Many of us are overwhelmingly busy. Between work, family, play and school, we’ve got a lot to do. But sometimes, we may feel like something is missing — a meaningful connection to the community perhaps? Becoming an active member of the community is an ideal way to get that connection and stay involved with local events and organizations. So how can you do your part to actively engage in the community? Here are a few things to try:

Church Ministries

If you belong to a church, going to Mass or other celebration each week is probably where your commitment ends. But there are other ways to more deeply ingrain yourself in the workings of the church and how it engages with the community around you. Sign up for participation in men’s, women’s or youth ministries to grow your faith and build spiritual, emotional and social skills as they relate to God’s divine purpose, according to Petra International Ministries. Churches may also run food drives, youth programs, hunger walks, counseling services and health ministries that aim to aid those in the community who need it most.

Hospitals

Nothing is worse than being stuck in a hospital with nowhere to go, especially when the prognosis isn’t good. Patients, particularly children, can get scared being in a strange place for days or weeks on end. You don’t have to have a background in medicine to be a volunteer at a hospital. All you have to have is a love for people and a goal of making people smile. Contact your local hospital to see if it offers volunteer opportunities that you could sign up for. You may be able to use your talents to make patients happy, such as knitting hats for young children or making colorful paintings for their rooms. You can visit with patients, greet visitors or donate your time by working in the cafeteria or gift shop.

Homeless Shelters

Perhaps you’ve donated canned goods to homeless shelters in the past, which is extremely helpful to the community food banks. However, you could take this a step further and head down to the local shelter and serve food, especially during busy times in the winter or over the holidays. Want to do something a little different that you can involve your kids in? Guiltless Giving suggests creating hygiene kits for the homeless comprised of anything from toothpaste and toothbrushes to deodorant, combs and soap. These kits may also contain a reference card with important numbers where recipients can get the help and assistance they need to get back on their feet.

Nursing Homes

Because elderly residents of a nursing home have often been placed there due to medical reasons or because they can’t safely live on their own anymore, they often become sad and withdrawn. Sure, there are activities in place throughout the day to engage them, but often times this isn’t enough to cheer up those who no longer have the comfort of their own homes. More than 50 percent of nursing home residents do not have close relatives, and 46 percent have no living children, leaving 85 percent of residents with no visitors, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Ask the volunteer coordinator at your local nursing home what you could do, such as lead a sing-a-long in the common room, lead the daily Bingo game, read books and poetry, craft scrapbooks, teach a language, or simply sit with each resident and ask them to tell you happy memories of their lives.

Getting active in your community doesn’t take a lot of effort but it does require that you take the first step. Get active today and make a difference in someone’s life.

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