Make a difference with one gift
On the coldest night in November, I was sleeping outside on a cardboard box.
It wasn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last. Every year, a handful of my coworkers and I leave our cozy beds to sleep outside in Exploria Stadium. It’s usually cold, sometimes rainy, and it gives us a tiny taste of what hundreds of children and teenagers in our community struggle with every day.
The Sleep Out benefits Covenant House Florida, a nonprofit shelter for runaway, homeless and at-risk youth — a cause that’s especially close to my heart. The shelters aren’t just a place where kids can find a safe bed and meals. It’s a chance for them to earn a GED, to access healthcare and therapy, and to gain the job skills and financial education they need to be successful long after they leave.
At the holidays, we look for ways to give back to the community. Above all, it’s a reminder that one person can have a big impact — and no impact is too small.
Here’s how you can make a difference: one night, one hour and one conversation at a time.
Reach out: Interested in volunteering, but not sure where to start? The holidays are packed with charity events, making it a great time to get on board. Look up local groups and find a cause that matters to you, whether that means volunteering at an animal rescue, serving meals at a shelter or participating in a litter-collection hike.
It’s also a great chance to find out how you can stay involved on a regular basis. Charities and nonprofits need your help — all you have to do is ask.
Give together: There’s no reason to volunteer alone. Not only is it more rewarding to share the experience with your friends and family, but it’s also better for the charity you support. By bringing just one other person, you can double your impact — and they can help spread the word, too.
Plus, there are plenty of ways to share the giving spirit besides volunteering. Pass around a donation box at your workplace, host a bake sale at a school or neighborhood event, or just have a conversation.
Keep going: On Thanksgiving Day, hundreds of volunteers flock to food pantries to serve meals to the community. It’s a display of overwhelming generosity and compassion — but at the end of the season, when the holiday fervor fades, there are still people who need your help.
Make it your goal to sustain the giving spirit throughout the year. Pledge to volunteer on a regular basis, donate monthly, or sign up for an email list to get alerts when volunteers are urgently needed.
No matter what motivates you to give back, I hope you take that first step. The sacrifices we make are so much smaller than the positive change we can create.
Volunteers wrap gifts at the Covenant House Florida in Orlando.