I am a big advocate of community involvement and service. I think it is so important to help each other and relieve suffering where we can. I truly believe that the world would be a better place if we would all get involved and do something to make a difference in the world. And I think that now more than ever we need people to step up and be that difference. Now more than ever we need kindness and love. Now more than ever we need to advocate fairness for all. Now more than ever we need to show love and goodness.
But I often hear things like "I just don't know what to do." I think that is a common problem. Good people want to help and make a difference, but they just don't know where to begin. So I've complied this list of 100 ways to serve in your community, organized by type of service, to help generate ideas. Some ideas are more large scale and some are things that we could do every single day. The important thing is gauging your current resources and abilities and deciding what you can do right now. I know that there is something on this list that we can all do. Together we can be the change that we hope to see in the world.
101 Ways to Serve in Your Community
Many of these ideas require partnership with Refugee Relief Organizations. You can find an organization in your area through Google, but let me share a few of the organizations that I have worked with and love. (These are their national websites, but you can find local chapters). The IRC. The International Committee of the Red Cross. Catholic Relief Services. In Utah, I worked with the Refugee and Immigration Center--Asian Association of Utah. In Las Vegas, I've worked with Lighthouse Charities.
1. Invite a refugee family to dinner. Consider playing games or sharing a cultural experience.
2. Compile welcome kits.
3. Have a drive for household goods. Remember that these people are fleeing persecution and left basically everything behind.
4. Mentor a refugee family or individual. You can help them adjust to life in their new country. Most local refugee relief organizations have a mentor program.
5. Teach English to arriving refugees.
6. Teach basic living skills (grocery shopping, cooking, etc), everything will be new and different here.
7. Help a refugee find employment.
8. Backpack drives. Collect backpacks to refugee children.
9. Take a meal in to an arriving refugee family.
10. Compile hygiene kits.
11. Have a fundraiser to help with housing costs.
12. Volunteer time at refugee events.
13. Write welcome letters.
14. Drive for refugees. Many refugee relief organizations need drivers to help refugees arrive at case meetings, orientations, etc.
15. Become a case worker.
16. Help prepare documents. There is a lot of paperwork that refugees have to complete.
17. Play date at the park. Coordinate with a local refugee organization to meet refugee mothers with children the same age as yours and meet for a play date at the park.
18. Bike drive. Many refugees don't have any kind of transportation. Host a drive to give them new or gently used bikes.
19. Teach a new skill. Use your talents to pass on to others. Many refugee organizations are looking for people to teach sewing, cooking (all of our common ingredients are unfamiliar to many refugees), etc.
20. Set up an apartment for a refugee family.
21. Drive to pick up large donations. Some donations are too large for the donors to bring in. If you have a truck, you can pick up larger donations like mattresses, dressers, etc. and take them in to the refugee organizations.
Serve the Homeless
22. Serve a meal in a food bank.
23. Take an extra breakfast with you and hand it out to a homeless individual on the way to work.
24. Have a food drive to donate to a local food bank.
25. Make beanies, scarfs, gloves, or blankets to hand out during the colder months.
26. Carry bottles of water to hand out.
27. Work with the United Way in a Project Connect to help the homeless find resources and receive goods they need.
28. Volunteer at a Job Fair.
29. Teach vocational skills to the homeless.
30. Volunteer at nonprofits (receptionist, etc)
31. Carry info card with lists of shelters, food banks, etc. where they can get help and hand them to homeless people.
32. Donate toys to homeless shelters for the children who have little or no toys.
33. Volunteer professional services (doctors, lawyers, hair cuts, etc) to help the homeless.
34. Call local shelters and ask what they need-- host a drive for those items.
35. Offer Employment if you own a small business.
36. Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity to build homes for the homeless.
37. Read books in underprivileged schools.
38. Donate clothes, books, toys, etc. to foster children.
39. Participate in a Big Brother/Big Sister program.
40. Volunteer your skills in at risk programs. Many of these programs could use help after school programs teaching music, art, sports, computer skills, etc.
42. Teach a class at the Boys and Girls Club. Art, computer, music, etc.
43. Volunteer at a low income school
Serve the Elderly
44. Visit a retirement center.
45. Play games with residents in a retirement center.
46. Paint finger nails for ladies in care homes.
47. Perform music. Get a group together and have a whole show.
48. Do respite work for hospice.
49. Call your grandparents frequently. Record their life history.
50. Volunteer with meals on Wheels
51. Send cards to nursing homes.
52. Teach a senior to use the computer and Internet.
53. Contact and serve with a veterans affairs group.
54. In the fall, rake leaves for an elderly neighbor.
55. In the winter, shovel snow.
56. Pick up groceries or prescriptions for elderly neighbors.
Serve the Community in general
57. Volunteer at the hospital.
58. Take thank you baskets to firefighters or other civil servants.
59. Lead a "clean up" or "beautification" project in your neighborhood.
60. Get involved in the school PTO.
61. Attend a local school board meeting. Once you learn the needs in the district, volunteer your time to help.
62. Serve on the city council or attend meetings to see where you can help.
63. Volunteer at domestic abuse shelters.
64. Teach Adult ESL classes.
65. Take a meal to a suffering neighbor. Or invite them to your home for a meal.
66. Visit a lonely friend.
67. Call someone you haven't seen in awhile.
68. Donate blood.
69. Mow your neighbors yard.
70. Collect cosmetics and toiletries for battered women's shelter.
71. Clean up trash at a park.
72. Volunteer at a city event.
73. Volunteer to paint the city's fire hydrants. (Make sure to get permission first).
74. Make "get well" cards for children in the hospital.
75. Assemble new parents kits for low income families with new babies.
76. Collect backpacks and school supplies for children who can't afford them.
77. Mentor an adolescent on probation.
78. Plant a community garden.
79. Take cookies to neighbors and introduce yourself to them.
80. Sew feminine hygiene products for Days for Girls.
81. Volunteer with the Special Olympics
82. Make blankets, toys, hats, etc. for Newborns in Need. If you don't have a local chapter, start one.
83. Write letters or send care packages to soldiers.
84. Volunteer at food canneries. (Feed My Starving Children)
85. Teach a Class using your own skills and talents at a community center.
86. Volunteer at a local animal shelter.
87. Collect supplies for victims of fire, flood, or other disasters.
88. Build ramps to homes or businesses to make them more handicapped accessible.
89. Volunteer at a local library.
90. Clean up a local hiking trail.
91. Buy lunch for a friend.
92. Pull over and provide road side assistance.
93. Take a treat in to your coworkers.
94. Coach a community sports team.
95. Pay for the person behind you in the drive through.
96. Write a thank you note to someone who performed a simple act of service. Consider handwriting and mailing it via snail mail.
97. Leave a positive review of a new business.
98. Leave a generous tip for your waiter with a nice note of thanks.
99. Babysit for free.
100. Wash your neighbor's car.
101. Take a meal in the families in the Ronald McDonald house.
If you are looking for specific opportunities to serve in your area, look for a website that compiles service opportunities. My favorite is JustServe.org They are still growing and don’t have every area available, but I have found great projects in Utah, Nevada, and Arizona using this site. I know they are in other areas as well.
Please let me know of any other ideas you have in the comments. I would love to expand this list!
Now, I’d like to leave you with just a few of my favorite quotes as of late:
"Serve your mother. Serve a stranger. Serve your neighbor. Just serve." - Carl B. Cook
“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” - Howard Zinn