Stephanie Nelson of Georgia wanted to combine her passion for clipping coupons with helping others, and she found the answer in her local newspaper.
“Our local food bank issued an emergency appeal for food donations, and it was the same week a local grocery store had double coupons,” Nelson says. So, using the coupons, she loaded up on groceries to donate. She then taught others to do the same.
Nelson then launched www.cutouthunger.org, an Internet website that lists the best deals at Atlanta grocery stores each week so other food bank donors can stretch their volunteer dollars.
“I have volunteered in the past at my church and at my children’s classrooms. I have contributed money to poverty organizations but never had this kind of personal involvement in hunger,” she says.
Efforts such as hers are widespread. About 109 million American adults volunteer annually, according to a recent study.
“People volunteer for a variety of reasons: to help out, to make a difference, meet people, to feel good about themselves. The reasons are endless,” says Jason Willett, director of communications of www.VolunteerMatch.org, a website dedicated to helping volunteers find opportunities in their own area.
“Volunteers should always make sure that they are doing something that is personally rewarding and meaningful,” Willett says. “It’s also important to make sure you don’t get in over your head. Gauge your schedule carefully before committing to a volunteer opportunity, give time that you can afford to give—and enjoy yourself.”
If your time is limited, consider volunteering online. Use your computer to volunteer editorial assistance, graphic design help, and computer programming skills, Willett suggests.
www.CharityFocus.org, for example, builds websites and provides technological help to nonprofit groups. “CharityFocus gets all sort of volunteers,” says Yoo-Mi Lee, the group’s charity development officer. “Perhaps people have begun to re-evaluate their lives and have come to find comfort in serving others.”
“Just do something—anything—to make someone else smile,” Lee advises. “Do it because you love it … without expecting something in return.”