Pay it forward. It’s a little phrase that carries a lot of positive emotion in its connotation. Everybody wants to be able to say that they have paid it forward because of the feeling doing so creates and because doing a deed for the common good goes a lot further than those deeds with a selfish agenda. The problem is not that people don’t want to give back or help, but it is far too often that people don’t feel they have the time, resources or know-how to make a difference. Everybody is guilty of this at one point or another, including myself. The truth is simple. There are plenty of ways to give in Metro Detroit. Some of which require very little effort on our part. Keep in mind that giving does not have to be strictly through monetary donations.
Give the gift of warmth this winter
Mittens for Detroit is a charity started by actress Erin Cummings (Detroit 1-8-7, Pan Am, The Astronaut Wives Club). Its sole purpose is to collect and distribute new mittens and gloves to children and adults who may need them in Detroit. The 501(c)3 nonprofit organization was voted as “Best Local Charity” on Detroit A List in 2014. How it works is quite simple. Donate new or unused gloves to the hundreds of storefronts and businesses throughout Michigan that collect for Mittens for Detroit and supply a pair of freezing cold hands with gloves or mittens in the harsh winter that Michigan brings. Mittens for Detroit hosts “The Twelve Drags of Christmas” benefit event on Saturday, December 6 starting at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.) at Fifth Avenue in Royal Oak. Any gloves will work—small gloves, large gloves, work gloves, fancy gloves, etc.
Heart 2 Hart Detroit, 32310 Shrewsbury, in Farmington Hills, takes to the streets every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and gives hundreds of homeless people life-sustaining items such as clothing, food, toiletries and more. While you can help keep the homeless warm with Heart 2 Hart, you can also supply them with food and personal care items. You can peruse the organization’s wish list to see if you have items to donate. Of course, you can always donate money as well, which will provide lunches, clothing and more. In addition to supplying the homeless with life-sustaining items, Heart 2 Hart has also helped guide people to community service organizations, rehab facilities and even potential employers. The 501(c)3 charity’s slogan is “Because they’re homeless, not helpless.” So true.
Give the gift of your time
Crossroads of Michigan is a social service outreach agency offering counseling, support, a soup kitchen and much more. There are two locations: the main office at 2424 W. Grand Blvd., in Detroit and the east office at 21230 Moross Rd., also in Detroit. It offers many opportunities to volunteer or donate. The soup kitchen is open each Sunday from noon until 3 p.m. at its main office. According to its website, Crossroads is Detroit’s only Sunday soup kitchen and served nearly 40,000 meals last year! In addition to volunteering, Crossroads offers training, assists those seeking full-time positions through its employment office and allows for biweekly networking opportunities through the Crossroads Job Club. In addition to food and personal care items, the organization provides transportation, food, clothing and even prescription costs for those in need or those who are disadvantaged. Monetary donations help to secure these items.
Gleaners Food Bank is headquartered in Detroit, but has many locations sprinkled around the metropolitan area. It is obviously one of Detroit’s most well-known charities and is one of the biggest fighters of hunger in Michigan. You probably knew that already, but were you aware of all the volunteering opportunities that exist with Gleaners? You can sort and pack food, staff a special event, help with office duties and more. What better way to give back than to assist one of Michigan’s most recognizable charities? Gleaners has been hard at work for nearly four decades and last year alone, it supplied 41 million pounds of emergency food to soup kitchens, shelters, pantries and more throughout southeast Michigan. Think about that for a second—41 million pounds. All of that would probably not have been possible without the help of volunteers. Simply amazing. You can also host your own food drive to support Gleaners if you so choose.
Give the gift of hope
Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute has three locations, but is headquartered in Midtown Detroit. It is one of the most well-known cancer institutes not only in Michigan, but in the entire country as it is one of only 41 National Cancer Institute-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in this great country we call the United States of America. Perhaps, the gift of your time and the gift of giving people suffering a reason to smile is the most rewarding way to give. You never know who you’ll meet and how you can affect somebody’s life. Luckily, the Karmanos Cancer Institute offers many ways to volunteer. Whether it is being a friendly hospital visitor, offering clerical support, helping with inpatients, navigating the institute, providing education to the community or helping with any of the many other volunteer positions at Karmanos, you are making a difference.
Children’s Hospital of Michigan offers several locations throughout Metro Detroit (with its main location in Detroit), allowing for a plethora of volunteer opportunities. All of the ways to give mentioned in this article make a difference, but can you think of something more fulfilling than making friends with or being there for a child who is suffering something even an adult should never have to bear? Offering your time, smile, hope and positive attitude can be infectious to these children, and that may be just what they need. Even if you are just going to the hospital to play with toys with these children, that can make all of the difference. It may not seem like it, but you are allowing the kids to go about their normal routine and just act like a kid again. You can feed and rock babies, act as a tour guide, read to children, participate in arts and crafts, visit with your certified pet therapy dog (if you have one) and more.
So, you see, you don’t have to donate money to give. Of course, all of the aforementioned organizations and institutions will gladly accept and appreciate monetary donations, but if money and resources is something you do not possess a lot of, keep in mind your time and effort is just as valuable. Maybe time and effort are even more valuable in some cases. You cannot put a price on impacting a life. Pay it forward.