How to Make a Positive Impact in Your Community
Have you ever wondered how to make a difference in your community? Every community has unmet needs, and these needs provide an opportunity for you to share God’s love and enact practical solutions that are a blessing to your neighbors. 1 Peter 4:10 tells us, “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” We’re going to look at 15 ways you can use your finances, time and talents to make a positive impact on the community around you.
1. Build Relationships With Your Neighbors
One of the most powerful ways you can begin to have an impact on your community is by getting to know the other people in your community and building relationships with them. According to the Pew Research Center, most Americans say they only know some of their neighbors, with younger adults being more likely to know fewer of their neighbors compared to older adults. Almost a quarter of adults under 30 say they don’t know any of their neighbors at all.
To build a strong community, you need to know your neighbors. So, make an effort to meet and chat with neighbors whenever you can. Try planning an event like a block party, neighborhood cookout or holiday cookie swap to get to know your neighbors better. Then, look for ways to follow Christ’s commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. Shovel their driveway, water their plants while they’re on vacation or simply spend time with them.
2. Take a Meal to a Neighbor or Friend in Need
A great way to show love to your neighbors and friends in your community is to take them a meal. There are times in life when cooking can be crowded out by other responsibilities, like caring for a new baby, or when unfortunate circumstances, such as a death in the family or an illness, prevent you from cooking.
At these different seasons in life, we can bless our friends and neighbors by lifting the burden of cooking. A meal is a tangible way of expressing your love. Just make sure you find out whether there are any allergies you need to factor in. If you feel out of your element cooking, don’t worry. A certificate for a food delivery service can be just as much of a blessing and makes a positive impact.
3. Patronize Local Businesses
Small businesses comprise the vast majority of the American economic landscape, and many of these small businesses are local, family-owned companies. In fact, family-owned businesses contribute well over half of the GDP and employ 63% of the American workforce. Your community undoubtedly has small, family-owned companies that add a unique touch to your town and employ community members.
As many towns see more and more mom-and-pop shops close down, it can be easy to lose hope for local businesses, but you can do your part to maintain this critical aspect of your hometown and the nation as a whole by patronizing local businesses. Before you stop into the big-box store or chain restaurant, why not check out some of the companies that are unique to your town? When you spend your money at local establishments, you can enhance your community’s economy.
4. Donate Supplies to a Local Classroom
Due to school budgetary restrictions, teachers often end up spending their own hard-earned money to buy supplies for their classrooms. A staggering 94% of teachers report having spent their own money on school supplies without getting reimbursed. Teachers make these sacrifices so they can help education come alive for their students.
One of the best ways to have a positive impact on your community is to invest in your local schools. Some teachers will reach out for assistance through the hashtag #clearthelists or donation sites, but you can also purchase supplies and drop them off at your local school, knowing they will be put to good use educating young minds in your community.
5. Visit Seniors at Your Local Nursing Home
Loneliness is a serious problem among senior adults. Many nursing home residents go long periods without any visitors, but you can change that for senior members of your community. Set aside time to visit people at a senior care facility in your community. Consider bringing your children or a pet along with you, as long as you get approval from management, to help brighten the residents’ day.
Just sitting and talking with people can make a world of difference, but you can also use your unique talents to spread joy. Bring in homemade baked goods, give free makeovers or hand out knitted socks. However you choose to show love, caring for elderly adults is an often overlooked and yet important way to contribute to your community.
6. Clean up Litter in Your Community
When you’re wondering what to do to make a difference in your town, look around and see whether your community is affected by litter. Do bits of trash collect around parking lots, in parks, along the side of the road or on the sidewalk? Litter is harmful to the environment, and it can detract from your sense of pride in your community.
You can do your part to address this problem by going to a local park or another area and cleaning up all the trash you see, being careful to recycle whatever you can. You can also organize a neighborhood cleanup, which involves gathering people together to make a concerted effort to clean up your community. An event like this can bring people in the community together, as well as leave your town more attractive.
7. Restore a Historic Landmark or Building
Have you ever noticed a beautiful historic building in your community that has fallen into disrepair or sits empty? What about a local landmark, such as a statue or monument, that is unkempt? Even historical markers can become dirty or obscured by plants over time. A community’s rich history tends to be a significant part of its current community pride, so these historical buildings and landmarks should be celebrated rather than forgotten.
See if you can get other community members together to clean up landmarks and historical placards or, for a bigger project, to restore a historic building in your town. Rehabilitated historic homes and public buildings can be turned into community centers or event halls so your community can continue to enjoy them for years to come.
8. Start a Community Garden
The very first humans were gardeners, so it’s no wonder that people today often feel a wonderful sense of purpose and peace when they tend to a garden. Gardening doesn’t need to be an independent activity, though. Community gardens are an excellent way to grow fruits and vegetables alongside your fellow community members and make a tremendously positive impact.
In addition to providing a way to come together with your neighbors, community gardens are proven to have health benefits, with community gardeners being far more likely to consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables compared to home gardeners or non-gardeners. With such great benefits, why not start a community garden in your town?
9. Participate in Local Fundraisers
Fundraisers are a common part of community life. Many fundraisers help local youth participate in meaningful and fun activities. Whether it’s middle schoolers selling candy bars to fund a field trip, a local scout troop selling cookies, or a youth sports team hosting a car wash, you can invest in the youth of your community by pulling out your wallet and saying yes to these kids.
You can also give to fundraisers that raise money for causes like medical research or funding nonprofits in your area. If you’re limited in how much you can give financially, see how you can give your time to help organize these fundraising events, and encourage your friends and coworkers to participate in the fundraiser, as well.
10. Attend Townhalls and Other Meetings
When you want to know how to help your community, look for already established channels you can use to learn more about the needs and issues in your community so you can do your part to enact positive change. Townhall meetings and other public forums can provide the perfect opportunity to hear from your fellow community members and to voice your concerns to local and even national politicians.
A majority of Americans believe getting involved in local issues is more important than acting on a national level. Even so, many people watch and read national news and are prone to overlook their local politics and the issues that affect their community in particular. Start getting involved on a local level, and learn how to make a difference in your neighborhood in particular.
11. Donate to Your Closest Animal Shelter
You can count on the fact that humane societies and animal rescues in your community are always in need of finances and items to help care for the many animals that come through their doors. Giving financially is one of the best ways you can help these nonprofit organizations continue caring for animals in need and finding adoptive families.
You can also donate items to help meet animal shelters’ material needs. Pick up some bags of dog and cat food, toys, leashes and cleaning supplies. Even items you already have in your home, such as old blankets, can be helpful for animal shelters. If you have room in your home and heart, also consider fostering or adopting a pet from a local shelter.
12. Coach a Youth Sports Team
Youth sports tend to be an integral part of community culture in the U.S., and they provide a fun way for families to come together and enjoy a sense of comradery. Sports can also teach kids valuable lessons about teamwork, self-discipline and working through failure. Sports coaches also play a meaningful role for kids, serving as a role model and a motivator.
If you know of coaching needs in your community, why not step up to the plate and volunteer your time? Especially when it comes to younger teams, you don’t need to be a pro. Anyone can learn the rules of the game and help guide kids to do their best. If you’re not comfortable coaching, ask others you know who are passionate about the sport so your community can provide the opportunity for kids to get involved in a fun, educational activity.
13. Donate Food Items to a Food Pantry
It’s likely that more people in your community struggle with hunger than you realize. With well over 15,000 food pantries across the U.S., there are plenty of ways you can help. Go to the grocery store and fill your cart with nutritious items that will last. This includes things like canned chicken and tuna, canned fruit and vegetables, applesauce, crackers, nuts, rice, granola bars and more.
In addition to food pantries, you can also donate these items to soup kitchens and other organizations in your area dedicated to fighting hunger. You may also want to volunteer your time to help prepare and serve food to these community members in need. The Bible speaks repeatedly of feeding the hungry as a practical way of sharing God’s love with those in need, so make this a priority for you and your family.
14. Volunteer Your Time With a Youth Organization
One of the ways to contribute to your community is to volunteer. Many nonprofit organizations are aimed at educating and engaging youth so they can develop into productive citizens and lead fulfilling lives. These organizations may be intended to impart kids with practical life skills, help them stay physically active or pair them with positive adult role models. If there are youth organizations with chapters in your hometown, see how you can volunteer your time to invest in the lives of local kids.
Can you serve as a positive role model or share your talents and skills to help them learn something new? If you don’t have time for an ongoing commitment, try organizing a fun event for the youth at your local church or school. Even if you don’t have children of your own, you can still play an essential role in bringing up children all around you.
15. Donate to Charities Who Empower Communities
There are many national and global charities you can give to, so it can be hard to choose which organizations to prioritize. We recommend looking for charities focused on empowering communities to find long-term solutions rather than short-term fixes. Also look for faith-based organizations that will share the eternal hope of Christ with people.
At Catholic World Mission, we understand that every community has its own unique needs. That’s why we listen to community members and allow them to take ownership of the projects we undertake to help create positive change for their community. In addition to helping meet practical needs, we also prioritize sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone we serve.
Make a Positive Change
We’ve looked at many ideas for how to have a positive impact on your community. When you’re motivated to share God’s love with those around you and enact change that will make your community a better place to live, work and play, you’ll discover many more ways you can do just that.
Remember, you’re not the only one who desires to make a difference. Pay attention to the positive impact examples around you and see how you can join in the efforts of others to create a positive ripple effect. Whatever your community’s needs, by giving your time, energy or finances to providing solutions, you can truly live out Christ’s calling to love your neighbor.
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Deacon Rick Medina is the Executive Director of Catholic World Mission and oversees the management of all of Catholic World Mission's projects in over 35 countries. He was ordained a deacon of the archdiocese of Atlanta in 2013. He currently serves at All Saints Catholic Church in Dunwoody, Georgia, and is active in several ministries, including RCIA, baptism preparation, Life Teen, Altar Server group, Grief Share, and Adult Faith Formation.