Lend a hand—49 things you can do to make a difference


For those who continue to rant about things over which you have no control, I would suggest getting out in your community and volunteering.

Scott #2039 VoluntarismMy life has been full of volunteerism, so much so that too often I let the unpaid volunteer job interfere with the paid professional job. I started with Key Club in high school, then Alpha Phi Omega National Co-ed Service Fraternity at Texas A&M University, and then to Red Cross, American Heart Association, Special Olympics, Muscular Dystrophy Association, and many, many others.

Following are 50 things you can do to help the world. I have done them all at some point in my life. Don’t let your ego get in the way of contributing to your neighborhood and city. Keep in mind that businesses have liability concerns, so the type of services that you’re allowed to volunteer for might be limited in some circumstances.

  1. Scott #1788 Special OlympicsPick a charity and volunteer or donate. Even big charities depend heavily on volunteers and donations, charities such as American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, AmeriCorps, 4-H, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Red Cross, Special Olympics, United Way.
  2. Volunteer at 1-800-Volunteer.org or Volunteers of America.
  3. Adopt a block in your neighborhood. Pick up the trash and pull the weeds growing in the sidewalk cracks.
  4. Scott #1425 Blood DonorVolunteer at your local blood bank or give blood. I’m a 10-gallon blood donor. It would be more but blood centers still discriminate against gay people, and I refuse to lie to them or go back in the closet in order to donate.
  5. Take a group of neighborhood children some place that’s free. Many of our museums here in San Diego are free on the first Tuesday of each month…. Or have a children’s hour. You can play games, tell stories, read books….
  6. Be a tutor for youth in your neighborhood.
  7. Scott #4454 Adopt a shelter petVolunteer at your local animal shelter, donate to the ASPCA, adopt a pet from the animal shelter, or be a foster home for a pet in need.
  8. Go to your favorite small business and ask if they can use your help for an hour. It might just be sweeping the floor, cleaning the windows, or taking out the trash, but what you do will free up their employees to help their customers.
  9. Clean your home and donate things that you haven’t used in six months to charitable organizations…. or have a neighborhood yard sale and donate the money to charitable organizations.
  10. Scott #2162 Big Brothers & Big SistersVolunteer with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Boy Scouts, or Girl Scouts.
  11. Volunteer at your local library, museum, park, school, or church.
  12. Volunteer at your public television station.
  13. Whatever your area of expertise, offer a seminar on that topic for your neighbors.
  14. Get a group of four or five people together and go throughout your neighborhood doing minor tasks for home owners, like painting the house or fence, or trimming trees and pulling weeds.
  15. Jacaranda in San Diego, CaliforniaPlant a tree or flower…. on someone else’s property!
  16. Volunteer at a Battered Women and Children facility, a homeless shelter, or a soup kitchen.
  17. Volunteer at an HIV/AIDS facility.
  18. Volunteer at a crisis counseling or cancer support facility.
  19. Volunteer for Meals on Wheels.
  20. Volunteer for your local disability services or an adult day care facility.
  21. Scott #2160 YMCA Youth CampingVolunteer at your YMCA or YWCA.
  22. Volunteer at a substance abuse facility or a troubled youth support center.
  23. Volunteer at a justice and legal support center.
  24. Volunteer at a Jewish or a Gay & Lesbian community center.
  25. Volunteer at a job fair.
  26. Volunteer at your local political party headquarters, a politician’s office, or a political action committee.
  27. Scott #1440 Historic PreservationVolunteer at your local historical society.
  28. Volunteer at your local police or fire department.
  29. Volunteer at an assisted living residence. Find out who’s the oldest person in your city or neighborhood. Interview that person about his or her life, type it up, and donate it to your local historical society or library.
  30. Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.
  31. Volunteer at the court house.
  32. Volunteer at your local community college.
  33. Scott #3159 Arthur FiedlerVolunteer with your opera or symphony society.
  34. Take part in medical research if available in your community.
  35. Volunteer at a mental health facility.
  36. Volunteer with your local fitness council.
  37. Sponsor a high school club or organization.
  38. Volunteer with Path of Life Ministries or your local Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
  39. Be a reader for recording books for the blind and dyslexic.
  40. Volunteer with Ronald McDonald House or Planned Parenthood.
  41. Teach a course at your local home improvement store or community college.
  42. Volunteer at your city’s visitor’s bureau.
  43. Volunteer at your local food bank or thrift store.
  44. Volunteer with your local animal rescue organization.
  45. Scott #2015 America's LibrariesCheck out a book from your local library. Many library budgets are based on library usage.
  46. Volunteer with your local Better Business Bureau.
  47. Dine out at a small mom & pop restaurant. It helps the economy by creating or supporting jobs.
  48. Volunteer with your local Audubon Society.
  49. Volunteer with Junior Achievement.

Some of those might require you to get out of your comfort zone. That’s their purpose! Especially in communities that appear homogeneous, there are people who feel out of place or are otherwise depressed. By being active in your community, you just might be able to “friend” that person and prevent depression, grief, and even death, even though you might never know it.

Kay Hairgrove KrenekToday’s post is dedicated to a long-time friend by the name of Kay Hairgrove Krenek. Kay was a member of Alpha Phi Omega at Texas Tech University; I met her in 1978. She is married to Wilfred Krenek, another long-time friend, whom I met in 1976. Wilfred was a member of Alpha Phi Omega at the University of Texas and is a past National President of Alpha Phi Omega. How three people from arch-rival schools got together is beyond me…. Wait! Alpha Phi Omega!

Alpha Phi OmegaEach year for the Fall pledge classes nationwide, Alpha Phi Omega chooses a distinguished member and names the Fall pledge classes after that person. The Fall 2014 pledge classes have been named the Kay Krenek Fall 2014 National Pledge Class. Kay has a Facebook page to keep in touch with all the pledge classes nationwide, but anyone can like it, so if you feel so inclined, go like it.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

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17 thoughts on “Lend a hand—49 things you can do to make a difference

  1. colltales

    I always found that volunteering is not a favor one does to his or her community, but a sort of pay back for having the availability to do it. Which means that one can never do too much of it. Curiously, it’s exactly those who have the tightest work schedules the ones who find time to give something in return. You not just gave me some fresh ideas I hadn’t thought about before, but also the encouragement many may need to go ahead and do their part too. Thanks, Russel.


  2. Bookgirl

    Without volunteers society would crumble. Excellent ideas, some new ones I hadn’t thought of. To the post above my children’s schools have compulsory volunteering and they can also participate in the Duke of Edinburgh Award , which is an excellent initiative.


    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      I think every school should have compulsory volunteering. I found out as I was doing this post that Julian’s high school, a Charter school, has compulsory volunteering. I had not heard of such before in the United States.


  3. Hollis Hildebrand-Mills

    Great post, Russel Ray! I am sure Zoey does her/his fair share of volunteering! 🙂 Looks like a very social change oriented cat! Seriously, I need to do something for someone also. I also agree that it is a form of giving back. Because of all the blessing I have been given! Thank you for posting the ideas for people to use as a spring board!

    Liked by 1 person

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