A quick look at social media and you’re flooded with information about everything happening in the world – the good and the bad. Hundreds of comments pointing in the direction of various causes, movements and GoFundMe links can prompt an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, like there is nothing you can do to help from your corner of the world.
But what if that is exactly where you can make a change? Your corner of the world is what you know – your own community is where the small ripple you create can make the biggest difference – and that difference doesn’t have to come in the form of money. There are so many things you can do that will have a direct impact on those in need without breaking out your wallet.
Volunteer at a food bank
Food banks are such an important resource for many people and these organizations are always looking for volunteers. Food banks have an array of volunteer opportunities to choose from, all of which are vital!
The most essential is sorting and packing – after a large donation or drop off, groceries have to be organized, packed and stored. Offering your time to distribute donations through mobile pantries or pick-up times is a way to deepen your involvement in your local food bank, and directly meet some of the people you’re helping. It’s best to coordinate with your local food banks as to when they will be in most need of volunteers, especially around the holidays.
Organize a donation drive
Turning a cause you’re passionate about into a chance to make an impact can make giving back even more rewarding. There can be a variety of opportunities to organize a collection drive within your own neighborhood: a toy drive during the holidays, a clothing drive for local organizations, toiletries for homeless shelters or military care packages or even supplies for animal shelters.
It’s fine to start small: you can help spread the word through social media or go old-school with posters and flyers. Create an event on Facebook for your donation drive and invite friends and family to participate and share the event. It doesn’t have to be a 100-car line-up around your block to be “successful.” Collecting items from people you know will still be impactful to those at the receiving end.
Giving of yourself, literally, to those in need could sound extreme, but it is so important, especially right now. The United States is currently facing a shortage of whole blood and blood products across hospitals and healthcare facilities, largely due to the after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic – this includes platelets and plasma. Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is no exception to this shortage.
“Cancer patients and their families are already dealing with enough, the last thing they need to worry about is blood supply,” says Maria Turner, Marketing and Communications Director at the Donor Center at Roswell Park. “Patients generally feel better after a blood or platelet transfusion; just a little bit of your time can make such a difference in someone else’s life!”
What usually keeps people from donating is fear; blood donation can sound intimidating If you’ve never donated before, but there is no safer place to donate than within a hospital setting. “We like to explain to donors that there may be a bit of discomfort when the needle is inserted, but it’s only for a minute and it’s nothing compared to what our patients are going through,” Turner says . She adds that the comfortable environment of the Donor Center, as well as the kind, competent and friendly team of nurses, makes the experience painless and enjoyable. From personal experience, I can also speak to how kind and caring the Donor Center team is.
Donating blood or platelets is an easy and incredibly rewarding process. Currently, type O blood (positive or negative) is in high demand at Roswell Park, as well as platelets; Roswell Park transfuses more platelet products than all other hospitals in Western New York combined. If you’re ready to donate what you have to someone in need, visit The Donor Center website and schedule an appointment.
Find your perfect volunteer opportunity
Maybe you’re not at all sure where to start – the well-known volunteer opportunities aren’t exactly the direction you’re looking for, or maybe you’re looking for somewhere that can use your skills and talents. Luckily, there is an incredible website, VolunteerMatch.Org, that can help you find the right place to begin.
By entering your city, you can find an array of opportunities that match your skillset, your available times, even virtual or in-person events. There are thousands of volunteer opportunities ranging from helping to sign people up for a COVID-19 vaccination appointment, to serving as a host family for an exchange student; from monitoring after school programs, to volunteering at a Buffalo Sabres game.
This website helps to match your interests and talents to engaging and truly life-changing volunteer opportunities in your own community.
Volunteering is the simplest and more effective way to make a difference. If all of us gave 30 minutes a week, or even an hour a month, the positive effects would ripple throughout our communities and have a positive change on our own mental health and well-being.