Want to give back to your community but feel you can’t because you’re short on time and money? Here are some great ways to experience the joy of giving.

Living in a strong community can be one of the best parts of life. If you’ve lived there for a long time, you and your neighbors may share a long history. Or maybe you’ve just moved in and want to get to know your new neighbors. A great way to get connected is by getting involved in local projects, charities, and causes.

Yet, that can be a challenge. Many of us want to be good neighbors but don’t have enough time or money. If you’re strapped for time and cash but want to give back to your community, we can help. Here are 10 creative ideas that cost little or nothing.  We’ve also included a section with meaningful things you can do when you get a spare moment or two.

10 Ways You Can Give Back to Your Community

1. Volunteer at a School

Depending on your community, a lot of schools are always looking for volunteers. A great way to give back to your local school is by volunteering in the classroom for an hour once a week or once a month. Tasks may include prepping art projects, grading papers with an answer key, or helping watch kids at recess. Or, if you’ve got more time, you can tutor or lead a club or activity. If your schedule makes it hard to help on a regular basis, schools still need help with events. [Note: Schools generally require a background check with fingerprints and a TB test to work with children.]

2. Meals on Wheels

Posted by Meals on Wheels America on Thursday, December 7, 2017

You can help give meals to those who have trouble cooking for themselves and don’t have family members to do that for them. Joining Meals on Wheels is a wonderful way to connect with your community, feel good in your soul and enrich the lives of others. Follow the link to find one near you to volunteer: Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels is a wonderful way to give back to your community. It is one of the “oldest and largest national organization supporting the more than 5,000 community-based senior nutrition programs across the country that are dedicated to addressing senior hunger and isolation.”

Small Contributions Are Important Too

3. Set Up a Collection

Small changes make for big contributions to our communities. Even the smallest donation could make an individual or family happy, especially during the holidays. With the help of PayPal, you can easily support causes with small contributions online. You can pick your favorite charity and donate a small amount or a large amount to help them reach specific goals.

Local shops, restaurants, and convenience stores often have collection jars for neighbors in need of help. They also set up boxes for collecting toys or food – usually perishables – to help families in need during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Whichever you decided to do, these small changes can make a big impact.

4. Check Out Your Local YMCA

Checking in at your local Y, you can give back. Not only to the community but also to the younger generation. You can teach classes, become a coach for youth sports teams, become mentors for kids and teens to develop better education skills and build better relationships with your local community.

5. Create a Little Free Library

Posted by Little Free Library on Friday, December 22, 2017

This is a great option if you’re handy. A Little Free Library is a fun and creative way to donate to our local community. The Little Free Library gives access to books to children and families who are not able to get access to books. It can also double up as a way for you to declutter if you are an avid reader.

“Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.”

By registering with Little Free Library you are giving back to your community by providing access to books. They can be set up anywhere in your neighborhood; the park, near schools, even in your front yard.

If you’re not handy,

The video below tells you how to build a durable, weatherproof little free library with a glass door.

6. Short on Time and Money? You Can Still Give Back to Your Community

A lot of us don’t have any time or money these days. But when you’ve got a moment, you can do one or all of the good deeds below.

  • Set up a collection jar for someone in need (see above).
  • Donate blood, plasma or bone marrow.
  • Become an organ donor (you can register through your local DMV).
  • Donate your hair to a child with cancer (for more info, visit Locks of Love‘s website).
  • Pick up litter.
  • Log in to Yelp and Google and write good reviews for your favorite local businesses.
  • Donate things in good condition to Good Will and other charity thrift shops.
  • Call or text people just to tell them how great they are.
  • Just be a good neighbor. Offering a smile and a helping hand cost nothing and can make someone’s day.
  • Good Neighbor Day is on Sept. 28 every year. Thank someone in your community who’s been kind or helpful towards you with a card, a home cooked meal, or a bouquet.

Other places you don’t need much money to make a difference

7. Habitat for Humanity

#HabitatforHumanity volunteer Mica Deangelis peers through a wall she helped raise at the Carter Work Project in…

Posted by Habitat for Humanity on Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Another great way to give back is helping with habitat for humanity. Most communities have a local chapter that they can sign up with to help build houses for the poor, or help a family in need who have lost their home to a natural disaster or fire. To find where you can help out with a disaster area, visit this link for the Disaster Corp to find out how you can help those in need.

8. Help with Holiday Food Drives or Volunteer at a Food Bank

Everyone loves a good food drive. These are always a fun way to connect with our communities. By sponsoring a holiday food drive you’re going to give back to families who are not able to afford holiday meals, as well as help feed the homeless. Holiday food drives can be as simple as setting up at a soup kitchen or making it an event for the whole community.

If you aren’t the “set it up and run it” kind, you can volunteer your time at the local food bank or soup kitchen. This is also an ideal volunteer opportunity for those of us who use these services.

9. Get Fit While Giving Back

Do you love to run, walk, or bike? Local schools and other groups often host walkathons, 5K runs, and cycling events. Here are a few of the best-known ones.

To find a walk or race near you, do a search on these events sites:

  • For Running: Run for Charity
  • For Walking: Active.Com/Walk
  • For Biking: Cycle for Charity

Not feeling fit? You can also run an aid station for handing out water.

10. Grow a Community Garden

Posted by Gary Anandasangaree on Monday, September 25, 2017

Having a community garden is a fun way to give everyone something to do. Not only are you helping out by growing your own food, you’re teaching others how to do this as well. This fun and inventive way to give back can help set up a garden club. GardenCommunity.org suggests that you follow these steps when getting started:

  1. Organize a meeting of interested neighbors and form a planning committee.
  2. Identify your resources and choose a location with a water source.
  3. Approach a sponsor to help with expenses.
  4. Prepare and develop the garden site.
  5. Keep community members active and in the loop by creating an e-newsletter, installing a rainproof bulletin board in the garden and hosting regular celebrations.

A good place to start is with your local Dept. of Parks and Recreation. They often have unused space, and community gardens are an ideal, low-cost option for them. They may even provide the soil and building materials. Having a community garden does take time and money to start, but many hands make light work.

Giving Back to Your Community Is Win-Win

There are so many ways to give back to your community and this list is just a short, creative way to do so. Your community should be a place that you enjoy to spend your time helping out others and enriching the environment. Even if you can give money or give time, or both, the smallest efforts and acts of kindness can make your community a better place. And, the joy you get from doing so will make your life better, too. Everyone wins when we give back.

Featured image: CC 2.0 State Farm via Flickr.

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