-Blog post by Reed Sandridge, a Kindness Investor from Washington, DC.
People often tell me that they want to volunteer their time but don’t know where to start. Sheila, a working mom from Boston recently expressed her frustration with trying to volunteer. “The local community center where I was hoping to volunteer only accepts applicants that are able to make a commitment of at least once a month for a year,” she wrote. “I can’t guarantee that.” She went on to say that other organizations were looking for individuals with specific skills or training which she didn’t have.
Sheila’s challenges are not unique. I hear this same comment from individuals from all parts of the world on a regular basis. The fact is that there are lots of ways that you can contribute to your community without volunteering with formal organizations. Here are seven simple ways that you can make a difference in your community that cost little or nothing and don’t require you to jump through any administrative hoops!
- Pick up trash around your neighborhood or at a local park
- Rake the leaves/shovel snow/mow the lawn for an elderly neighbor
- Drive an elderly neighbor to the store or to their doctor’s appointment
- Take leftover food to poor/homeless members of your community
- Donate clothes in good condition that you no longer use to a local shelter or community outreach center
- Ask people to bring an item for donation to your next party or get-together
- Micro-volunteer online at an organization like sparked.com.
So two weeks ago I did exactly this. We got a dose of really wet snow, maybe four or five inches. A day after the snowfall I noticed a couple of sidewalks that still were not cleared. The fluffy white blanket had now compressed down into a three-inch thick sheet of ice that was not only hard as hell to remove, but dangerous for those who relied on the sidewalks to get around town. One spot was owned by an older couple. Another was an abandoned home and I don’t know the situation of the third home, but their sidewalk hadn’t been touched. So, I grabbed the shovel and set out to clear those areas.
Snow shoveling isn’t my thing. Sure I can do it, but my back usually gets all out of whack for days after a long day of shoveling. I know, “You gotta use your knees,” you’re thinking to yourself. You are right…and I probably don’t use them enough.
As I was shoveling the long sidewalk in front of the abandoned home I spotted an elderly woman carefully navigating the icy terrain. I should have offered her a hand but she gave me a terrible scowl as if to say, “You are late in getting this sidewalk shoveled young man!” Geez.
I finished clearing the final patch of ice at the third house and headed home to put away my weary shovel and rest my now screaming lower back. The next day I walked by one of the areas and saw people moving about on the now snow-free sidewalks that I had cared for. I felt magnificent. Ok, that’s not exactly true. My back felt like an 18-wheeler had pulled into my bedroom in the middle of the night and parked on top of me. But seriously, I was elated by the simple neighborly act that I had done. It didn’t cost anything, well not then at least. I just have to save up to have a microdiscectomy procedure to fix my herniated lumbar disc!
VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY IN DC THIS WEEKEND!
Hey, are you in the DC area and want to give a few hours of your time this weekend for a good cause? Why not join me in volunteering at the fourth annual Our City Film Festival. All proceeds go to Yachad DC, a local non-profit working to bring communities together through service. They mobilize skilled and unskilled volunteers to work side-by-side with those being served to repair homes and communities for low-income residents. What a fun way to help out. If you are interested in volunteering, email me or Kendra at firstname.lastname@example.org.