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The idea of a new, fresh year can bring a renewed sense of excitement and motivation. We create our list of resolutions at the beginning of each year, eager to improve our lives, only to find ourselves staring back out our list weeks later (like right now!) not sure of how we will accomplish them, stick with them or where to even start.

A common resolution is to get more involved in your community and give back! You may feel overwhelmed and the pressure to get involved, but are not sure how to start, where to turn, or how to manage donating time with your schedule. With only 31 days into the new year there is still plenty of time to get started on those resolutions and to make a huge impact in your community this year.

Have no fear, it is still the beginning of the year and there are a plethora of opportunities for you to participate in that can fit into any schedule. While monetary support is always a great way to give back to your favorite causes, if that does not fit into your monthly budget, there are easy ways to donate your time and effort.

Here is a list of easy ways you can get involved and stay involved in your community!

  1. Volunteer at a Local Animal Shelter

If you are an animal lover there are a number of ways to give your time to help save your furry friends. Many organizations and shelters have different opportunities to help with animals such as prepare for adoptions and events, foster animals, and care for the animals awaiting a new home. Here in Los Angeles, LA Animal Services  focuses its efforts on finding homes for orphaned and abandoned animals. Volunteers must complete an application process, participate in orientation, and create volunteer hours based around their schedule. The spcaLA provides opportunities, both short-term and long-term, to aide in the efforts of rescuing abused and abandoned animals for adoption. Volunteer opportunities include: dog grooming, fostering, and assisting at adoption center events. If you are partial to a particular animal, organizations such as Kitten Rescue Los Angeles, Bunny World Foundation, and Dogs Without Borders allows you to give back to your favorite four-legged friends.

  1. Feed the Homeless at a Local Soup Kitchen

With homelessness an ever increasing problem facing many cities and communities across the U.S., there is always a need to help feed those that are less fortunate. With an estimated 43,000 homeless people in the Los Angeles area alone, many organizations accept volunteers in various positions to assist in efforts to feed the hungry. The Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition has been serving the homeless community in West Hollywood since 1987. Volunteers can help pick up donated food, prepare and cook meals, or serve the nightly buffet.

Other organizations such as the Hospitality Kitchen (aka The Hippie Kitchen ) and the St. Francis Center serve meals 3-6 days a week in the downtown Los Angeles area. Volunteers are always needed to help serve meals and assist with food pantry programs. If you are interested in volunteering at a local soup kitchen near you check out the Homeless Shelter Directory to find shelters and organizations in your community.

  1. Use Your Skills and Talents to Give Back

Many of us are blessed with or have acquired special skills and talents that we use on a daily basis in our careers or in our hobbies. If you are looking to get creative, think about offering services using your strengths to give back to your community. Individuals who are academically driven or educators can offer free tutoring to underprivileged schools and students. Schools on Wheels inc. offers free tutoring to homeless students living in shelters in the Los Angeles area. Other ways  to give back include teaching free music or art classes or volunteering to coach a sports team. Whatever skills and experience you possess, there are many ways to offer your talents back to your community!

  1. Give blood

The recruitment for blood donations is a need that is always beneficial for a community and one that is easy to participate in. Many opportunities are mobile, offering an easy way for people to efficiently and easily give their blood. The American Red Cross accepts donations, as well as volunteers, at its many drives around the Los Angeles area. Both UCLA and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles have blood donation centers which offer easy donation processes and provide sweet snacks of cookies and juice as you donate. If you are interested in giving blood check with these organizations, as well as, local schools, gyms, and hospitals in your area to find a blood drive near you.

  1. Participate in a Charity Driven Athletic Event

If you are the athletic type and love to sweat, you can use your love for exercise to give back. Many organizations and businesses will hold tournaments, 5k races, marathons, and other sporting events as a way to get the community involved in a charitable cause and promote a healthy lifestyle while doing so. Some upcoming local races here in Los Angeles include  the LA Life Run which benefits the Children’s Cancer Research Fund  and the Home Run for Kids which benefits the Upward Bound House, Santa Monica. Research a cause you are passionate about and see where in your community an organization may be holding an event you can participate in.

6.  Help a Friend or Family Member

This may seem like a no brainer, but if time and money are an issue and you are already spending time with the people you love, offer your help and services to them. Offer to babysit for a friend, clean out your grandma’s garage, or mow your neighbor’s lawn. These simple acts of kindness can go a long way to make someone you love feel special and give a satisfaction of helping someone other than yourself.

If you are unsure of where to start you can also visit Volunteer Match to help narrow down opportunities in your area based on your interests.

No matter what time or money you have to give, it is never too late to start!

By: Jessica Paisant

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