Need a little affirmation that there’s still a lot of good in this world? This October 22, volunteers from across the country will come together to help others in honor of "Make a Difference Day." If you want to get in on the act, Make a Difference Day has a wide variety of volunteer opportunities available to help improve your community or brighten someone's day. Or, you can also participate on your own time with some of these good deeds—many of which can easily become daily or monthly habits.
1. VOLUNTEER AT AN ANIMAL SHELTER.
Offer an hour out of your week to a local animal shelter. They usually need help walking dogs, grooming animals, and cleaning living spaces, among other things. Some shelters even let kids get in on the action by having them hone their reading skills by reading books to the animals, who appreciate the attention. No time to volunteer? Shelters always need pet food, toys, and other supplies if you'd prefer to make a donation.
2. DONATE UNUSED TOILETRIES.
Got extra toiletries? Maybe you've stashed away mini shampoos from hotel stays, or you stocked up the last time there was a good sale. Instead of letting those extras collect dust in your bathroom closet, donate them to homeless shelters or women's shelters. Give your intended recipient a call first, though—some organizations only accept certain sizes.
3. PLANT PRODUCE FOR YOUR FOOD BANK.
Those of you with green thumbs can dedicate space in your garden to do good for others. Check with your local food banks to see what fresh produce they can accept, and then set aside some square footage—even just a row or a container—and give whatever grows to the food kitchen. Vegetables like carrots, peppers, onions, and tomatoes can go a long way in making a low-cost meal more nutritious.
4. GROW SOME EXTRA BLOOMS.
If you're more inclined to grow flowers than veggies, you can do good with those, too. Plant a cutting garden, and take bouquets to hospitals and nursing homes to brighten someone's day.
5. ADD ON TO YOUR ELECTRICITY BILL.
Many energy companies have programs that allow customers to make small donations while paying their bill that go to pay the energy bills of households that have trouble keeping the lights on and the house warm.
6. MULTIPLY YOUR DONATION—FOR FREE!
Many employers will match your charitable donations, usually to organizations that align with their own philosophies. Find out if your employer has a matching donation program—or ask if they'll start one.
7. LEAVE GOOD READING MATERIAL FOR SOMEONE TO FIND.
You can make someone's commute or lunch break far more interesting by leaving a good book for them to find. Attach a note with a brief recommendation (and an assurance that the book is meant to be taken and enjoyed) and, if you want to spread the literary love even more, participate in this Kindness initiative by posting your gift and encouraging your friends on social media to join in.
8. MULTITASK WHEN YOU GO ON WALKS.
The next time you head out for a relaxing stroll, take a bag with you and pick up litter and trash along your route. Not only will Mother Nature appreciate the effort, you’ll also make the next person’s walk that much more enjoyable.
9. MAKE YOUR EXERCISE CHARITABLE.
Do twice as much good while you're on that walk. A free app called Charity Miles partners with companies that make charitable donations based on the distance you walk or run, which is tracked via the app. You can choose from a number of charities, including the National Park Foundation, the ASPCA, the Wounded Warrior Project, Habitat for Humanity, and many more.
10. BUY AN EXTRA ITEM WHEN YOU GROCERY SHOP.
Every time you make a stop at the grocery store, pick up an extra nonperishable item or two. At the end of the month, you’ll have a good stash to donate to your local food bank.
11. DRIVE A VETERAN.
Have a driver's license and a little bit of free time? Volunteer to drive a veteran to appointments at your local VA hospital to get the treatments they need. And that's just one of the ways you can help our military members—you can also donate frequent flyer miles, help train service dogs, and help build or modify homes for disabled veterans who need customized accommodations.