Growing up, my childhood friend and neighbor, Johnny White, was born with Fragile X Syndrome -- a genetic condition that causes a range of developmental problems. Johnny has always been a glass-half-full kind of guy and maintains a cheerfulness that’s contagious to be around, despite the everyday challenges he faces.
I remember Johnny's favorite thing to do was blare the radio and get pumped up on the way to Special Olympics practice. Naturally, I couldn't let him have all the fun so I started volunteering my time once a week to the organization.
While it might sound a little cliche, this was and still is the most rewarding thing I have ever done -- we became a family, and I felt so lucky to be surrounded by such encouraging and optimistic people.
Now four years later, a working girl contributing to society, I can hardly remember the last time I stopped to cook a decent meal, let alone volunteer. However, this week being National Volunteer Week, I can’t help but consider the many organizations and causes that I would love to devote my time to.
That being said, I decided to do some research on the ways I can give back even with my busy schedule. Here is what I have come up with so far:
- Assemble care packages for our soldiers.
- Collect sustainable food for the local community pantry.
- Want some exercise while you’re at it? Participate in a local charity walk/run.
- Donate bags of toiletry items for the local homeless shelter.
- Collect towels and pet food for the local animal shelter and visit with the animals.
- Enjoy reading? Volunteer to read to the little patients at a nearby children’s hospital.
- Have little ones running around? Many nursing homes and assisted living centers have a ‘Kids Day’ where you can bring your munchkins in and share their cuteness with the elderly residents
- Love baking? Contribute to a local bake sale – you don’t even have to stick around, just drop off your goodies for others to enjoy
- Volunteer a few minutes to better protect your home and loved ones by signing up for Smart911.
- Have kids at home? Encourage them to get involved with the community by:
-Volunteering time at Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, the Special Olympics, afterschool tutoring, etc
-Helping plant flowers and pull weeds at the local church
-Raking leaves or shoveling snow for elderly neighbors
-Setting up a lemonade stand and donating the profits to charity
-Recycling cans and bottles found around the neighborhood
Feel free to share more "volunteer on a busy schedule" ideas in the comment section below.