Making a Difference: Help Thy Neighbor

When people think about making a difference, they often think of the bigger groups and organizations that they can work with, volunteer for, or make donations to. Oftentimes, however, you can make an even bigger difference just by looking next door.

Someone doesn’t need to have gone through a horrible experience, natural disaster, or life-changing event to need a little assistance. And reaching out to those near you can have a more direct impact for both of you. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Elderly or disabled neighbors may need help with simple chores or projects: shoveling or raking, landscaping, even taking out the garbage. You can also help them with running errands, cooking meals, or cleaning house.
  • Parents of young children may need help with babysitting so they can get things done in or outside of the home, or just to spend time as a couple.
  • New parents, or anyone dealing with a family crisis, can benefit from home-cooked meals or help cleaning house as they struggle with new demands.
  • Children of busy parents may benefit from a mentor to help with homework or leaning life skills. You can even take it one step further and lead a scout troop or sports team.

Keep in mind, also, that someone doesn’t have to be inĀ need to benefit from a good deed. No matter their lot in life, most people would appreciate a helping hand. Imagine waking up one snowy morning to find your driveway had been shoveled and car had been brushed off. Imagine opening your door to find a homemade treat resting on your doorstep with a note from your neighbor. Perhaps something as simple as someone taking your garbage cans off the curb.

Anything that eases the burden of those around you and brings a smile to their faces makes a difference. What can you do to helpĀ your neighbors?

Making a Difference: Donating

Money is necessary for just about everything these days. And not having money can put you at a serious disadvantage — just ask people without homes, without proper medical care, without food or clean water. Or, looking beyond basic needs, ask researchers trying to make breakthroughs in medicine, students without money for college, or organizations trying to bring relief to areas hit by natural disasters.

If you happen to have extra money, and you want to help others with it, there are plenty of people and organizations who would be more than happy to take it off your hands. Donating money can make you feel good, give you a tax break (get a receipt!), and, most importantly, help those in need.

Money isn’t the only thing you can donate, however. Products and services are also welcomed by many groups and organizations. You can donate food to a local food bank, for example, or prizes to be raffled off by fundraising groups. Care packages can be sent to those in the military or students away at college. You can donate used clothing, cell phones, even furniture.

If you’re not able to donate yourself, you can also try fundraising for a cause. Some organizations will sponsor walk-a-thons or other fundraising events where people can sponsor you to raise money for that organization. Or you can raise funds on a smaller scale with a group or organization you already belong to. Bake sales, fairs, can drives, and more can help bring in money that you can then donate to a cause that’s near and dear to your heart. You can also help an organization raise money by organizing fundraising events or gathering donations.

Check out the Online Help post to get some guidance on where to donate or do some research on your own to find an organization that’s meaningful to you. Don’t forget local groups such as schools, churches, scouts, social services departments, nursing homes, homeless shelters, and more.

Making a Difference: Community Organizations

If you’re looking to make a regular, lasting impression on others, you may want to look into community organizations. Participating in a community organization can give you the opportunity to use your time and skills to help others through programs and fundraising. And you can be involved over a long period of time, continuing to help even once a specific program or fundraising event has ended.

Organizations vary widely, from groups focused on a specific need such as medical care (i.e. Doctors Without Borders), to those working to solve a specific problem (i.e. American Cancer Society), to those serving a broad range of needs and problems (i.e. Amnesty International). The most important thing is to partner up with an organization whose mission and goals meet your own. If animals are important to you, for example, working with your local Humane Society may be your best choice.

Below are a few organizations to get you started. Your local community may have many additional choices for you. Ask at your local library or do an internet search to find organizations in your area.

You may also want to look into organizations in your area that serve a specific population, such as people with disabilities, victims of domestic abuse, children, illiterate adults, the homeless, or the unemployed.

Sadly, I recommend researching any organizations you haven’t heard of before looking to participate. You wouldn’t want to get dragged into a scam. But most organizations you’ll encounter are reputable and will greatly appreciate the help you’re willing to give.