You’d like to be generous, but don’t have any money. You’d love to save the children in Mexico, build a school in India, drill water wells in Ethiopia, sponsor a widow in Sri Lanka and put shoes on all the orphans in Somalia.

However, you’ve got $27 in the bank and the rent’s due next Friday.

So, what can you do? Here are six ideas:

1. Volunteer your time!

You’ll be surprised the response you’ll get if you ask your church whether they need anybody to do any volunteer work. More than likely they have a long list of needs – ranging from somebody to sort and file the last 20 years of Sunday school and Vacation Bible School materials – to somebody who would paint the steeple, caulk the baptistery, teach the Golden Agers class, help drive the seventh graders to weekend events or “adopt” the church kitchen, agreeing to clean it up once a week.

Don’t have a church? Then call up one of these and ask if they need volunteers:
               The Salvation Army
               Goodwill Industries
               Your local food bank
               Your local animal shelter
               Your local nursing home
               Your local hospital
               The YMCA or Boys & Girls Club
               Your city’s park & recreation department

You may be astonished at the needs.

2. Donate your hair!

If you have an extra 10 inches of healthy hair, you can donate it to a number of organizations that will make it into wigs for people who have lost their own hair. Lots of people lose their hair due to cancer treatments, alopecia, burns and others – but don’t have extra money to buy a wig.

That’s where you come in. It doesn’t cost a thing to grow your hair.

There’s been a lot of publicity over the past few years related to hair donation, including Hillary Swank’s highly public haircut on Oprah.

Before you take the plunge and donate your hair, however, make sure you do your homework in choosing a charity, take great care of your hair and have lots of patience! Hair only grows about half an inch a month, so it takes a while to get those 8-to-12 inches needed to donate.

3. Dig out your old cellphones!

Somewhere in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan are soldiers who want nothing more than to make a phone call to their loved ones. The value of a phone is immeasurable. Check out Cell Phones for Soldiers .

However, it’s not the only such charity.

Discarded cell phones account for nearly 65,000 tons of toxic waste each year. Cell phone recycling is critical because each improperly disposed cell phone can pollute up to 132,000 liters of water.

More than 500 million unwanted cell phones are either awaiting disposal in the home, or seeping hazardous lead, mercury, cadmium, brominated flame retardants, and arsenic into the environment. And with new features available every year, a cell phone’s average life is now less than 18 months, adding more than 140 million cell phones (and their batteries) to our landfills each year. That’s 2.5 million toxic mobile phones dumped each week. Because the United States has yet to establish federal regulations requiring mobile phone recycling, only about 10 percent of cell phones are currently being donated or recycled.

The good news is that mobile phone manufacturers have recognized the need for cell phone recycling, stepping up their efforts to stop this enormous threat to the environment. National mobile phone carriers have instigated mobile phone recycling take-back plans, accepting unwanted cell phones at any of their retail locations nationwide.

Even without a wireless service plan, donated cell phones are reusable because any working mobile phone can dial a 911 call center (an FCC requirement). As a result, recycled cell phones can be used as emergency lifelines for:

           • senior centers
           • senior citizens living alone, vulnerable to accidents
           • people with disabilities and limited incomes

Recycled cell phones are also an important emergency link for women’s shelters. Donated cell phones could save a life by enabling victims of domestic violence with instant access to emergency services.

4. Clean out your closet!

Donate all those clothes you never wear to charity. Who will take them? Most hospitals have thrift shops these days. There’s always the Salvation Army, Disabled American Veterans, the SPCA and Goodwill Industries. Get out your phone book and look up local thrift shops. Pick one that benefits a charity you support.

Clothing donations are needed by many of the 600,000 homeless families in the United States. But the need doesn’t end there: more than 28 million children living in low-income families and their parents could also benefit from donated clothes.

Clothing donations to qualified charitable organizations are tax deductible. For tax deduction purposes, the Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries publish guidelines for the valuation of donated items, including clothing and shoes.

What do they need?

           • School clothes
           • coats
           • cold-weather accessories (gloves, mittens, scarves)
           • professional clothing for employment interviews
           • shoes

Donated clothes are critical for mothers and young children who must flee their homes because of domestic violence or abuse. Often these women and children leave under dangerous circumstances with only the clothes on their backs.

Clothes donations are also especially needed by homeless veterans.

5. Drop by a nursing home.

You don’t need to sign up to be a regular volunteer. Most nursing homes have residents who have nobody other than staff who cares about them – literally. It is the rare center that doesn’t have at least one or two residents who haven’t had a visit in months or even years.

Some have no living family – or their relatives live far away or are just as incapacitated as they are and cannot visit.

Many feel isolated and excluded. Even those with serious memory loss or cognitive limitations still enjoy a visit – even if they don’t remember it later. Elementary-aged children, especially those in fourth to seventh grades, are especially effective with nursing home residents.

So your assignment? Just sit with somebody who hasn’t had a visitor in a while. You will be astonished at how some of these folks will talk your ear off. They just need somebody to listen to them. Just listen. Receive.

6. Sell stuff on eBay

Find cool stuff in your garage that you don’t need anymore. Put it on Craig’s List or eBay, then donate the proceeds to a worthy charity.

As you drop off your cash donation, ask the charity if they’d be interested in your selling donated stuff they receive.

Charities with thrift shops often are delighted to find a skilled computer volunteer who will list their stuff. After all, why should they sell that antique set of collectible Waterford crystal goblets for $1 each when you can get $150 for the full set on eBay?

If you are an experienced eBay seller, you have no idea how valuable your expertise is to such charities. You may think your time on eBay was a lark. However, you know the little tricks, such as how to include photos, how to time sales, whether to set a reserve price or start the sale at 99 cents.

You’ve been there. You are valuable.

Helping others will help you

A recent Do Good Live Well Survey, released by United Healthcare and Volunteer Match, surveyed 4,500 American adults – and found that 41 percent of Americans volunteered an average of 100 hours a year while 68 percent of those who volunteered in the last year reported that volunteering made them feel physically healthier. In addition:

               • 89% reported that “volunteering has improved my sense of well-bring”
               • 73% agreed that “volunteering lowered my stress levels”
               • 92% agreed that “volunteering enriched my sense of purpose in life”
               • 72% characterized themselves as “optimistic” compared to 60% of non-volunteers
               • 42% of volunteers reported a “very good” sense of meaning in their lives, compared with 28% of non-volunteers

A chance to give back

Helping others will give you an opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives. How wonderful to use your skills and experience to help and enrich your local community.

After all, we are all so blessed. What a blessing to be able to give something back!

more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad