Giving back has always been important to me. I wasn’t exposed to community service until I went to college, but it was a habit I quickly picked up and haven’t given up since. We often think of ways to give back during the holiday season, but giving should be a year-round thought process. I like to encourage others to figure out what works best for them, and once they do, keep the party going! If you get the urge to serve food to the homeless for Christmas, do that, and then go back a month later because unfortunately, the need will still be great. If you haven’t found your niche just yet, here are five ways you can get that good feeling and spread some love.
- Sponsor a child or family: How many times have you seen a co-worker or a family at your child’s school struggle with simple things? If you think you can help, you should. Ask them if you can purchase school supplies for them or perhaps a few Christmas gifts. A little bit goes a long way. If you are afraid you’ll offend them, ask their supervisor or teacher and do it anonymously.
- Volunteer at your local school: As a provisional member of the Junior League of Fort Worth, I was obligated to volunteer at one of four Fort Worth ISD I got my first choice, Eastern Hills Elementary. I’ll be honest, I picked it because it was close to my house, but had I known the impact it would have on me, I would have picked it if it was 50 miles away! What a great group of dedicated teachers and staff! I was able to provide school support by doing office work, assisting teachers with assignments, and even participating in Career Day. By far it was one of the best experiences I’ve had out in the community, hands down.
- Organize a fundraiser: So all of my friends and family know I can do the most for my birthday. This year was no different. One of my several birthday activities included raising funds for an area high school senior. I’m a member of Raising the Standard Foundation (RTSF), which provides support for underprivileged and at-risk youth in the greater Fort Worth area. Through RTSF’s Senior Recognition Program, I was connected with a senior student at Eastern Hills High School (again, close to my house) and was charged with helping her raise money to participate in the program. She gets a percentage of all funds raised to help with Senior Fees and College entrance fees and I get the warm and fuzzy feeling.
- Fix and Serve Meals: One of the highlights of my summer is always cooking and serving a meal at my local Ronal McDonald House. Ronald McDonald House of Fort Worth (RMHFW) provides a supportive, home-like community that eases burdens for seriously ill children and their families. Each year, my Sorority chapter (Beta Mu Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.) cooks and serves a meal to the temporary residents staying at RMHFW. Can’t cook? Donate cleaning supplies or linens!
- Serve on a Community Board: Charities and community service organizations often compete with large businesses for the community’s attention and support. Depending on your field of study or work experience, your knowledge could be warmly welcomed at a local nonprofit. I am a Board Member of Housing Opportunities of Fort Worth, where I help advise the Executive Director and his staff as they counsel locals and help them get low to moderate income-based homes.
If you’re still on the fence about how you can help, or you’re not sure you have the time or energy to do anything at all, consider just putting your money where your mouth is and writing a check to a local organization like Goodwill. And also take into mind that there are studies out there that prove giving can protect your health and prolong your life.
One of my many mantras is “Every day that goes by without helping another is an opportunity missed.” I recognize that others helped me achieve all of my merits, and now I have the opportunity to pay them back, by paying the effort forward. Be Good and Do Good folks!
~ Shay Dial Johnson, VP Community Engagement