6 Meaningful Ways to Give Back to the Community

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen an incredible spike in people looking for ways to give back and help others. Even amidst uncertainty and fear, the human spirit prevails.

Volunteering and giving back can offer a strong sense of purpose, and it’s a great way to support your community, local or beyond. As Robert Ingersoll said, “We rise by lifting others.” To help get you started, we share a few ideas of ways to give back. 

1. Pay It Forward

Want to make someone’s day with little effort? Paying it forward is such an easy way to show your appreciation for your community.

Buy someone’s coffee that’s in line behind you, bring in lunch for a coworker you know is having a hard week, or simply hold the elevator for someone running behind. Little gestures can go a long way.

See this effort in action: Read how one mother honored her son by doing kind things for strangers.

“Any time you can see someone’s reaction when you do something they’re not expecting, it’s a whole different type of happiness.”

Kat S.

2. Volunteer

From feeding the homeless to spending time at local animal shelters, there are dozens of ways you can volunteer in your community. Some great national organizations include The Hunger Project, Ronald McDonald House Projects and the Animal Humane Society.

Volunteering can also be a great way to bond with your family and teach your children the importance of giving back. For example, you could make volunteering a family Christmas tradition, or encourage your children to donate a portion of their allowance to their favorite charity. 

Not sure exactly where to put your efforts? No problem! You can easily find both virtual and in-person volunteer opportunities at a charity near you with Charity Navigator.

“I have been volunteering with our local Hospice for over 20 years, I have sat with patients so the family could have a break. Made bereavement calls, made things for Camp Erin, finished quilts made from kids at camp, made masks for new patients. I make small quilts for Hospice House and when the patient dies the family can take the quilt home. I make patriotic quilts for veterans. They keep me busy!”

Michele S.

“I crochet soap sacks and winter garments for underserved areas.”

Janice Ellen G.

3. Care for the Seniors in Your Community

Man and child eating ice cream

According to Pew Research Study, 27% of adults in the U.S. ages 60 and older live alone. One meaningful way you can help this community is by offering them assistance and keeping them company. As Tana T. suggests, “[It’s important to] check on seniors who have no family or are not checked on daily.”

To get started helping out the senior citizens in your community, check out Elder Helpers and register to be on the growing list of 10,000 volunteers. 

Perhaps you already know someone you can help, such as a grandparent or an elderly neighbor. You might offer to mow their lawn or shovel off their snowy driveway. You can make a new penpal, and exchange letters or emails. Or maybe you make a monthly date to play cards together or watch a movie.

As the saying goes, “It’s not what you do but how you do it.” However you choose to help, do it with a smile and you’ll likely find it reflected back to you. 

4. Donate

You can give your time, talent, and treasures, depending on what matters to you. Nonprofits across the country (including CaringBridge) exist because of the generosity of donors.

You can start as big or as small as you want, because every cent truly does count. One thing to consider: Before donating, see if the cause or charity has documentation around how your time and money will be used. That way, you can rest assured knowing a large portion of your donations are being used for good.

Other ways give back to your community can include:

  • Give blood or donate plasma at your local Red Cross donation centers. Just enter your zip code to preview locations near you. 
  • Donate old jackets, mittens and other seasonal necessity items to local clothing drop boxes.
  • Something that is often overlooked is the constant need for basic household items like cleaning supplies, nonperishable goods and seasonal clothing. You can post bulk offerings on social media or community apps like Nextdoor to let your community know you’re a resource to those who need it. 
  • Once or twice a year, go through your closet and gather items to donate to Goodwill or a similar organization.

“I donate blood & volunteer at Phil’s Friends, a cancer charity that sends boxes of things to use while receiving chemo in the hospital & writes notes of cheer to keep people going.”

Mary Ann G.

5. Become a Mentor

A mentor can be many different things to different people, but at its core, a mentor is an experienced and trusted adviser. You can be a resource to someone in your community that may need guidance or a listening ear.

If this sounds like something you might be interested in, you can browse mentorship opportunities at Mentoring.org and get connected to the right program for your experience.

6. Keep Your Community Clean

An easy yet impactful way to support your community is consciously keeping your environment clean. Take the extra minute to separate your recycling from your trash, pick up litter when you see it, or pledge to make the switch to a reusable water bottle. Little changes can soon become habits, and those habits can add up!

A few more options include:

  • Sponsoring a highway. Get a group together to clean up a highway or county road in your community.
  • Shopping local. Forget shipping fees and stacks of cardboard boxes by shopping local this holiday season. 
  • Create your own Clean Up Day with Clean Up-Give Back. Clean Up-Give Back is a non-profit that collaborates with local governments to provide resources for trash cleanup campaigns across the country.

How Do You Support Your Community?

What actions have you taken to show support for the people in your community? Please share your stories and ideas in the comments below!

  • Marcia Ferrell

    My 94 year old mother lived at home with my brother a retired RN. My brother was her caregiver for many years. He did a good job keeping her socialized and amongst a younger community and fulfilling her wish to live in her own home. Both my brother and mother had some major health issues and during the pandemic were careful to mask up, keep hands clean and social distance. They succeeded in staying well until August 2021, when someone that did not know they were ill came to visit briefly. They both became ill and were hospitalized, but the hospital sent my mother home with no arrangements for in home care. She had COVID and the FEAR of this illness made it so I was unable to find anyone to care for her. Someone had to be with her 24 hours per day. My brother was in the hospital fighting for his life. I slept outside in my car and checked on my mom every 2 hours throughout the night. Our health care and hospice systems are so strapped we had no help from healthcare or hospice until the final 11 hours of her life. After 8 days I was so exhausted I questioned whether I would survive. It would have been helpful to have people setup meals for the caregiver so they can get at least two meals per day, provide them with good water supply. Even give them a break by sitting outside the house or in the car checking in the window at the patient while caregiver goes home to take a shower and get clean clothes or just rests for awhile. They can always be called back if something alarming appears to be happening. Volunteers could also provide PPE for in home caregivers. This is costly and needed, but when you need to be with someone 24/7 it is difficult to leave them to get these products. My mother died after being home from hospital eight days. After four days of calling healthcare and hospice, hospice arrived 11 hours before her death and provided me with 3 hours of sleep and a shower before my mother passed away. My brother died 4 days later in the hospital. I was at both their sides when they passed. If it were not for my son who is a disabled vet with two small children at home I do not know how I would have made it through this traumatic time. He came and made continuous phone calls to healthcare providers and kept calling when they failed to respond. Although he did not enter the home until the very end he tried his best to supply me with emotional and physical support while trying to protect himself and his family. He is a courageous man who loves me and his grandmother beyond my imagination.

  • Emmlynn Taylor

    I support, clean, and help fill my Community Fridge. Not quite sure where the concept started, but during the pandemic, organizations, non-profit, and some local public officials got local businesses to allow Full-Size Refrigerators to be placed outside of their locations.

    People in the community then had the opportunity to “Add” or “Take” food items from the fridge. It is such an easy but yet powerful way to give back.

    For my birthday last June, I did a FB Fundraiser and asked for donations to help keep the fridge full. Most days, when I go to clean/fill, people are waiting to see what I brought and grateful to shop for their families.