January 11, 2017

Ways to Serve Your Community

I've always loved the quote "Bloom where you're planted." It serves as a great reminder that even though we may not exactly end up in the spot we thought we would, there's still an opportunity to add some beauty by blooming no matter where we are. 

In my opinion, this is especially important lately as things around the world and in our own neighborhoods are becoming increasingly challenging for some of our friends and neighbors. If I can add even just a little bit of beauty or make someone's situation feel a tiny bit more hopeful, I want to do it. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a Federal Holiday. For many years my family took this three-day weekend as an opportunity to go away to a cabin in the woods and spend time together. There's definitely nothing wrong with that! Sometimes a bit of relaxing and refreshing can make a huge difference. But lately, many organizations around the country are encouraging folks to view this day as a chance for service. 

Here are just a few simple ways you can serve your community, on MLK Day or anytime. 

Create Care Packages for Neighbors 

It might seem like a small thing, but to a neighbor or member of your community who is older or not able to leave his or her home for whatever reason, care packages are often appreciated very much. 

Neighbor care packages might include things like snacks or treats, magazines or crossword puzzle books, and hand lotions, tissues, or lip balm. When giving the gift of snacks, make sure you find out if your friends have any dietary restrictions or allergies. 

When delivering the care packages, maybe allocate some time to spend with your neighbor as well. The gift of friendship is the best gift of all, and for many of our older neighbors who don't get visitors, a smiling face and a listening ear can be a godsend. 

Collect Items from Nonprofit Wishlists 

Most area nonprofits that serve the community have wishlists on their websites. I try to familiarize myself with these so that when I run across various things they need, I can pick them up. 

For example, most of the local animal shelters accept donated items such as newspaper, old towels and blankets, and pet food. If you're doing any New Year cleaning out of your home, make sure to donate items like these where they can help someone else! 

Thrive, a local nonprofit serving the Lonsdale community in Knoxville, is currently collecting garden tools for their community garden. There's a wishlist on their website with all sorts of things you might have collecting dust in your garage, from garden tools to bags of mulch and the like. 

Spread the Love! 

Valentine's Day is just around the corner and I bet there are plenty of folks who won't get a card this year. Why not write Valentine's Day notes of encouragement to all your neighbors? Or maybe contact a local retirement home and ask if they  have any residents who could use cheering up. 

It just takes a few minutes to sit down and write a few lines in a card. And for the cost of a stamp, you can really brighten someone's day. There's still plenty of time to do this between now and February! 

**Disclaimer: These suggestions are just as much for me as they are for anyone else. I don't always do such a great job at serving my community. Sometimes I just want to come home after a long day and veg out in pajamas. But I know it will be worth it if I can just try a few of these things!**

For my local friends, here's a link with more Knoxville volunteer opportunities than you can even imagine! And no matter where you live, I'm sure there are nonprofits and other organizations looking for a little help.