and need to know just how much we appreciate their dedication and service to our country. For more information, visit https://www.operationgratitude.com/writeletters/.
Help an elderly person by running errands. Do you know an elderly person who doesn’t drive or own a vehicle? Offer to transport them to do their errands and grocery shopping. If it’s too difficult for the elderly person to go out, you could offer to do the errands for them.
Offer your service to a domestic violence shelter. Coordinate with a local women’s shelter to hold a clothing and toy drive. Or put together arts and crafts kits, and spend an afternoon teaching a craft workshop for children at the shelter. Childcare is also often needed for working mothers staying at these shelters.
Hold a bake sale for a charity. Pick your favorite charity and hold a bake sale to raise funds for it. Ask a busy local business or grocery store if you can set up a table on a given day for your charity bake sale. Then invite family and friends to pitch in and help with the baking.