Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Doing for Others

Have you been tagged not once but several times to donate to a cause? Your first thought is I have no money, I'm already living paycheck to paycheck. Why do we tend to over complicate a request or feel guilty. What if I told you that there are several ways to contribute to your community that do not involve money of any kind but just a few hours of time away from the television. The first step in making a change in your community is saying your going to do something about it. The second step is partnering with an organization that already has a connection within the community. The third step is becoming a volunteer. Do these three steps free of charge. What a concept, I know, light bulb. It's okay, there are thousands of people that have said the same thing before. You're not alone. Since I was in grammar school I have consistently volunteered to different causes. Conducting ESL classes, assisting in adult literacy programs, teaching cooking skills to single mothers, advocating for children rights, serve as a crisis representative and the list goes on. All these volunteer positions require no money, just a few hours of your time for a lifetime of memories. Non-profit organizations serving your community rely on your volunteer hours. To make an impact in your community, commit to volunteering at least 2 hours a week in any capacity, you would be surprised how much you can do from your home. After trial and error here is how my family does it, yes it's a family affair in my house, we all contribute in some capacity. Here is the list of things my family has volunteered for, in no particular order.

1. Salvation Army has a variety of volunteer opportunities, from employment ready services, food drives, clothes drives and coat drives. Although a faith based organization, it is not a prerequisite when volunteering.

Side note: Do not be disheartened by trying to partner with organizations that do not allow you to volunteer because of your faith. Unfortunately, some organizations make it a requirement for not only the volunteer but also the client. I'm still trying to understand this concept.

2. Cook a meal at home for organizations that serve the homeless, this is my favorite, I love to cook so I often end up in the kitchen baking. I'm still learning how to freeze banana nut bread so I can make it in larger quantities for more than 1 organization. Here are 2 organizations that service the homeless in Chicago, Humble Hearts and The Puerto Rican Project.

3. Make food sacks, prepackaged foods are the best. Surprisingly, there are some really mean people out there that have made lunch sacks with harmless products in sandwiches, making homeless individuals sick. So unless your partnering with a trusted organization, I would suggested making lunch sacks with prepackaged items. Make sure to add a note of inspiration, a simple note goes a long way.

4. Collect as many plastic shopping bags as you can and make knitted mats for the homeless. Two amazing ladies I had the pleasure of meeting over four years ago showed my Girl Scouts how to use plastic shopping bags for the benefit of the homeless. Collect as many bags as you can and join a community event to learn how to make these mats. Once you've learned make them on your own you can donate to an organizations that can distribute on your behalf.

5. Did you know that there is a large population of young adults ages 16 to 21 that are homeless in Chicago? It's a hard fact to swallow when your home in your cozy bed with a full belly. What if I told you that there are several organizations in Chicago that house these young adults and provide them life skills to prepare them to join the workforce. These same organizations teach these young adults how to become independent. Volunteering for organizations like Night Ministries is a great way to use your skills for good. Maybe teach a baking class, teach a young adult about finances or sponsor a group talk.

In the end, if you can dream it you can do it. If you see an opportunity to help your own community or another one nearby, no matter how much it makes you uncomfortable, just do it. I promise you that it will change you as a person and warm your heart. Remember this, stats show that for each volunteer hour you provide you are saving an organization $23.07/hr.