Inspiration to give back to your community can come from any number of places, from a personal desire to make a difference to fulfilling a graduation requirement for community service hours. No matter the reason or the origin, chances are strong that you can make an impact.

Giving back may be as simple as writing a check to an organization that works to further a mission you care deeply about. Or it may mean paying it forward by lending a hand to put on a fundraising event in your community. Perhaps you have a skill or talent you can share with others in the name of a good cause.

If you’re committed to contributing to your community in a meaningful way, consider one of these ideas to improve the lives of those around you:

Spend Time with the Elderly

Seniors often hold wisdom, knowledge and experience that younger generations have yet to accumulate. Yet, as they age, a community’s oldest residents are often left alone. This is especially true of those from the LGBTQ community who may be living in an environment that may not as sensitive to their needs. And often residents feel they have to return to closeted living in order to feel safe. Also, these days it’s less common for family members to live near one another, so “adopting” an elderly resident down the street or at the local senior housing center is a way to help monitor his or her well-being and ensure personal ties to the community are maintained. Not only can this provide a valuable service for an elderly person and his or her family, it may bring you great personal satisfaction as you learn about the community’s history through the eyes of someone who saw it evolve firsthand. Find a service organization that caters to LGBTQ elders or arrange for seniors to visit a local SAGE chapter so they have a like-minded community in which to thrive.

Donate to Non-profits

If you’re concerned your budget doesn’t stretch far enough to make a meaningful cash contribution, there are plenty of other ways you can donate to non-profit organizations in your community. Volunteer hours or even gently used items like office furniture or supplies are often in high demand. You can even donate by helping your favorite non-profit uncover new funding opportunities.
Prepare and serve a meal to an LGBTQ youth through organizations such as Time Out Youth Center, work on events as a volunteer for Pride festivals or become part of a care team for someone with HIV/AIDS.

Another example to consider is the America’s Farmers Grow Communities program, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund. It provides farmers an opportunity to help a non-profit of their choice. Eligible farmers can enroll in the program for a chance to direct a donation to a local eligible non-profit organization. Since 2010, the program has shown a commitment to strengthening farming communities by awarding more than $29 million to nonprofits, supporting food banks, agricultural youth organizations, supplying essentials for the needy and acquiring life-saving emergency response equipment. Locally, lend a hand at a community garden which may provide seasonal produce for those in need.

You may also want to lend a hand in an area soup kitchen where your time is how you pay it forward. Simply help with meal preparation or help serve it.

And, you may want to consider investing time with an organization like ReachOUT NC that does service projects every month for the community at large.

Be a Mentor

You are likely to have your own skills that can benefit others in your community. Consider the areas where you excel and explore how your community can benefit. You might put your athletic talents to use coaching a sports team through Stonewall Sports or lend your experience as a human resources professional to an organization that helps disadvantaged individuals improve their employment opportunities. If you’re good with numbers, maybe volunteering as a financial advisor to a local non-profit board is worth considering.

Help Create Future Leaders

If the future vitality and well-being of your community is a priority, your giving may involve creating opportunities for future generations. Programs like Campus Pride, as well as a PFLAG chapter encourage youth to become the next generation of leaders. Some chapters award scholarships to support young individuals to pursue in higher education in their fields of study.

Plant Flower Beds

Making a community better isn’t always about dollars and cents. Simply making your hometown a more enjoyable place to be is a reward you can enjoy along with your neighbors. Special beautification projects such as creating and maintaining flower beds in public spaces can help create a more welcoming, friendly environment. Ones like the Raymond Lanier Memorial Park in Raleigh even remember LGBTQ community leaders and volunteers for their service. Other ideas include community cleanup initiatives and organizing groups to help with yardwork for those who are physically unable. Temple Beth El in Charlotte, N.C. has an annual event where they do “mitzvah” (good deeds) across the community by way of a variety of options for volunteers to choose, including gardening, among others. Also, gleaning is a viable option. Produce gathered can help to feed those who may otherwise go hungry.

Also, consider connecting with the work that TreesCharlotte does. By helping to plant trees across the Queen City, you contribute to the goal of having a 50 percent canope in decades to come.

Get Involved in Schools

Nearly every school district can benefit from added resources to support youth education. You may be able to help your school secure funding for a special initiative through a program such as America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, which allows farmers to nominate local public school districts to compete for merit-based STEM grants. Other options could be working through LGBTQ youth or granting organizations to fund welcoming, equitable programming for LGBTQ youth.

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Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.