Park cleanups

Park cleanups are an easy and straightforward way to get started with volunteering in your community.

And you’ll get some exercise.

In April of this year, four of my high school classmates and I took part in a volunteer cleanup of Cesar Chavez Park in southwest Phoenix. Our effort was organized through our high school, Arizona Lutheran Academy, which encourages its students to volunteer in the community.

Chavez Park is a nice, large community space that features a lake in the middle, surrounded by a one-mile-long walking trail, which in turn is surrounded with ducks and a lot of families with young kids.

Park cleanups are low overhead. We armed ourselves with trash grabbers and either trash bags or easy-to-carry bins to hold the collected trash. With the bins, you don’t have to wrestle with keeping the bag open.

For our project, we met at one of our houses on a Saturday morning, had some breakfast and spent the morning cleaning up the south end of the park, near a playground area.

We were surprised at how large of an area we could clean up in a reasonable amount of time. It does make a noticeable difference. And we got some pleasant feedback from passersby, mostly moms with little kids in strollers.

We found our experience to be rewarding and fun. Here are some tips if you want to try this yourself:

  • Round up some friends and grab a cup of coffee.
  • Arm yourself with a decent trash grabber. You can type in phrases like “trash grabber” or “trash picker” into an online retailer website and get a pretty quick overview as to which product would best serve you. They can range in price from $10 to $30 and typically have a reach of about 3 feet.
  • We wore disposable rubber gloves and brought hand sanitizer with us. I’d recommend doing the same.
  • Stay in a group. Public parks are open to everyone and it’s always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and to look out for each other.
  • Park clean ups can be a positive way to promote your church, school or other organization by wearing T-shirts with your organization’s name.

So round up some friends, a cup of coffee, trash grabber and bin, and clean up the park nearest you!

– Natalie K

10 easy ways to volunteer

Volunteering within your community is a great way to give back and make a positive impact. There are easy ways to volunteer, depending on your interests, skills, and the amount of time you can commit. Here are some ideas:

Local food bank or soup kitchens

Contribute food, money or time. Help distribute food to those in need, organize food drives, or prepare and serve meals at a local food bank or soup kitchen.

Neighborhood cleanups

Participate in or organize neighborhood cleanups to remove litter and beautify public spaces like parks, streets, and beaches.

Senior center visits

Spend time with seniors at a local retirement home or senior center. You can chat, play games, or help with activities and events.

Tutoring or mentoring

Offer your expertise to tutor or mentor students in subjects you excel in or provide career advice to those looking to enter your field.

Animal shelters

Volunteer at an animal shelter by walking dogs, socializing with animals, cleaning cages, or helping with adoption events.

Local Schools

Assist teachers with classroom tasks, offer to read to students, or help with after-school programs. Some schools might need help with managing, coaching or helping out with sports teams.

Local events

Many community events, such as festivals, charity runs, and fundraisers, need volunteers for tasks like registration, setup, or cleanup.

Blood donations

Donate blood at local blood drives, or volunteer at blood donation centers to assist with the process.

Nonprofit organizations

Many nonprofit organizations welcome volunteers for various tasks, such as fundraising, event planning, marketing, or administrative work.

Literacy programs

Help promote literacy by volunteering at a library, literacy center, or by becoming a reading buddy for children.

When looking for volunteer opportunities, consider your interests, skills, and the time you can commit. Many local organizations and websites list volunteer opportunities, making it easier to find a role that suits you and your community’s needs.

– Natalie K

Care packages for homeless people

The items you choose to include will ultimately depend on your budget, but below are some ideas to help you come up with a plan.

Remember, the bags that you use for the care packages can be useful to homeless people as well. So if you’re using plastic grocery bags, consider double bagging the items so that homeless people can re-use them to carry other items.

Also, if you are including toiletries – or any type of lotion or fluid that isn’t food – be sure to package those items separately from any food products, so that the food doesn’t end up tasting like soap or sunscreen.

When handing out food to homeless people, remember to distribute the items as a group, to keep you and your colleagues safe.


  • Bottled water
  • Beef jerky
  • Trail mix
  • Applesauce, in single-serving containers
  • Pudding cups
  • Raisins

Foods to avoid

  • Hard candies
  • Sticky candies
  • Hard nuts
  • Crunchy granola bars

Numerous volunteer agencies recommend against including hard nuts or crunchy granola bars because a homeless person most likely does not have access to regular dental care and eating hard items like these can be painful if they have untreated or unresolved dental issues.


Remember to package these items separate from the food items, so that the food doesn’t end up tasting like lotion or soap:

  • Lip balm
  • Sunscreen
  • Hand wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Unscented lotion
  • Dental floss

Seasonal Comforts and Necessities

Depending on your geographical location or season:

  • Hats
  • Wool caps
  • Scarves
  • Umbrellas
  • Sunglasses
  • Socks

Other items

  • Travel mugs
  • Reusable water bottles
  • Gift cards
  • Band aids

Food pantry donations

If you google phrases like “food pantry most needed items” or “food bank items to donate,” you’ll see a variety of Top 10 lists and tip sheets. What they typically will do is break things down into food items and non-food items, along these lines:

High-priority food items:

  • Canned meals such as canned soup, raviola or other pasta meals.
  • Canned meat, such as tuna, salmon or chicken. Think bland – children often won’t eat more exotic-tasting items like canned sardines.
  • Canned fruits. This can include peaches, pineapple, pears or fruit cocktails.
  • Gluten-free items, such as rice-based cereals, rice, various kinds of packaged chips and popcorn that are labeled as gluten-free.
  • Fresh produce, such as fruits and vegetables, potatoes, apples and oranges.
  • Basic pantry items are very useful, such as rice, flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, salt and pepper.
  • Powdered milk. Milk can be difficult for many low-income families to keep cold, but powdered milk can be stored in a pantry as a backup.
  • Juice boxes are convenient, good for children and can be stored at room temperature.

Non-Food Items To Donate

  • Household cleaning supplies, such as dishsoap, hand soap, sponges, wash clothes, bleach, sanitizing wipes and paper towels.
  • Feminine hygiene products, such as tampons, pads, panty liners and feminine wipes.
  • Baby diapers and wipes (unscented is best, in case of allergic reactions or skin sensitivity).
  • Other baby items such as baby soap, shampoo and diaper rash cream or new baby bottles.
  • Socks, underwear and warm sweaters.

Tips for donating

  • Check the expiration dates and make sure the items are not expired.
  • Of course, make sure the items have not been opened or used.
  • If you can afford it, think of buying items to donate, especially high priority items, like canned tuna, chicken or ravioli, that food banks often need but don’t get enough of.
  • Remember that people in need of food often don’t have more than the very basic essentials for preparing food. They might have some pots, but not necessarily a crock pot or toaster oven.
  • Self-contained meal kits that don’t require extra ingredients. There are some pasta dinner boxes where the pasta and the flavoring are both included, for example.
  • Pancake mix that uses only water and no other ingredients, such as milk, eggs or vegetable oil.


We are launching a new site to help people organize volunteer projects for their community.

We will be providing step-by-step tutorials, with actual examples of various projects you, your family and friends can do.

Our site is very new. We launched Oct. 7, 2019. We will be adding many new articles soon.


This site was inspired by my experience from the invitation of a family friend.

Many people stray away from the thought of helping their communities because they simply do not know what to do or they back away from the typical idea that long hours of volunteer work must be put in to create any effect. However, helping your community does not always require long tasks such as these and it does not need to be “boring” either.

The friend invited a party of us and turned what could be perceived as a tedious task, creating care packages, into a fun and involving mission.

Each of us paired up and was given a stipend to search the stores for foods and goods. We returned to their home and everyone laid their non perishable items on the table.We got to grouping and packing, and set out again to find people in need.

The reactions of the homeless people was nothing short of emotional. We truly take our blessings for granted, and experiences such as these are eye opening. It really makes an impact on peoples’ lives when you take a little time out of your day to let your actions speak that you care for them.

Please consider creating care packages and cultivate your love for the community.