Making a Difference: Starting Small

It may seem that to truly make a difference you have to dish out tons of money or time. So how can you move forward in this goal if you don’t have the money or time to give? You start small.
Sometimes the smallest action or donation can make a huge difference. Just ask the starving man who received a hot meal, the new mother who was able to get an hour of uninterrupted sleep, or the struggling student who got helping figuring out the difficult problem. None of these scenarios required a lot of time or money, yet the recipient was more than grateful for the help. Here are some ideas to get you started in your own journey to make a difference:
Donate to your local food pantry
Go through your kitchen cabinets for non-perishable items that you aren’t using (make sure you check expiration dates to ensure they’re still good) and donate them to the local food pantry. Or pick up a few staples next time you go grocery shopping and donate those. Some food pantries will also accept donations of health and beauty items. Contact your local social services department if you aren’t sure where the food pantry is or how to donate.
Donate to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or other organizations
Clothes, housewares, books and more can be donated to charitable organizations. The items will either be given to those who need them or sold to earn cash that can be used to help others. Clean out your closets and drawers to find items you no longer need or want, and donate these to one such organization. Even larger items, like furniture, can be donated if they’re in good condition.
Donate to a battered women’s shelter
Shelters that help victims of domestic abuse can benefit from donations of health and beauty items and clothing items, especially items that can help women establish new lives and careers (suits for job interviews, etc.) Clean out your closets or pick up a few items on your next shopping excursion.
Shop at Goodwill, the Salvation Army or Savers
Next time you need to pick up an article of clothing, something for your home, or a new book or movie, swing by your local thrift store. You get what you need, and the money you spend goes toward a worthwhile organization — it’s a win-win.
Organize a food or clothing drive
If you’re part of a school or organization, put together a drive to gather food or clothing to donate. Have members bring in items to donate, then bring those items over to the food pantry or thrift store.
Organize a blood drive
Contact your local branch of the Red Cross to see how you can arrange a blood drive at your school or business.
Volunteer in small doses
Even an hour or two can help out your local groups and organizations. Help organize a book drive at your local library. See if you can help at a school’s homework helpline. Call local organizations that mean something to you — shelters, soup kitchens, animal shelters, etc. — and see if they want some help answering phones, filing paperwork, or helping visitors or clients. Any non-profit organization will rely on volunteers to help them function. Call around and see where you can help.
Go visiting
Some groups of people would love to simply have someone sit with them for a bit — especially elderly residents at assisted-living complexes and terminally-ill children in hospitals. Taking some time to spread some cheer can make them smile and perk up their days a bit.
Help your friends and family
Don’t forget to look close to home when it comes to helping others. Do you have an elderly neighbor? Offer to shovel snow, cook a meal or two, or help clean house. Know a parent with small children? Offer to babysit so that parent can go grocery-shopping, run errands, attend appointments, etc. without a child underfoot. Keep an eye and ear open for opportunities that might help those around you: job openings for your cousin looking for employment, doctor recommendations for a parent whose doctor is retiring, potential customers for your brother starting his own business.
Opportunities to help others are all around you. Just keep looking!

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