Ways To Give Back Right Now

Volunteering gives us a renewed sense of confidence in the kindness of human beings. And a warm feeling that when we unite, we’re capable of many great things.

However, so often we are plagued by our busy schedules, our commitments, and our daily routines, that finding the time to volunteer is lost in the inevitable chaos of life.

But how can we let this happen? How can we push something to the side that is guaranteed to make us feel good about ourselves? This list intends to provide ideas of ways to give back to your community and make a difference, without disrupting your schedule or taking away from any prior engagements.

1. Donate unused airline miles.

You don’t need to leave the house to change someone’s life forever. So many of us go through our lives carrying around unused airline miles, or gift cards, or credits of some kind or another. You can donate these to an organization like Make A Wish, and truly change the life of someone else by making their dream come true. What could be more rewarding than that?

2. Send a card to a service member.

A Million Thanks provides support and appreciation to our active and veteran military men and women through sending letters and granting betterment of life wishes, as well as providing higher education scholarships to their children. Imagine the positive impact you could have on their day or mood from a simple thank you card. Feeling appreciated is a feeling that can go a really long way, so spread the love!

3. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth.

This one is easy enough, right? By simply turning off the water while you brush instead of letting it run, you are making a difference. You are helping to conserve our valuable water and reducing your carbon footprint. And if you decide that you want to take this a step farther, tell your friends, family, and co workers to do the same!

4. Leave a happy note.

Spread a little kindness by making and leaving little notes for someone else to find.  The notes can be for members of your family, neighbors, or even random strangers. This is a fun one to do with kids because age doesn’t matter! Younger children can participate by drawing on the notes while older children can come up with the sayings. This would be a great way to cheer up someone in your own family who could use a little kindness too.  Think of how fun it would be to walk into the bathroom to brush your teeth and see a bunch of Happy Notes!

5. Invest in a small business.

Organizations like KIVA lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world. By just giving a few minutes of your time and the click of your mouse, you have the power to provide resources to a business in need. There are millions of organizations and apps like KIVA that allow you to donate by simply clicking. To learn about more of these organizations, click here.

6. Tweet for a non-profit.

Sending a tweet takes literally a few seconds, but the impact of your tweet could last a lot longer than that. By directing attention to the nonprofit of your choice, by raising awareness, by sending people to their website, you are supporting their mission and enabling room for growth. And all this from just one tweet! So get tweeting!

7. Plant a tree.

Leave the world in better condition than it was when you found it. Planting a tree is not only good for the environment, it will also help beautify your community. By planting a tree, you are setting a good example for other members of your community who could be inspired by your generous act, and continue to plant trees of their own.

8. Smile at a stranger.

You can make someone’s day by sending them a friendly smile. Too often, we go through an entire day without seeing a single smile, and this shouldn’t be the case! Spread the smile

9. Take over dinner to an exhausted, overwhelmed momma.

Write her a note about how you notice how hard she is working and what a fantastic job she is doing raising those angels.

Relay For Life


The American Cancer Society is one of the biggest contributors in the world to finding a cure for cancer. Relay for Life is their biggest community based fundraising event, which is held in over 5,000 locations worldwide each year. It is an organized, overnight community fundraising walk. Everyone joins a team and camps out around the track. Team members take turns walking around the track for a total of 24 hours. Food, games and activities are provided for entertainment.

Australia, Ireland, Japan, South Africa and Malaysia are some of the other countries that host events in addition to the United States. The mission for these events is to raise funds to improve cancer survival rates, decrease the incidence of cancer, and improve the quality of life for cancer patients and their caretakers. A volunteer committee undertakes the majority, if not all, of the planning for each event.

There are three important features to a Relay for Life event: the survivor dinner and lap, the luminaria ceremony, and the fight back ceremony.

The Survivor Dinner & Lap

A cancer survivor, according to the American Cancer Society, is anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer. All survivors and their caretakers are invited to a catered dinner prior to the event that is donated by a local restaurant and served by volunteers. After the dinner all survivors and their caretakers head out to the track to begin the event. The members of the community surround the survivors at the starting line to show their support and the survivors make the first lap to start off the event.

The Luminaria Ceremony

At every event, participants remember those that have lost their battle to cancer and celebrate the survivors. However, while this ceremony honors both, it is targeted towards remembering those lost. You purchase a bag, write the person’s name that you are honoring on it and decorate however you want. A candle is placed inside the bag and lit when the ceremony is about to begin. The bags line the track and sometimes, if there are enough, are used to spell out a word, such as HOPE.

The Fight Back Ceremony

Towards the end of the event the Fight Back Ceremony takes place. Oftentimes an American Cancer Society representative will speak at this point in the event. At this time participants pledge to take action and spread awareness of cancer research, treatments, and prevention.
To learn more about the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life visit relayforlife.org.

Volunteer Abroad: Programs to Consider

So many of us are hit with the travel bug these days, and why not act on it? There are tons of beautiful places to discover around the world – from the African Sahara to the rainf
orests of Costa Rica. And with the ability to travel anywhere far and wide, we should act on it – but why not travel with a purpose? Volunteering abroad is a great way to learn about different cultures in the country you’re visiting, and it gives you a chance to help people who live in the community. Here are a few great programs to consider when volunteering abroad:

Melissa Keroack Costa RicaIVHQ: Costa Rica

First is IVHQ, which has dozens of partner organizations in Costa Rica and are always on the hunt for dedicated volunteers. The best part about these programs is that they’re very affordable – around $300 each! You can choose from a variety of fields that spark your interest, including teaching, construction, and environmental preservation. Another plus about this program is that you can take discounted SPanish lessons and you have the opportunity to sign up for a program that lasts either 1 week, or 24 weeks. There’s no better way to learn about the beauty of Costa Rica and its people than through IVHQ’s volunteer programs.

African Impact: South Africa

South Africa is also home to a multitude of volunteer programs. African Impact is leaMelissa Keroack South Africading volunteer organization that hosts diverse community projects, some of which include: HIV/Aids awareness, sports development, health care, and orphan care. As a volunteer with African Impact you can also contribute to the conservation of Africa’s wildlife through various research and conservation projects. These projects include: the study of the Great White Shark, Cheetah rehabilitation, and various volunteer opportunities and animal shelters. South Africa is home to some of the most beautiful scenery, loving people, and magnificent wildlife that you can become involved with by volunteering abroad.

Melissa Keroack ThailandVolunteering Solutions Programs: Thailand

Another great volunteer program takes places in Thailand and is called the Volunteering Solutions Programs, which offers programs in many of Thailand’s cities, including: Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Koh Samui, and Surin. Volunteers can get involved with elephant conservation, teaching children in schools and orphanages, and working in health care. With beautiful beaches, ancient temples, and delicious food, it’s no wonder Thailand is such a popular travel destination. And you can make it your next one by signing up with the Volunteering Solutions Programs – you’ll be sure to find a program that meets all your interests and travel expectations.

For more information on various volunteering programs abroad, please visit GoOverseas.com where you can read about a wide range of both traveling and volunteer opportunities.


Academics & Community Service: A Positive Relationship

Throughout the years, there have been many studies that prove community service and academic success have a positive relationship with each other. Despite the more obvious benefits of community service, such as helping those in need and raising money for specific charity events and philanthropic causes, the increase in students who show improvement or impressive statistics within their academic career is uncanny.

Melissa KeroackAn article published by the University of Michigan notes that students involved in volunteerism are the ones that need and receive the most gain. According to the article, “Community service provides the critical missing link for many students, an opportunity to apply academic learning to real human needs and to make the knowledge gained usable in one’s thinking beyond the situation in which the learning occurred,” (Benefits of Student Participation in Community Service).

This original information was provided by a study performed by researcher Diane Hedin in 1989, that ultimately concluded that service learning “provides students with the motivation necessary to put forth effort in academics, it gives them more opportunities to integrate and elaborate on their knowledge, and it increases the likelihood of transferring theoretical knowledge to actual practice,”(Benefits of Student Participation in Community Service). This initial lack of motivation, according to Hedin, is one of the main problems that leads students into academic failure or the inability to do well and complete courses.

In addition, students who actively participate in community service increase their personal, interpersonal, and social development. An article published in 2000 written by Shelley Billing of the RMC Research Corporation concluded that not only did community service lead to an increase in academic motivation, but it also led to increases in student engagement, school attendance, and new perspectives on lifestyle choices and behavior.

To read more about the positive benefits that community service has on academic achievement based on studies performed across the globe, please read the University of Michigan’s article here.

Why You Should Volunteer

Psychology Today published an article, 5 Reasons Why You Should Volunteer, back in March of 2014 about why volunteering should be an important part of everyone’s schedule. Since the time it was written, certain facts about volunteering rates may have changed, but the overall positive reinforcement that volunteering brings to our own lives remains the same. Here’s a look at what the article said about why everyone should volunteer regularly:

First, volunteering increases longevity. Volunteers are not only happier, but studies have shown that they are healthier than those who do not volunteer. According to the article, “During later life, volunteering is even more beneficial for one’s health than exercising and eating well. Older people who volunteer remain physically functional longer, have more robust psychological well-being and live longer,” (Psychology Today, 5 Reasons Why You Should Volunteer). That being said, most of the senior-level volunteers did volunteer earlier in life.

Melissa Keroack volunteer-11Volunteering also shows to have a positive impact on your career. Those who volunteer are more often to make more money because of the strong relationship they make through volunteer work. Volunteering can help you meet clients, future employees, and even help steer you in a career path that you’ve always wanted to go down. These social connections are effective ways to learn about different industries, and can increase the amount of publicity your own company receives.

Next, to state an obvious fact about volunteering – it’s good for society! Many business and small organization rely on a strong volunteer force to be successful. According to Psychology Today, “Places like museums, social service organizations, and faith-based organizations often rely on more volunteers than paid workers to meet their goals and fulfill their mission. These business are committed to doing good things for society,” (5 Reasons Why You Should Volunteer).

Lastly, volunteering makes you feel good. Those who volunteer have better self esteem because volunteering gives you a sense of purpose in life. Because volunteering involves working for a purpose instead of for money, people devote their time to issues they really care about – thus they feel happier that they have made a difference for a cause that hits close to their hearts.

There’s no question that volunteering should be an activity that everyone participates in. For more information on where to volunteer, or what types of organizations you should get involved with, read this article here.

Show Some HART

HART stands for Homeless Animal Rescue Team, a nonprofit organization located in Cumberland, Maine that serves as a shelter and adoption center for cats. HART was founded by Eileen Smith in 1997 when she renovated a barn on her property in Maine and turned it into a rescue shelter.

melissa keroack HART

Throughout the years, many volunteers joined up with her to help with the animals. In 1999, Eileen moved to a different state but the organization continued and volunteers took on the responsibilities of running the shelter and helping the cats. Now, HART is a well known private shelter and adoption center that is licensed in Maine and contains an assortment of 80 volunteers who are dedicated to helping save the lives of cats. The new construction of the shelter was built in 2004 and was custom designed to cater to the cats. The inside of the shelter includes climbing structures, beds, and various places to feed the cats. This open-environment allows the cats to live a happy, healthy lifestyle and create bonds with each other.

melissa keroack HARTcat

HART is run only by kind-hearted volunteers who are passionate about providing shelter for these cats and saving their lives. Some duties of these volunteers include providing the cats with medical services, nourishing the cats, neutering the them, finding them homes, and raising income for the organization by networking to foundations and individuals. All cats at HART are tested for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus and are vaccinated as soon as possible. Before a cat is given to its new owner, HART volunteers make sure that the cat is neutered and vaccinated for various diseases including rabies.

If you love cats and want to help out this incredible nonprofit organization, check out their website and find out ways you can help.

About Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity is an international non-profit organization that raises money to build affordable housing for the underprivileged. It is a Christian organization “seeking to put God’s love into action” through global fundraising and altruistic construction. All affiliates of the organization work voluntarily and houses are offered at no cost to families. Since its founding it has helped to raise over 800,000 homes for families worldwide.

melissa keroack

Habitat’s origins can be traced to a man named Millard Fuller. A trader, lawyer, and self-made millionaire, he gave up his wealth to lead a Christian life with his wife. After leaving and returning from Zaire on a set of missionary endeavors, he set up on Koinonia Farm in Georgia and began soliciting voluntary labor and donations to construct houses at no profit. This coalition would eventually birth the Habitat for Humanity that continues the mission today. The idea soon reached thousands across the Appalachian states, and the group had established its soon-to-be legacy. Five years after, it would reach out to seven foreign countries.

The organization assesses a family or community’s need for housing independent of race and religion, and looks for solvency and a willingness to join the group in its efforts. Habitat homes do come with a mortgage so it is crucial that applicants receive personal and financial background checks that show their readiness to take on a new home. To help lower costs, Habitat uses locally sourced materials and avoids extravagant fixtures. melissa keroackIt continues to look for greener methods of building to reduce waste and create homes more efficiently for a growing number of people worldwide. Habitat has a number of sub-initiatives including Women Build, focused on increasing female participation in fields like construction, and Youth Programs that reach out to high schoolers and college students to blend the ideas of education and altruism. Habitat was present in the wake of many devastated areas requiring reconstruction efforts. It built homes along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, and builds home in Haiti after the earthquake.

Today, well known political figures and celebrities volunteer to help on several projects. Churches and community centers all over contribute to raise awareness and offer assistance in the execution of projects. Its reach grows with the world’s need for help.

Coming Soon!

This is Melissa Keroack’s blog page about charity events and nonprofit organizations.  She will be posting soon!