Where to Begin When You Want to "Give Back"

Updated on March 08, 2011
3.B. asks from Tampa, FL
22 answers

My husband and I are always talking about how even though we moan and groan about day to day life, we know we are SOOOOO blessed to have a roof over our heads, 3 great and healthy kids, food on the table, and a happy life. We want so much to "give back", help out those less fortunate in any respect. be it health wise, family wise, monetary etc. But honestly we just dont know where to start. I've tried searching the interent and theres so much info, and I want to be sure that we are helping legitimate causes. Granted we aren't rich, but we are comfortable and able bodied. I'd be honored to work on a house for someone though my skills are limited :) I can clean, paint, move furniture, garden etc lol I'd work a food bank, soup kitchen, lend support etc.
i just don't know where to start!!!!! It's one of those things we talk about the time, and it never goes anywhere. HELP me help others. What/where should we look for resources?

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answers from Chicago on

Donate blood. All you need is time.

My father has donated 50 pints over his lifetime and I just recently begun. Did you know that your donation can save three lives? And, did you know that if you have a certain blood type or health traits you can donate in different categories? After my first donation, I learned that I am eligible to donate 'double red' which means they take twice the amount of red blood cells out and return other blood products back to my body during the donation. Additionally, the double reds I donate are used almost immediately for newborns who need heart surgery. You can also donate plasma or platelets, too.

I will never know who I helped but I'm sure there are parents and children out there who are grateful for my gift. It doesn't cost me a thing and only takes up about 60-90 minutes of my time.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Once with our Daughter, we made a box of non-perishable items/a can opener/bottled water/canned milk/canned foods/2nd hand t-shirts/ diapers etc., anything non-perishable.
We then took it to a homeless park, where they congregate and sleep. In our State, there are many homeless, Families. With young children. Living in parks or in their cars. No where to live, even if 1 may have a menial job.
Decent people, but homeless and with kids.
The family we gave the box to, was very grateful. They had a toddler, just in a diaper. No other clothing. Luckily in the box, I had also put diapers and our kids outgrown clothing. And slippers. We also had t-shirts in there for a man and woman.
These were normal, but homeless people. Just no where affordable to live, or one got laid off. Can't make rent etc.

My daughter loved doing that.
She wants to do that again.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boca Raton on

I LOVE animals, so I volunteer 6 hours per week at a local animal rescue... When I go I bring them little supplies that I know they need (things that you would never think they would: bleach, printer paper, papertowels, etc)... It makes me feel GREAT and I LOVE spending time with the animals :0)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

Lots of local places could probably use volunteers. If you contact some churches in your area they could give you the names of any shut-ins who could use a hot meal, house cleaning, or even just some company. Your kids could join you for that and learn a lot.

My favorite way to give back is to sponsor a child. I go through Compassion because they have the lowest overhead costs of any sponsorship program, so more of your money goes to where it is needed.


Some people decide to pick a child the same age as their children, so they can write letters & share pictures, etc. I've sponsored a girl from Peru since she was 5, and now she is 16. We've written letter to each other the whole time, and I get photos and updates from her school every year. It's amazing to see the difference I've made in her quality of life, her education, and even her self-esteem, even though we've never met in person.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Erie on

sounds like Habitat for Humanity would be a great fit for you. try online, sometimes communities have big "builds" in the spring and they look for volulnteers.

ok, I haven't walked the walk, but i read questions like yours and i think, hmm you should start with your neighbor, and the clerk at the gas station, and the weird person at the mall. Just smiling and showing kindness.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Someone in my town started a town-wide Lotsa Helping Hands group. For those not familiar with LHH, it's a very easy to use website to help coordinate all of those friends and family members and neighbors who want to help someone in a crisis but don't know what to do. Usually a site is set up for a particular family, but a woman in my town had a good friend from another town who was diagnosed with cancer. The friend already had access to a LHH site so her needs were taken care of, but the woman from my town asked what she could do to help and her friend said to pay it forward and start another group, so she did. Through word of mouth, there are over a hundred volunteers in my town and our first family was a couple whose infant son had a bone marrow transplant in January. They asked for weeknight dinners to be left at their house so that they could get back from work or the hospital, eat some real food and then head into the hospital for the night (he will hopefully come home in the next week or two). It's such a simple thing but means the world to them.

I would see if there is LHH site in your town and if not, start one and get the word out. It's so gratifying to see people come out of the woodwork to help a total stranger in need.

Check with local churches, schools, groups such as the Lion's club, etc. and they can connect you with volunteer projects or groups in your area. Good for you for seeking out opportunities to give back. You never appreciate how good your life is until you see what others struggle with and realize that you are empowered to lighten the load for others, and it's a great example for your children as well.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Contact a local church-ours has a program like you describe where you can sign up and help out those in need-usually elderly-with chores, rides and whatnot. They would also probably know of families in need of other things I would think.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Evansville on

You’ve received a LOT of great suggestions! One other resource you may want to consider is VolunteerMatch.org. Their website is searchable by zip code, interests, skills, etc., and I do believe it is nation-wide. Your local United Way will probably have similar services for matching up volunteers with appropriate organizations, as well. There are so many opportunities out there, you are sure to find your perfect fit. As a former not-for-profit volunteer coordinator, thank you for doing this. Good for you :)


answers from Sacramento on

Have you looked into the Junior League? It's a charitable organization dedicated to promoting voluntarism, with an emphasis on helping women and children. Only women can join the Junior League, but I would highly recommend it. It's a lot of fun, and you have all the opportunities you need to get out into your community and volunteer for great causes. Your husband could look into the Masons, the Lions Club, Rotary, etc.



answers from Cleveland on

Start with your church. Most churches have programs that serve others through a mission through the church(volunteering there), through you area (feeding the poor, helping families in need through many serivices, etc) and then service more globally (mission trips to other countries). There are so many opportunities and if you go through a church you know they have already checked out which ones a re legit.( they should do this). I think it is great what you want to do and such a great lesson to your kids.


answers from Dallas on

You might also consider sponsoring a child through World Vision or Compassion International. If you can't do $40 per month, they have other ways to make one time contributions.
You might also see if a local school could use your help.


answers from Chicago on


Ahh.... if only all of us would help others in need. I am able to volunteer in more ways now that my children are in school full time. I am a girl scout leader and that's one possible way that you can help out. They use $ from donations to help girls whose parents cannot afford dues, field trips, etc...

Helping out at a hospital or a church would be great. I'm sure if you just call one in your area, they would love to tell you how you could help them.

There are children who need books, clothes, etc... I can't remember this website but they were collecting $ to make wells to get water to the children in some poor country.

Salvation Army and The Red Cross seem to be reputable and you can donate with your time and or money. Call and find out more for you area.

I recently scooped food and put into bags for a place called Feed My Starving Children. We have a building nearby for that but in most states they don't but you can still help because there are temporary sites that they set up.

Here's another one that might suit you well. http://www.clevelandhabitat.org/Index.htm

Like someone else mentioned too.... donate blood! It doesn't hurt and it feels great knowing that people lives are being saved because of it! I haven't done this for a while but it is now going on my "to do list."

United Way is another great organization to check out.

A church might point you in the right direction for a soup kitchen or food pantry.(My girl scout troop just collected food and donated to CEDA.) I've done Meals On Wheels and PADS through my church. (So.. you might want to Google those two to learn more about them.)It sure feels good to help others in need! I'm glad you asked. Have fun!




answers from Kansas City on

There is so much to do out there, & a great place to get started would be through a church. Larger churches tend to have more going on, simply because they are large and have the volunteers. So, I would first check with your local church. You can always find a non profit org that is close to your heart and donate your time helping to raise money or just helping when it is needed. You can donate food, not just at Thanksgiving time but all year long. There's habitat for humanity, working the food banks coats for kids, toys for tots, the list is endless. Even just passing out random 20 dollar bills to people. You never know who really needs money no matter how they look.

What a great thing you want to do! I am cleaning out closets and and am finding tons of clothes that will probably never be worn again by myself, husband and kids, so I will be donating probably a whole truck full of clothes real soon.

Just wanted to touch on the giving back part. I know you are doing something really great but I have always disliked that term because it implies that we have to give back because we took something or that we were given something and now it's our turn to give, instead of us just chosing and wanting to give. Sorry, just my little pet peave and rant!! ;-)



answers from Topeka on

Why not get involved in something that your children can participate in too? Teach them how good it can make you feel to help others. It doesn't have to be some huge project...have your children help you make a batch of cookies to take to the local fire department or get a pretty flower plant to take to a lonely elderly person that you know. Maybe you and your children could make "tray favors" for the next holiday...and take them to a local nursing home.
There is a really wonderful project that our church is involved in called Operation Christmas Child. It is part of Samaritan's Purse which is run by Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham. We collect items all year long...small toys, personal hygiene items, school supplies etc, and then in Oct. we pack 100 shoe boxes and take them to the local collection point and they are shipped overseas to be given to needy boys and girls. You can find out more information about it at SamaritansPurse.org. Our children at church love getting involved in it...they write letters to the boy or girl who is going to get the box and we take a picture of them to include in the box. We also include our address...and occassionally we have even heard back from the children!!!
Maybe you and your children could take a clean up tour and clean up trash and such in your neighborhood.
There are so many things you could do....and as you get into the swing of it you will come up with more and more ideas!!!



answers from Dallas on

You could contact a local church OR even the chamber of commerce in your area. When we lived in AZ my husband was a member of the local chamber and sat on the philanthropic committee. They did WONDERFUL things such as citrus gleaning for the local food banks & helped put packages together at the food banks, organized charity drives with local restaurants, helped organize walk-a-thons for charities, etc. We also worked through his company with Habitat for Humanity. It was such a wonderful (an a bit scary) experience. If you need any other tips, PM me and I will try to help.

Good luck!


answers from Phoenix on

make fleece blankets for a nursing home.
ask local church or preschool for an adopted family that is in need of
supplies/ furniture/ and clothes and try to re-cruit a supply for them.



answers from Kansas City on

What is important to you?
As a family, all of us or someone has built homes through Habitat for Humanity. Helped with fundraising for the American Cancer Society and the Cerebral Palsy Society. As a family we fed the homeless on a Christmas Eve. And this was, going out with the Red Cross Van and honking the horn to get the homeless to come out from under the bridge. I even was involved in animal rescue! Those are the highlights.
I finally found an organization that touches my heart and the lives of my family. It's local to the Kansas City area but you can go to www.kidstlc.org All of us have been involved in some way for years. Even this past Christmas, my 16 year old daughter used her own money to buy an 18 year old a computer to help him in college.

Point is, you may have to try several things before something really speaks to your heart.

Good Luck and Bless you.



answers from Indianapolis on

I know others have said this but Donate Blood!! I started donating when, within a close period of time 2 family members needed transfusions and I wanted to give back what they needed and I have continued to this day. One donation can help save the lives of 3 people. Only 38% of the US population is eligible to donate and of those only 5% actually donate. One out of ten hospital admissions will need a blood transfusion. The demand for transfusions is growing faster than blood donations. People needing transfusions may have been in car accidents, having an operation, being treated for cancer or been diagnosed with certain diseases.
I donate platelets regularly. The donation of plasma, red cells and platelets is a little bit more involved, using an aphresis machine, they take whole blood and separate the desired blood component and give you back the rest of the blood components. By doing this procedure you are able to donate more frequently, if you wish. At first I wasn't sure if I wanted to deal with the whole needle thing but I get such a good feeling knowing I am helping people in need by providing something that can not be manufactured, that any small discomfort of a little needle prick is completely not an issue. Whole blood donation takes 1 hour or less and aphresis takes about 90 minutes.Try it and you will not be sorry!



answers from Cincinnati on

There is Habitat for Humanity probably in your area. I work in Milford at "Feed the Children", where we package food for starving children overseas. Maybe your church knows of a senior citizen that could use some help. Good luck and God bless....



answers from Cincinnati on

There are so many different opportunities. One that comes to mind is The Healing Center done through The Vineyard Church in Cincinnati. This is a "whole person" center. They not only provide food, but clothing, educational classes, social work services, the list goes on. They are always looking for volunteers.



answers from Cleveland on

Become foster parents! God knows we need more good parents to be there for these unfortunate children in the system. It may be more work than you were thinking of taking on, but the payoff is more than you can imagine when you make a difference in a child's life.



answers from Cleveland on

The salvation army and JCPenny, have a christmas program where you can adopt a child, or several and ensure that they get gifts on Christmas morning. The year my husband got laid off we had to use this program and it was truly wonderful, and the list of children is very long and many do not get picked. It gives you ages and clothing sizes, as well as a wish list, and they take care of making sure your gifts get to the right person. so many of these people are asking for such basic things for their children, such as school uniforms, at a time when most families are buying there kids much less essential items.

Also your local united way may be able to point you in the right direction if you are looking for shelters and such to volunteer your time.

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