You don’t need a lot of free time to make an impact in your community. There are quick and easy ways to make a difference. Here are twenty simple ideas even the busiest woman can practice to give back to her community.

One: Support Your Local Food Pantry

Put aside a few non-perishable food items every week, then take your donations to the local food pantry at the end of each month.

Two: Shop Locally And Support Businesses In Your Community

Money spent locally stays in the community. Every dollar spent at an independent business contributes 3 times more money into the local economy compared to money spent at a chain. An easy way to give back to your community is to shop locally. Read “10 Reasons to Shop Local” at http://bit.ly/1LPxmtA and learn why what happens in the community, stays in the community.

Three: Vote In Local Elections

Voting in local elections is important because local elections directly affect the community, including families in the public school system. Congress isn’t in charge of our local public school system. Our elected officials on the school board are. Also, your voice is stronger when you vote in local elections because of the smaller demographic. Voting in local elections is an easy way to support your community because your vote affects your neighbors and your town directly.

Four: Donate Food And Needed Items To Your Local Animal Shelter

Animal shelters can always use extra supplies. Contact your local shelter and ask if it has a wish list of items it needs. If donating your pets’ gently used items, be sure to clean any supplies before donating them. Often a shelter will need (new or gently used): water and food bowls, toys, leashes and collars, brushes/grooming tools, and pet beds.

Five: Visit Business Review Sites And Leave Positive Feedback For Local Business Owners

A big way many small business owners grow their business is by word of mouth. Taking a few minutes to leave some positive feedback on business review sites such as Yelp.com or on a Facebook business page is an easy way to support local business in your community.

If you’ve worked with me and would like to leave a Facebook review (www.facebook.com/pg/ErinSweeneyDesign/reviews/) or Google (search for Erin Sweeney Design then click “Write a Review”) it would be much appreciated!

Six: Volunteer At Your School

“When parents are involved in their children’s education, children succeed at higher rates.” It can be very hard, almost impossible, for many parents to volunteer their time during the workday. But there are ways that busy parents can be involved. The article “16 Ways Parents Can Be Involved in The Classroom” explains ways to become involved if you have as much as three hours per day or as little as three hours per year. Read the article here: http://bit.ly/2jeHqmx

Seven: Leave Flowers At A Neighbor’s Door With A Nice Note

Next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up some flowers for a neighbor. Building a strong sense of community begins in our own neighborhoods. Plus random acts of kindness tend to have a domino effect. You never know how much someone might benefit from something so simple.

Eight: Coach A Youth Sports Team. Your Community Needs You!

Local Parks and Recs and other youth sports organizations are always in need of parent volunteers to coach. Not only does coaching your childs’ team allow you to spend quality time with your child that is active and healthy, it also allows you to get to know other children and families in your community.

Nine: Donate Gently Used Coats And Clothing To A Local Charity

For many homeless and disadvantaged people, thrift stores run by charitable organizations typically provide the only way they can afford clothes. These organizations sell clothing items at deeply discounted prices and use the revenues to support a number of community projects, such as homeless shelters, rehabilitation centers and family emergency services. Your donations have a direct impact on helping the needy in your community.

Ten: Organize A Local Book Drive And Donate Books To A Local School Or Charity

Organizing a book drive doesn’t have to be a monumental effort. Email local friends. Post about it on Facebook and other social networks. You’ll be amazed at how simple it can be to help your community simply by reaching out to your own network.

Eleven: Practice An “Open-Door” Policy Daily In Your Community

An act as simple as holding the door open for someone as you enter and exit a building can cause a trickle down effect. People appreciate when someone (especially a stranger) goes out of their way to be courteous. Small acts like holding open a door ultimately makes everyone’s day a little better and builds a stronger sense of community. So start a chain reaction.

Twelve: Start A Walking Or Running Group In Your Neighborhood

Reach out to your neighbors by posting fliers in your neighborhood, spreading it by word of mouth, or, if you’re a part of a neighborhood email group such as Nextdoor, sending out a mass email. Next, have a kick off meeting at your home or a coffee shop and decide on when and how often to meet. Create an email list or text chain to stay connected. Then get moving.

Thirteen: Visit Residents In A Local Nursing Home

Oftentimes, residents who live in nursing homes and assisted living facilities feel isolated and excluded. Organizing an ongoing series of visits will help develop connections between these older adults and their community. How can you do that? Here are some ideas on simple ways to get started: http://bit.ly/1zFXpNj

Fourteen: Pick Up Trash As You Go For A Walk In Your Neighborhood

Simple yet effective. Clean up your community one walk at a time.

Fifteen: Write A Letter Or Email To An Elected Official With Words Of Encouragement

A simple “job well done” can really make someone’s day.

Sixteen: Make A Habit Of Performing Random Acts Of Kindness Often

It’s amazing how a simple random act of kindness can inspire more kindness. Random acts of kindness aren’t limited to strangers. You can practice them at school, at work, and in your community. Visit www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas to learn ideas of how you can start a chain reaction of kind acts.

Seventeen: Start A Woman’s Giving Circle

A woman’s giving circle is a group of women who come together to support a specific charity or cause. They can be small and informal, while also being flexible to allow members an opportunity to participate even if their schedules are already full. To learn how you can begin one, visit http://bit.ly/2kBiFSt.

Eighteen: Volunteer For Meals On Wheels. Either Prepare A Meal Or Deliver One

Meals on Wheels is a wonderful way to help seniors and people with disabilities living in your community. Volunteering is easy! Simply visit http://bit.ly/2kiK9yQ to find out how rewarding it can be to be a part of this amazing program.

Nineteen: Volunteer At A Soup Kitchen

Soup kitchens don’t only need help around the holidays. Volunteer any time throughout the year to either serve a meal or drop off baked goods for the families who are there. Many soup kitchens also collect items such as winter hats and gloves for their visitors. Check with your local soup kitchen to find out what their current needs are.

Twenty: Follow Winston Churchill’s Motto

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

This article is part of The Busy Woman Series

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