Those words, coupled with what I could now see as her very intentional actions, sang in my ears. They can, of course, be translated to mean a variety of things. Charitable priority should be given to blood relatives. Your community should be the core of your giving nucleus. Your commitment to giving back as a family grows charitable children. Whatever it was that she quietly opined, I couldn't say.
But what I can surmise is this: Look to your family, your block, your neighborhood if you want to create immediate impact.
So many of us, day in and day out, plan to donate our time, things or hard-earned cash to worthy causes. But at the end of the day, or right around April 15th, intentionally giving back is often near the very end of our to-dos. And instead, guilt languishes every time we avert our eyes from the person standing on the corner with a wilting cardboard sign or recycle a donation pledge pamphlet that came with a sheet full of tacky return address labels.
Truth is, finding ways to give back is easy. Especially in a city like Detroit, so ripe with opportunity to create big and diverse impact. Whether your passion lies in supporting the arts, helping the homeless, working with children, greening our grounds, you can do so while doing some good at the same time.
Sample a variety of do-good tactics and find what you're most comfortable with. The most important thing, after all, is simply that you're doing it at all.
Roll up your sleeves
If time is what you've got to offer, you've landed in the right town. Non-profit volunteer opportunities are available all over Detroit and in addition to adding value, there's a good chance you'll forge some new relationships along the way. I've really enjoyed spending a couple of Thursday mornings with Open Door Ministry (based at the Fort Street Presbyterian Church), which includes assisting in providing hot meals, fresh clothes, haircuts and other basic needs to the homeless and underprivileged folks in our area. The organization is routinely looking for volunteer support from those who can give up a Thursday morning, and also accepts clothing and warm-weather accessory donations, as well as body care products or care packages (clean socks, toothpaste and toothbrush, etc.).
Put it on autopilot
Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries makes it easy to set up monthly donations online and you can commit as little as $10, which goes a long way over the stretch of a year. Or, if you'd rather save up and splurge, the program offers an annual holiday campaign, where interested individuals (or companies) can adopt a family and provide each child and adult with their desired - or needed - gifts. You can even join in to volunteer at the event where families arrive to see Santa, enjoy a holiday feast and open their gifts. My girlfriends and I rallied as a team this year to take care of one of the roughly 100 families that DRMM was able to support, although it's worth noting that they have a long waiting list of families that would love to participate, if enough adopters were available.
Did you know that Capuchin Soup Kitchen runs a retail bakery called On the Rise? Justifiable cinnamon rolls. You read that right. By shopping (grocery or otherwise) at locations where profits are sunk right back into the organization, you're getting far more bang for your buck. Cinnamon rolls, people. Cinnamon rolls.
Join a board or pick up a pro bono client
Mix pleasure and profession by offering up your talents to an organization in need of assistance. As an example, I formerly served on the board of the Detroit Institute of Arts' young professionals auxiliary, the Founders Junior Council, helping to support their marketing and social media efforts as the chair of a committee and in turn, I was even privy to some very cool behind-the-scenes art tours and opportunities, not to mention hanging with a group of fun, like-minded folks.
Go glitzy in the name of good
Like many organizations, Founders Junior Council hosts fun and fancy events to rake in some extra donation dollars for the museum and have a good time while doing so. Each winter, the organization hosts Cirque (that's the invite in the photo above), a masquerade that takes place in the museum's Great Hall, and every summer, Fash Bash brings out all of the city's fashionable folks for a runway show. A portion of every ticket directly supports museum initiatives and is tax-deductible, too.
Later this month, me and the mister will swirl some wines in support of another local organization that assists area youth in succeeding in school and career goals.
And let's be serious, we're going to be drinking wine on a Saturday anyway, so why not have a solid excuse?
NOTE: Let me be real clear ... these are just a handful of organizations that I've enjoyed working with in our area. There are SO many more, and if the first email or hand raise doesn't solicit a response, please, try again. If you haven't scoured the web yet for something that fits your interests and availability, consider checking out a site like VolunteerMatch.org, which makes finding the right fit a breeze.
Or shoot, leave a comment with your suggestions for others, if it's your style ;)