Making a Difference in 2011

I write about a lot of volunteering days and another one is coming up December 5—International Volunteer Day.  This one has been sponsored by the United Nations since 1985 and 2011 is the ten year anniversary of the year of the volunteer in 2001. 

The UN General Assembly will be discussing volunteerism between now and December 5 and you can listen to and chime in on their discussions here.  There’s also a photo contest to show how volunteering can help countries meet peace and development goals.
November 19 was also National Family Volunteering Day. But none of these volunteering days means a thing if they are not celebrated in the spirit of volunteerism, by doing something to help others.

So, on the Wednesday before National Family Volunteering Day, my son and I went shopping.  We bought sunscreen, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, razors, dental floss, candy canes, summer sausage logs and crackers for a group of 800 Army soldiers in Afghanistan. The unit we bought these items for is also equipping a school for local children, so we purchased pencils, crayons, pens, coloring books, pencil sharpeners and erasers for the children.  Then on November 19, we packed everything up and mailed it to Afghanistan.

It just so happens that we also made a delivery of non perishable items to the local food bank that day.  A friend and I had celebrated our 11/11/11 birthday together and asked people to bring a nonperishable item or cash donation in lieu of gifts.  They were preparing a meal for the homeless when we dropped the food items off.  I mailed the cash donations to another food bank on Monday.

What will you be doing to help others before the year is over?  Opportunities to buy presents for others and to give your time to organize charity events and programs abound this time of year. It’s a great way to teach your children that helping others is important if you have a family and a great way to connect with others yourself if you don’t.
This year you can start a new tradition—a holiday tradition to help others—like serving dinner at Thanksgiving to the homeless, attending an annual Christmas fundraising event or choosing a child to sponsor through Operation Christmas Child, Toys for Tots or your local church.  I’ve even seen grocery stores exhibit angel trees where you can sponsor a local child.

One of the best places to get on board the gangway to charity events is Charity Happenings.  This site has charity events around the country and throughout the year.  If you’re looking for a charity athletic event like a walk, run or ride, try FirstGiving.

Another great source for ideas of things to do is VolunteerGuide.  I particularly like this site because it breaks down ideas into three categories—a few minutes, a few hours or several days on a volunteer vacation.  Then, the ideas are separated into types of volunteering from poverty, children’s issues, animal welfare, community development and environment to health and safety.  You can choose what you want to do and how much time you have to give to it.
These are just a few resources, but there are many more.  I'd love to hear what you do to make a difference this time of year or any time.

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