Community development and engagement are at the heart of our mission here at NeighborWorks of Western Vermont. We want Rutland and the surrounding communities to be healthy, affordable, and desirable places to live. This kind of work takes a whole community, broken down into small acts of kindness and service done by caring individuals. If you are looking to make a difference in your community but are not sure where to start, we have listed seven ways that you can get actively involved.
There are many organizations around that benefit from the help of volunteers, such as the Rutland County Humane Society or Habitat for Humanity. Take your lunch break to help socialize homeless kittens or spend the weekend aiding in the construction of affordable housing. If there is a cause you care about, identify an organization with a similar focus and ask if they are in need of any volunteers. Odds are there will be some way you can help out.
Many organizations accept donations, either monetary or in-kind. Organizations like the NewStory Center or Dismas House have wish lists on their website for items that are most needed. Take a shopping trip with one of these organizations—and their lists—in mind. You will feel good knowing that you are shopping for a good cause! Other organizations like NeighborWorks of Western Vermont and BROC always welcome donations, just check with your local office.
Hospitals are always in need of new donations. There are frequent blood drives around town throughout the year, so there are multiple times you can make this kind of donation. Simply use the American Red Cross site to locate upcoming blood drives near you.
Host A Food Drive
Get your friends and family together to collect non-perishable food items, such as canned goods, for donation to your local food shelf. This one may not even require shopping if you already have a surplus of foods that are going unused. Check out organizations like the Rutland Food Bank online to see their “shopping list” and where donation drop-off points are in the area.
Buying food, clothing, and other items from local stores and markets keep money in the local economy and supports members of the community directly. Instead of grocery shopping at large chains, try getting your veggies from the Vermont Farmer’s Market. You often get to meet the owners of the various farms and businesses face-to-face and get to know where your food is coming from. Get your “Cup of Joe” at a local coffee shop like Ruff Life Coffee or pick up your bread from places like The Bakery. There are many local stores that provide goods or services outside of food. Consider visiting Phoenix Books to update your literary collection or check out Just Threading when you need to get your eyebrows done.
Everybody loves a good neighbor, and it is not too difficult to make an effort to say “hello” on the street. Get to know your neighbors and their struggles. Is there a single mother of four living nearby? Offer to lend a hand by watching the kids. Or perhaps there is an elderly person living next door that could use some help keeping their walkway clean. Small acts of kindness can make all the difference in a person’s life, and happier individuals lead to a more connected community.
Hone your green thumb and grow some herbs, vegetables, or flowers. You can take the products of your labor home, or, as the members of the Baxter Street Community Garden, give them away to neighbors for free. Get to know your fellow gardeners where you live. They may have helpful tips and a tomato or two to share. Check with your local Recreation Center or community members to start a garden or to secure your plot.
Engaging with your community is the best way to feel more involved with what is going on. Attend community or town hall meetings, involve yourself in the issues you care about, and spread the love for your community. It all starts with an individual act—so get out there and get involved!