You Can Be the Change!

By Marla Bautista

 There was a time in my life when I was barely able to provide for myself.  I was  eighteen years old, living in shelters seeking to find myself as a young woman while trying to survive in an unforgiving world. Every day, I went to a Catholic church that served free lunch to the community. The volunteers were always so nurturing.  I remember making a vow to myself that if I was ever able, I would support my community, just as my community supported me.

Now, volunteering is one of my favorite things to do in my free time.  It warms my heart to know that I can help others in need. Have you ever thought about volunteering but don’t know how or where to get started? There are places that utilize volunteers that are often short-handed solely because people just aren’t aware that they’re needed. In this article, I will help you find out how you can make difference in our world.

Volunteermatch.org is an amazing website!  This organization helps you choose a place to volunteer that matches your preference.  You can choose your location and browse the search engine based on things you care about. They even offer volunteer opportunities for military families. Volunteer Match also helps organizations connect with volunteers. 

Everywhere I go, I find a place that can use my assistance.  I usually start by looking up an area that has a large homeless population.  These areas usually have a lot of opportunities to volunteer.  I call around to see what specific help the centers need.  I choose one that best fits my schedule.  I prefer to work with people in need.  I have an opportunity to talk to them and learn about who they are. 

There are many ways to give back without going to a location to volunteer your time.  Donating items like clothing, blankets, and hygiene to shelters, is a great way to provide necessities to people in need.  When my family lived in Colorado, we made small sack lunches, went downtown and gave them to people in need. We’d go to the grocery store and buy four loaves of bread, brown paper bags, 4 bags chips, bologna, sandwich bags, and a box of assorted juices. This was a great way for us to teach our children about helping others.  Just remember to keep yourself safe when going to the streets.

You can also help at your child’s school or the local library. You don’t have to work directly with the children.  I sometimes go help make copies or cut paper for art projects. The libraries often need people to help stock books, check books in and making copies as well.  I like helping in the library, I can see what new books are coming in, or I can take home books they are discarding.

If you love pets, check out the SPCA or other pet adoption shelters.  They are always looking for donations of food or other pet supplies.  You can go volunteer to clean animal kennels or walk dogs, if you’d like. They also need volunteers to assist with administrative duties. Often volunteers come in just to spend time with the animals. The pets are so grateful just to get a few moments of human interaction.       

There are so many ways you can make a difference in someone’s life.  Even a little help is a lot to someone.  Check for volunteer opportunities in your area. If you help one person, you are helping change the world! 

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Marla Bautista is an Army spouse and mother of three currently living in New York. Bautista has been writing creatively her entire life and recently released  her first book, My Thoughts Abandoned.  She has an associate's degree from The University of Maryland University College and is currently working on her bachelor's in communications. She loves to volunteer in her free time and advocate for those in need.  She is also an avid couponer and hopefully one day, a millionaire because of her frugal lifestyle!           

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