Five Ways to Make a Difference Where you Live

small differenceVolunteers make the good things in the world go round. Every act of goodwill creates a strong multiplier effect that everyone benefits from.  Finding a volunteer position that will allow you to contribute your energy and skills to worthy causes in your own community means you can make a difference in the lives of others right where you live.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

1.   Growing and sharing food

If you have gardening skills locate a local community garden and volunteer to dig in. Community gardens are not just places to grow healthy vegetables and fruits for yourself and your family. They are wonderful places to make friends and there’s always excess produce for sharing with those who need it close by.

If you have a garden or orchards but no time to volunteer to work in a community garden then why not donate excess produce to a food bank? If transportation is problematic know that most food banks have gathering and gleaning volunteers who will gladly pick up what you contribute and distribute it to those who need it.  Pick up your phone and join them in making a difference where you live.

2.   Gathering and gleaning produce

Often gardeners and farmers grow more than they can use or share and the surplus goes to waste. Larger communities tend to have gathering and gleaning groups who gather the ground-fall in orchards and the excess produce from fields and farms and take it to food banks. Why not lend a hand  gathering the harvest?

If there are no such groups where you live then take a look around. Perhaps there are orchards, farm fields or even urban gardens with excess produce destined to rot on the ground, rather than feeding the hungry. If you see food going to waste in your neighborhood or community why not be a risk taker and ask the property owners for permission to glean and gather their excess and take to the food bank?  The worst you can get is ‘no’ for an answer but in most cases you will receive a ‘yes’ and be able to make a difference.

“Do more than belong: participate. Do more than care: help. Do more than believe: practice. Do more than be fair: be kind. Do more than forgive: forget. Do more than dream: work.”
― William Arthur Ward

3.   Community kitchens

If you are a foodie why not get involved in a community kitchen?  A community kitchen is a public space where people get together and cook on a regular basis. Participants  reduce costs by purchasing collectively.  They exchange recipes and take what they cook home to freeze for later eating.

Good cooks focused on healthy eating are always welcome volunteers in community kitchens. You can make a difference by mentoring individuals and couples or by teaching workshops subjects ranging from how to plan a healthy diet, budgeting and smart food shopping to safe food handling, cooking and preservation.

4.   Teaching food preservation

Preserving vegetables, fruits and even fish by canning is a skill that being revived in many communities.  Home canned foods such as homemade jams and jellies are in favor again.  If you have the equipment and know how to use it properly, making sure the foods are canned under strict food safety conditions, then there are three ways you can make a difference.

  • You can conduct workshops focused on teaching others how to preserve food.
  • You can help others who can’t get out by teaching them to can foods in their own homes.
  • You can donate properly preserved and labeled canned foods to your local food bank.

5.   Schools, Food banks and Soup Kitchens

Volunteering to support a before school breakfast or school lunch program, or at a food bank or soup kitchen, or delivering meals on wheels to housebound neighbors is another consideration. You don’t have to be specially skilled to lend a hand.  You can make a difference by picking up food donations, taking stock inventory, stocking shelves, serving and/or bagging and boxing food and cleaning up.

“The world is not interested in what we do for a living. What they are interested in is what we have to offer freely – hope, strength, love and the power to make a difference! ” Sasha Azevedo

Local charities make a significant positive contribution to the quality of life in our communities all year round. Supporting their good work is a step almost everyone can take to take towards ensuring community success. Creating a better day in your neighbors’ lives by volunteering to give where you live is bound to make their day and yours too.

Related post: Mentoring is Making a Difference


  1. We have a “plant a row for the hungry” initiative that asks food gardeners to plant a little extra and give to food banks or community kitchens so they have access to fresh produce. My farmers market also sets out coolers so people can buy extra produce and donate it to the food bank. I really like the quotes on this post. And I love what you’ve done with the Confit theme! it’s one I’ve been considering…it may be time to play with it some more.

    • We also have school gardens and community Volunteers assist teachers with helping kids learn how to grow food. Like you I have volunteered in animal shelters though I’m not doing so now. Without doubt volunteering benefits the Volunteers as much as those they help. You meet such great people and form friendships that last a lifetime.

  2. Wonderful encouragement, timethief. Lately I’ve gotten involved and volunteer with local Transition Movement’s permaculture efforts. Helping put in community gardens, turning lawns into food forests as well as other sustainable efforts. Be well.

  3. I think you should have renamed the post …making a difference with food sharing. I can’t say I’ve done anything food-wise for community building. Except something for a potluck meal.

    • I’m glad you liked these suggestions. Times are tough and community building is essential if we want to have healthy communities that aren’t crime ridden.

      P.S. I’m doing a project on all the possibilities for Volunteers so I’ll be posting more. Stay tuned. :)

  4. I can’t speak for every country, but here, schools are often crying out for a regular volunteer or group to run a gardening/growing club. Teachers often don’t have the time or expertise/confidence. It can make the whole school environment look so much nicer and introduce kids to gardening, natural sciences, etc.

    Personally, I’ve enjoyed volunteering at a rescue kennels over the last couple of years.

    When you volunteer, it benefits yourself – sometimes in unexpected ways – as well as others and the world we share.

    • Our schools are supported by PAC groups of parents and individuals who are focused on educating young people in all aspects of healthy living. Working with kids is so rewarding. They are quick learners who don’t hesitate when it comes to putting what they learn to use.

      I came from a family of volunteers and helping others was something I recall doing as a child. Each week my mom and us kids weeded the vegetable and rose garden of our elderly next door neighbor. Gardening was her passion and her rose garden was her favorite place to spend her summer days. The arthritis in her hands threatened to bring an end to what she loved to do. Looking back I realize that our young helping hands meant she could continue to garden until she passed on. Whenever I see pink sweetheart roses I remember Rose, who made the best peanut butter cookies ever made.

      I believe volunteerism is both an affirmation and expression of our humanity. Volunteering provides us with an opportunity to acknowledge the needs of others and address them by lending a helping hand. It’s our capacity for expressing compassion through volunteerism that creates a sense of belonging. In turn that sense leads to community building and our caring and sharing attitudes and actions are passed from generation to generation.

      • Absolutely. I have just had a lovely time volunteering in a couple of local schools, teaching yoga to groups of children. I’m hoping to do more of that next academic session.

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