Usually, when people think of community service, they think of inmates cleaning the sides of roads or high school kids volunteering at the local animal shelter to rack up service hours for scholarships.
If that sounds unpleasant, it’s okay—that’s not all there is to it. We are all called to serve, and we can call upon our own strengths and passions to find ways we can best serve others and bring God’s love to those around us.
If you are feeling called to serve but aren’t sure where to start, consider some of these ideas to springboard yourself into service.
1. Donate Blood, Hair or Plasma
This might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of community service, but it’s so crucial! Blood bank shortages can mean life or death to people undergoing major surgical procedures, and even though they can save their own blood before a procedure, that doesn’t help those who are in serious accidents that need emergency surgery.
Similarly, if you have long hair, you can visit any salon to donate hair to an organization such as Locks of Love. All you have to do is put your hair in a ponytail and have at least 10 inches cut off, and mail the ponytail to an organization that makes wigs for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
2. Become a Mentor
So many children are lacking stable home lives and, though they may not know it, are in desperate need of an adult mentor. There are organizations that will help you find a match, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, or you can simply visit a local school to offer your services.
If you are more comfortable with younger children, try an elementary school. If you prefer teenagers, check out a middle or high school. You can tutor a kid in math, shoot some hoops or just sit and have lunch together—it will make a world of difference to a child that feels lost and lonely.
3. Reach out to Someone in Need
There are so many ways you can help someone—perhaps you have an elderly neighbor that could use assistance grocery shopping. Maybe there is a single mom in your church that could use a free babysitter once a week. Perhaps you’ve noticed that a local charity’s building could use a fresh paint job. Whatever your strengths, there is someone who would be grateful for your help.
4. Serve at a Food Bank or Soup Kitchen
Sadly, our homeless population has exploded since the recession began in 2007, and continues to grow. Many communities find that they are not equipped to handle the amount of people in need of basic necessities. Even more important than the food is hope, and as Christians, offering a smile and kind words to those who have been cast away by the rest of society can make a world of difference to someone who feels rejected and hopeless.
5. Help Build a Home
The organization Habitat for Humanity is putting up houses for those without a home, and can never have too many volunteers. If your skills lie in construction, plumbing or the like, your talents will be put to excellent use building homes for families in need.
6. Don’t Forget Your Animal Friends
If you feel like maybe you’re lacking in people skills, volunteering with an animal rescue agency such as the ASPCA might be the way to go. Some people may feel like this is a waste of time and talent, but that is not true — if God didn’t love animals, why did He instruct Noah to put them on the ark? God expects us to care for animals, too, so if you have a way with our furry and feathered friends, check out a rescue organization.
7. Run a Collection Drive
Find out what the people in your community might need. Some communities run a blanket drive for those cold winter nights. Some run a school supplies drive for needy children. Some run a drive for baby bottles and diapers for new parents in unstable financial situations. Get some local businesses involved with hosting a drop-off box and distribute the collected items to those in need.
8. Put Those Social Media Skills to Work
Are you a Facebook Warrior or Pinterest Fiend? Social media is becoming more and more important when it comes to advertising and awareness, and too often, charitable organizations don’t know where to begin when it comes to raising awareness for their cause. Offer to manage a Facebook page or Twitter feed. You can generate awareness and donations without even leaving your home!