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Seven Ways To Give Back To Your Community - And Have Fun While Doing It

By: Keith Maderer

For those that are fortunate enough to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, it can be very rewarding to give back to the community in which you live. But many people are not quite sure how they can make an impact. Here are seven ways that you can help others and gain a great sense of satisfaction in the process.

While philanthropy is usually associated with a financial gift or donation, your time, talents, experience and attitude can be worth more than any amount of money. There are also certain tax deductions that can be taken for mileage and other non-cash contributions.

Seven Fun Opportunities To Help Others:

1. Work At Your Church Bazaar or Carnival: Most local churches have some regular annual fund-raising activities. It could be an outdoor carnival, a winter bazaar, a Monte Carlo night, or something as simple as a fish dinner during lent or even a spaghetti dinner. All these event require volunteer help and if you love working with people, there are many opportunities to smile. If you prefer to work behind the scenes, there are just as many ways to participate. All you need to do is ask, they will welcome the help.

2. Guest Reader At Local Library: If you like to read, local libraries and elementary schools are a great place to share your talent. Having an unfamiliar voice read a story to a class gives a teacher a break and helps students to adapt to reading, listening and comprehending stories better. If this fits your fun side, ask the local librarian or call the elementary school to see what opportunities they have.

3. Start A New Youth Or Senior Citizen Organization: What a great opportunity this can be. If your community has a need for something, try to fill it. In 1999, my hometown had no youth basketball program and my kids loved to play basketball. So we started the Orchard Park Youth Basketball Association hoping to get a couple hundred 5 to 16 year-old children involved. After just three years we had over 600 kids playing basketball in the local gymnasiums twice each week throughout the winter months. Whatever your interests or age group, filling a need will always be fun and immensely rewarding.

4. Establish A Private Scholarship Program: Every year, high school students are graduating and looking to go on to college. Offering a $250 or $500 scholarship can be a great way to give back to the community. If you cannot afford to do this each year, you can ask local businesses to sponsor your efforts and let you to take care of the applications and administration along with the selection of the recipients. In 2006 I helped establish a program in memory of my father who had passed away. Several area schools have their students submit applications and we choose the recipients. Seeing all the applications and helping over 20 students so far has been a very rewarding and fun experience.

5. Volunteer At Local Soup Kitchen: It could be Habitat for Humanity, Literacy Volunteers, Meals on Wheels, it doesn't really matter. Find a cause that fits your schedule and talents and spend a few hours each week helping out. The people you meet are great and each program offers different benefits to the community.

6. Volunteer at Local Hospital: Local hospitals have a gift shop that may offer volunteer opportunities or some even allow volunteers to visit patients just to talk and cheer them up. Local Hospice centers may have volunteers to share a smile, keep an open ear or even a shoulder to cry on. If you have ever been touched in this way, you know how nice it was to have someone to talk to. Make a phone call and ask if they have any volunteer opportunities.

7. Coach A Youth Sport: This is always a great way to get involved while your own children are young. But many retirees or seniors are also helping out area youth by volunteering to help a team. Little League baseball, basketball, or whatever other youth programs you like are always looking for volunteers to help out. Call the organization and ask if they need volunteers. Find an area that you like or you can volunteer to referee games if you are so inclined. Giving back to area youth is a great way to stay young and help busy families.

Summary: One of the greatest ways to share your good fortune and wealth is helping others. If you truly believe in the program and see the results of your efforts it can be even more rewarding. Getting out, helping others and meeting new people is also good for your health and your soul. Enjoy it.

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