Caring for your community: Three ways to give back year-round
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Dec 11, 2013 | 17212 views | 0 0 comments | 72 72 recommendations | email to a friend | print
(BPT) - Do you think your family should get involved in volunteer efforts, but you don't know how to get started? Whether you choose to be active in your community on a weekly basis or dedicate holidays to helping out, it's never too late to begin giving something back, and there are many ways to make a difference on a local and national level.

Make local volunteering a new family tradition

Over the past few years, the national volunteer rate has risen to more than one in four adults or 64.3 million Americans devoting their time through a formal organization.

Volunteering is an excellent way to network and can provide opportunities to develop skills.

People looking for volunteer opportunities need to look no further than www.volunteermatch.org, which connects organizations with volunteers to help fill needs from soup kitchens to animal shelters.

Robert Rosenthal, vice president of communications for volunteermatch.org, says thousands of organizations are looking for volunteers. The website hosts a groundbreaking internal search engine to help people, and even entire families, find the perfect place to volunteer. You can filter search results to include opportunities that are located nearby and that embrace your values. 'If you can, it's also great to choose a cause your children already care about, like animals or their local park,' says Rosenthal.

Select brands that reinforce your values

You can also make a difference by selecting brands that are giving back in some way. Beginning with one child's wish in 1997, Things Remembered, the leading national retailer of personalized gifts, launched a Make-A-Wish line of ornaments and products to continue to help other wish children replace fear with hope as they battle their life-threatening conditions.

For 17 years, the personalization retailer has offered customers the opportunity to support Make-A-Wish, especially during the holiday season. With more than $6.4 million raised and 850 wishes granted, Things Remembered continues its commitment to helping wish kids and their families by donating $2 from every item sold from the Make-A-Wish gift line every holiday season. This donation helps Make-A-Wish grant wishes to children with life threatening medical conditions.

'People make our Make-A-Wish ornaments a real priority during the holidays as a way to celebrate their families and traditions and also to make a difference to children across the country,' says Amy Myers, vice president of creative services for Things Remembered.

Myers said the Things Remembered Make-A-Wish program is a way for people to feel good and do good when they shop for holiday gifts.

'I don't think the importance of the cause is lost on anyone,' she says. 'Traditions are important. Year after year, as people add to their Make-A-Wish ornament collection, they know that their engraved ornaments go beyond their own Christmas tree.'

Serve those who are serving us

One of the most heroic acts one may do in life is to join the military. Whether currently serving or a veteran, these individuals - and their families - make a tremendous sacrifice for our country and deserve our support during their time of service and in the years that follow. Consider paying homage to the service men and women in your community on Memorial Day and Veteran's Day but also throughout the year. From gathering monetary resources to sending cards to troops overseas, there are many ways to help.

Consider participating in the Tough Mudder, an international 10- to 12-mile obstacle course challenge, which proudly supports disabled veterans through the Wounded Warrior Project. With events such as the Berlin Wall or running the Mud Mile, Tough Mudder participants have raised more than $3 million.

If unable to help out through monetary means, there are other ways to get involved with organizations. One such group called Homes for Our Troops utilizes help from volunteers to build homes or adapt existing homes for injured veterans and their families.

Regardless of whether you make a family tradition out of volunteering in your local community, supporting retailers who are giving back, or helping to build a home for a military family, one thing is certain, any time of year is a great opportunity to teach your family the importance of helping those in need.

Copyright 2013 The Times-Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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