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Aug 24, 2017

Creating Charitable Habits

By Byron Ellis

I am a big advocate for supporting great causes. My daughter lives out this belief daily—a junior in college, she spends her afternoons serving at a nonprofit for underprivileged children in Waco. She tells us stories about her experiences, speaking about the kids like they are her own. She reminds me that we must care deeply for others and do our best to meet the needs of those less fortunate. But how? We don’t all have free hours to spend or excess cash laying around to donate, so what can we do?

Charitable organizations have more needs than you might think. Sure, they’ll always appreciate a check, but what other resources do they need? If you’re looking to make a donation, consider doing a bit of research to find out what items the nonprofit needs. An organization focused on children might need clothing, school supplies, or playground equipment. A food pantry might need containers to store materials in or even a vehicle to transport supplies. A homeless shelter might need books and board games. Get in contact with staff and find out what you can do to help. You might even be able to meet some of their needs with everyday items you already own.

I suggest sitting down with your family to make a plan to serve together. Serving alongside your kids is important, so make sure to include them in the conversation. Discuss what each person is interested in and find causes with values that match yours. Some organizations have streamlined goals, while others are broader—for example, the organization at which my daughter serves is primarily an after-school program, but also feeds hungry children, teaches weekly Bible studies, and pro

vides educational classes and college planning services. Aligning yourself with nonprofits that have similar values to you will not only increase your motivation to serve, it will also encourage you to maximize time spent there because you’re truly invested in what you are doing. We all have strengths and weaknesses, so take the time to figure out where yours can be the most helpful to others.

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Every holiday season, charitable giving spikes. Serving during these times is wonderful, but try to find additional opportunities to donate your time or resources. For example, your seasonal closet or garage cleanout can easily become a donation opportunity. If you have regularly scheduled times with nothing on the calendar, consider becoming a weekly volunteer at an organization in your neighborhood. When you’re at the store stocking up on groceries, grab a few extra canned food items to bring by a food pantry or shelter. Even sharing nonprofits’ social media pages can have an impact, as spreading awareness is the first step to solving a problem. Creating small habits like these can have a monumental impact on others’ lives.

There is need everywhere. With a little bit of research, you can start to create simple habits that can help others meet these needs. Showing compassion to others isn’t hard to do, and we’re all capable of giving in some capacity. I encourage you to find opportunities to serve and make a difference in the lives of those around you.

This blog post originally appeared in The Courier of Montgomery County.

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