We have very different relationships with our communities than we did just a half century ago. Prior to globalization, our communities more or less began and ended in our hometowns or immediate neighborhoods. We knew the people in our communities, and we helped each other out. Community involvement was assumed. But let’s face it – in today’s digital world, we’re just not as connected anymore.
Many of us now lead somewhat solitary lives, disconnected from our communities. We live in different communities than we grew up in, and we work in different communities than we live in. Our public circles have grown so large that it can be hard to develop authentic connections with those around us.
It’s essential that we address this pattern of disconnect if we want to cultivate healthy communities and set them up for success. Why is this so important? Good question.
The Importance of Community Involvement
We all need a little help sometimes. Unfortunately, it can be hard to ask for that help. As a result, community organizations have taken it upon themselves to help without asking. These organizations know the importance of healthy communities and do their best to develop them. So, what is a community, and why is its health so important?
At its most basic, a community is simply a group of people who live and work in the same geographic region. We work together to make sure everyone’s needs are met. Some of us produce goods, while others perform services. We use our unique skill sets to ensure everyone has what they need to thrive. It’s the basis of civilization.
In the 21st century, our communities have grown far beyond a baker and a banker and a few service providers. It’s much more complicated now. Our needs have evolved, and community needs have evolved as a result. We now find ourselves with many gaps that need to be filled.
Unfortunately, in a global economy, our employers aren’t always concerned with what’s best for local communities. Community involvement is a great way to ensure we bridge the gaps that form as a result. Let’s look at some great ways to get involved in the community.
Engaging in Community Involvement Initiatives
We know that community involvement is important, but how do we contribute? How do we volunteer our time and skills to make a tangible difference? The task may seem daunting, but there are some very simple ways to help your community. Let’s explore.
Get to Know your Neighbors
The simplest step in helping your community is getting to know the residents and understanding the things they need. Meeting our neighbors gives us insight into their lives and helps us fully understand where they need some help. Helping residents also helps us develop community trust. Here’s how:
Maybe your local food shelf desperately needs donations. We may not know that until we speak with someone who’s negatively affected by that shortage. Maybe the local farmer’s market needs publicity. If you have experience, you may be able to help them out. Volunteering our time and skills shows community members that we are there for them.
Volunteer at Local Organizations
There are lots of local organizations that do wonderful things for their communities. Some help feed the food insecure. Others rally behind a cause that’s near and dear to them and get the community involved. Supporting the local community is a worthy cause, but most organizations need more help than is available to them.
There are tens of thousands of nonprofit organizations in the US, and most rely upon volunteers to keep afloat. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find the volunteers they need to successfully meet their goals. If you’re willing to be a volunteer, you may just make the difference between success and failure. Volunteer organizations can even teach you ways of helping others that you never would have thought of.
Clean Up Your Community
If you enjoy being outdoors, cleaning up your community is a great way to get involved. Picking up trash on your daily walk can beautify the place you live. It can also cultivate pride in the community. But if this seems like something that won’t make a big difference, consider the following.
When our community is clean, it delivers mental benefits that help us make it through life’s more stressful events. Studies have shown that living in a clean environment has real, positive impacts on our mental health. It makes us less stressed and contributes to a more peaceful existence. It can also improve our health.
Spending just a couple hours cleaning the community each week will make a big difference. Cleaning up the community may seem like a small step, but it has huge implications.
Donate Unwanted Items
Supporting the community doesn’t require you to even leave your house, if that’s your preference. If you’re like most of us, you’ve got some items lying around that you no longer use. Instead of selling those items for a negligible profit, why not donate them to people in need? You’ll clear some floor space and make a difference in your community at the same time.
Many organizations will even come to your house to pick up those unwanted goods. Just make an appointment, leave the items on your doorstep and they will do the rest. You’ll feel good knowing your unwanted items are benefiting the less fortunate instead of gathering dust.
Get Kids Involved in Community Involvement Initiatives
If we’re going to create communities of volunteers who are eager to help, we’ve got to get them involved early. Luckily, it’s somewhat easy to get kids into community involvement activities. It doesn’t matter whether it’s because they believe in the cause or they are eager to show off their skills. Kids can find great reasons to get involved. Here’s how to help them out.
Talk About Community Involvement
The most effective way to learn about something new is to have a trusted mentor teach us. It doesn’t matter if we’re learning about community involvement or social studies. Talking with someone with a passion for it gives us a leg up. If your passion is community mindedness, talking about it can make a big impact in your community
Discussing the impact volunteering has on both organizations and our self-esteem is a great way to drive the message home. Share the reasons you volunteer with the youth and they’re more likely to engage themselves. As great as talking is, showing is even better.
Sponsoring a community involvement program for a local organization or school is a great way to walk the walk. It not only shows that you value your community, but also that you are willing to do something about it. Of all the community involvement examples on this list, providing the youth with resources may be the most impactful.
Get Involved in Group Activities
Nothing motivates the youth like their peers. Organizing group activities around helping communities can drive interest like few other things. It’s a great opportunity to do something worthwhile with friends and build connections around community service. Make it something fun and they’ll look forward to each new event.
Focus on Skills as well as Causes
Some kids get fired up over ideas to help the community, while others may feel some indifference. It’s okay. There’s a solution for that.
When we fail to get kids engaged through causes, focusing on skills may be the boost they need. Kids love getting the chance to show off their unique skills. It makes them feel good about themselves and shows them how valuable they truly are. If there are local organizations who can utilize those skills, it’s a great way to get these students interested. For example, if students love graphic design, creating a flier for a fundraiser or event can give them valuable experience and exposure. Likewise, if they’re interested in culinary arts, volunteering at the local soup kitchen may prove to be rewarding.
Even if they don’t know what they’re interested in, volunteering can prove to be extremely fulfilling. Performing jobs for local organizations shows kids how to help the community with their skills. It can even teach them new skills. If they enjoy utilizing those newfound skills, they may even find an exciting new career path.
Measure the Impact You’re Making
A great way to keep kids involved in community initiatives is to measure the impact they are making. We can measure our volunteering impact through time spent, but that doesn’t generate genuine excitement. On the other hand, measuring your actual impact is much more rewarding.
For instance, we could spend the afternoon building a home and say we spent 5 hours pounding nails. If we say we spent the afternoon building a home for someone in need, it generates much more potent feelings. Connecting service to achievements is a wonderful way to keep kids involved.
Continuing Education Is Key
It’s great to go over the importance of community involvement, but we need to stick with it. Learning how to be active in your community exposes students to the concept, but sticking with it ingrains the lesson in young brains. The more we experience volunteering activities, the more excited we become about contributing.
So if you want to learn how to help others in your community, volunteering is a fantastic option. If you’re interested in developing a sense of community involvement in youth, sponsoring a community outreach program may be more up your alley.