Looking for ways to get on Santa’s “nice” list? Maybe you’re looking for things for your Kindness Elf to suggest. Here are 5 Ways to Give to Your Community (without spending a dime).
This article was originally posted on Hubpages 12/09/13
What to Do When You Can’t Volunteer or Give Cash?
We always mean to do something to help improve our community, volunteer, or donate to good causes, but the time commitment or financial cost of helping others can knock the wind out of our sails. Here are five ways that we give without straining our budget or busy schedules:
1. Fill a Need at the Women’s Shelter
Women’s shelters are always in need of gently used clothes, socks and shoes for those who have fled without packing. They can also use gently used baby and children’s clothing, family games, movies and books to help pass the time.
If you don’t mind spending a few dollars, they always need toothbrushes and toothpaste, combs, and other toiletries that can be bought at the Dollar Store. Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving are always hardest time of the year, so little gift bags of toiletries and treats for the families spending their holidays at a shelter is greatly appreciated.
(Note: These things are also needed a men’s shelters, but so few communities actually have a safe haven for abused men … If you have one, please find a way to include them in your generosity.)
2. Books and Magazines
Bestow gently used books and magazines to your local library, doctor’s office and hospitals. But, not just to the emergency waiting room; all the departments have waiting rooms where people sit around for long periods of time, including the maternity ward where bed-ridden mommies need something to help pass the time.
Gently loved kids’ books are great donations for day cares and children’s clubs. Children’s wards and hospitals, Ronald McDonald House and other medical care facilities that focus on children would also be glad to have books and movies in good condition and age appropriate. Of course, a few family-friendly books and movies for the adults are also valued.
Surprise a Stranger
You could also surprise a stranger by leaving a “Traveling Book” or “Wild Book” in a clearly marked bag somewhere public, such as a local park, play ground, or restaurants. These are books left in the public for someone to find, read, and set lose again (aka Traveling Book) or to be found and kept (aka “Wild Book” ).
I’m regularly inundated with coupons from various sources; coupon packets in the mail from marketing companies, flyers in the newspaper, even coupons and samples from companies that produce baby-related items and foods. I’m not a big coupon user. I prefer to buy generic brands which are often much cheaper than a brand name, even when using with a coupon. However, I know other people prefer name brands.
Clip coupons and leave them at the local welfare office (if they have a coupon drawer) or even at the announcement board at the grocery store. Coupons for baby and children’s items can be given to local Early Year’s Centres, child care businesses, and even Health Units.
4. Baby and Children’s Clothing
Most of us generally try to sell our unneeded children’s clothing via local Facebook “yard sale” groups or consignment shops. You could also share gently used clothing with a family member or friend with a child who would fit them. Local woman’s shelters, maternity wards or Early Year’s Centres also appreciate gently used baby clothes. Of course, toys and educational items in good condition are also desirable.
It surprised us to learn that the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where we delivered our daughter have a need for pajamas. Many parents, just like us, are caught off guard by their child’s premature arrival. And, just like us, many of them were from out of town without access to their baby supplies, including jammies. If you have spare newborn pajamas, hats or mitts, check with your local hospital to see if their maternity or NICU unit would like them.
Social Media Call-Outs
Keep an eye out for posts on local Facebook groups about families who have experienced loss and need help. This is a great way to help out your community. If you have what a family needs and can spare it, give what you can.
There is also the occasional call-out for clothing donations to help the relief efforts for the victims of the latest natural disaster. Don’t be shy! Contact the coordinator and find out what they need. If you have it to spare, box it up to be collected and shipped out to help those in need.
5. Pantry Items
We all have items in our pantry that we meant to use but never got around to it. If the items aren’t too close (or past) their expiry date and are in good condition, donate them to the local food bank.
If you’re really ambitious, you can host a get-together (or event through your church or other favourite non-profit organization) that requires guests to give canned or dried goods in exchange for entry, with the goods going directly to your local food bank. If you’re a little less ambitious, but still like the idea of mixing it up with others in your community, attend a local event like this and bring all you’ve got to share from your pantry.
[UPDATE: Since originally posting this, I've learned more about food banks. Apparently, they get a lot of food they can't use because there is too much of the same thing or they're really odd food items most people don't eat. The Vancouver Sun published a great article about it here which explains how food banks are able to get really good discounts from partners with the cash donations they receive and how you can better help your local food bank. If in doubt, call and ask what food items they need most.]
WWYD? (What Will You Do?)
Now that you have a few ideas to run with, what can you do to give back to your community?
Please, share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below for others to read and maybe even use in their community!