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WRITTEN BY:
Jamie Ballard

4 Ways to Help Your Community During Back-to-School Season

Source: Flickr via Morgan

I know, I know, you don’t even want to be thinking about going back to school yet. Most of you have at least a month before classes resume, but now is the time to start thinking about getting yourself ready and organized, so that you’re prepared when the dreaded day comes.

One way to get yourself organized is cleaning out your closet. A new school year means new clothing for many of us, but not everyone has the spare cash to buy new clothes, shoes and accessories. And you may need more room in your closet anyway - why not kill two birds with one stone? Donate your clothes to a local shelter or thrift store. Many women’s shelters have an in-house donation center where the women staying there can get new outfits for themselves and their children. If your city doesn’t have something like this, consider donating to a local Goodwill or Salvation Army, or see if there are any clothing drives happening in your area. It’s an easy way to stay organized while helping those in need. 

Another way to get a head start on the school year is getting supplies now, before the stores are flooded with students and prices start to jump. While you’re shopping for your own supplies, pick up some supplies for kids in need. Many families can’t necessarily afford a spread of brand-new school supplies, especially if they’re buying for multiple children. Besides, don’t you remember being a kid, and that awesome smell of freshly-sharpened pencils and a new box of Crayolas? Give that gift to someone else in your community. School supply drives are pretty common this time of year, so you shouldn’t have too much difficulty finding a recipient for your spare supplies. Target is partnering with the Kids in Need Foundation to donate supplies to disadvantaged children nationwide. Sleep Train also holds an annual school supply drive for foster children. Additionally,you can always drop the supplies off at a nearby elementary school - they’ll certainly be put to use.

Once the school year begins, you’ll quickly become busy with classes, homework, sports, and more. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have good intentions when it comes to community service, but amidst the hubbub of a new year, you might find yourself too busy or distracted to commit to a cause. Start researching and signing up for volunteer opportunities now, while you have the time. Find a cause you’re genuinely interested in and begin volunteering. VolunteerMatch is a great way to find service opportunities in your area that meet your interests. Once you’ve found it, make sure to stay active and involved with your cause. You might worry that you’ll be stressed and overworked, but studies show that volunteering your time makes you feel more efficient, which actually makes you feel as if you have more time! Not to mention, volunteering can increase self-confidence, combat depression, and make you feel more physically healthy.

Last but not least, keep your eyes open for school-related volunteer opportunities near you. Many elementary, middle and high schools have back-to-school fairs where they may need volunteers to help with check-ins, directions and more. At your college, there will likely be opportunities to help with back-to-school guidance. You can tutor new students, guide tours around campus, or help people with scheduling (some of these may be paid positions - check with your college). If nothing else, you’re bound to see a confused freshmen consulting a campus map at some point. Go ask him or her if they want help finding their building. This happened to me several times as a freshman, and I was always grateful when someone helped me out.

We aren’t back in school yet, but the day is coming. Set yourself up for success academically, emotionally and physically by giving back to your community now. You’ll coast into the new year on a high note, and feel great about making a difference.

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