I recently bought my first pair of TOMS Shoes. I have read a bit about the company over the years and thought it sounded like a simple way to do something nice: buy a pair of ugly-cute shoes so a child in Haiti or Rwanda or another impoverished country can also have one. I like things, and I am fortunate to be able to buy the things I like. But I’m embarrassed to admit I usually don’t give it much thought, how lucky I am to have access to just about anything my heart desires. So when I stop to think that 884 million people in the world don’t have access to safe water supplies, or that 40 percent of children in the United States live in low-income households, or that there are approximately 25,000 homeless schoolchildren in Arizona, it’s hard to not feel incredibly overwhelmed by it all. Our world is full of suffering, a sad fact made acutely more painful when you consider that much of this suffering affects innocent children.
But millions of people work tirelessly each day to try to improve the lives of those who face such unimaginable hardships. I have such respect for those who have dedicated their lives to helping others. One of my 2011 resolutions is to get back into volunteering in my community, something I used to enjoy but didn’t have much time for while I was in school and working full-time. VolunteerMatch.org is a great resource for potential volunteers to find organizations who could use their help in a variety of different areas.
But even if you don’t have much time to volunteer or much money to make a charitable donation, there are a number of easy ways we can all help out right here in Arizona:
– Drop off your old sneakers at one of the four Nike store locations in Arizona so they can be ground down into surfaces for new basketball and tennis courts, tracks and playgrounds.
– Round up all those hotel toiletries you’ve collected during your travels (you know you have a million) and create a care package following the Shoebox Recipe provided by Shoebox Ministry, a Scottsdale-based organization that provides hygiene kits for Phoenix’s homeless and working poor.
– Drop off your old work clothes at the Arizona Women’s Education and Employment Center in Central Phoenix to provide women who are seeking employment with professional clothing to wear to interviews and on the job.
– Support a local classroom project that needs funding through Donorschoose.org. Even the smallest donations count!
– Register for a walk, ride or run for charity. You can find one in your neck of the woods nearly every weekend in Arizona (except, maybe, in the dead of summer). Visit GetSetAZ.com for a complete list of events, then search for one whose proceeds support a charity of interest to you.
– Support your local community by shopping and eating at local businesses. Did you know that for every $100 you spend at a locally owned business, $73 stays in Arizona, compared to $43 when buy goods at a non-local business? Our economy desperately needs the help right now. Visit Local First Arizona for a list of businesses.
– Help a homeless pet by adding an extra $1 or so to your next purchase or buying an extra bag of food at PetSmart. PetSmart Charities Adoption Centers have helped save 4 million homeless pets.
– Buy an adorable bauble from altruette and see 50% of your purchase go to buy a book for an underprivileged child, save an elephant in Africa, support artisans and entrepreneurs in developing nations or help a refugee find a safe, new home.
What are some other ways we can help out in our community? Please share your wisdom by commenting on this post.