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Community service is not just about giving back to your community and country. There are many benefits, including exposure and organizational skills that one can gain from donating time and talent. For children and teens, it is a very productive way of utilizing free time. Not only do they accomplish a lot, they also learn empathy and concern for others in the process. Perhaps the biggest benefit people get from volunteering is the satisfaction of including service into their lives, and by that making a difference in their community and country. Pride and satisfaction are the by-products of service.

While deciding on a community service project, identify activities that would interest you. Would you like to, or be good at collecting funds for medical research, gathering food and clothing for needy families, saving the environment, or helping animals? It is best to donate your time and services towards a subject you feel passionately about. To help you make that choice, here are a wide range of community service ideas.

Helping the Elderly
There are numerous tasks one can do to help the elderly. The options range from volunteering to mow the lawn or shovel snow for an elderly person living close by, or picking up groceries or medicines for them. One way to identify people in need of assistance is to ask your local senior citizens center or place of worship for a list of people in need. Even doing something simple like going for a walk with a senior citizen can make a big difference to them. You could utilize your computer proficiency and teach a senior friend how to use a computer and the Internet. They always need help with raking leaves, cleaning gutters, or washing windows, any of which you could take up. You could even deliver meals to homebound individuals.

Activities at a Nursing Home
Visiting a local nursing home is a good way to serve your country and community. You could visit a home alone or with some friends. Before going, think of games you could organize for the elderly or take along a good book to read to them. However, even just having a conversation with them would suffice. A fun plan could be to organize an afternoon dance at your local nursing home. One could also adopt a 'grandfriend' from a nursing home and write letters to them, or visit them regularly.

Homeless Shelters and Soup Kitchens
Donate food or supplies to your local homeless shelter or soup kitchen. However, the best kind of support you can provide is by volunteering your time. You could help in cooking the meals or serving them. Other things you can do for the homeless include making 'I Care' kits with combs, toothbrushes, shampoo, etc.

Help Animals
For people who love animals, the local Humane Society would be a great place to volunteer time or resources. You could donate pet food and old blankets. You could even adopt a pet from one of these shelters. These animals are usually starved of care and love, and will benefit from whatever you have to offer.

Helping Kids in Need
Among the things you could do for kids are to tutor a student who needs help learning English or some other subject. You could also set up a buddy system for kids with special needs in your community. A bigger project, which family and friends can help out with is a backpack and school supply drive to help needy kids in the area. Alternately, a teddy bear drive for foster children, fire victims, etc., could also be organized. A list of kids in need could be collected from local social service organizations or places of worship.

Charity Carnival
This is an idea that a family or group of friends can take up. You could organize a charity carnival in your backyard complete with carnival games, refreshments, and prizes, and later on donate all the proceeds to your favorite charity. Invite friends from your neighborhood, workplace, place of worship, and your child's school by putting up flyers stating who you are raising funds for.

Christmas Gift Drive
Christmas is a wonderful time to bring cheer to a needy family. One way of achieving that is by arranging a gift drive to provide needy families with gifts on Christmas Day. You could ask others in your neighborhood, church, school, or play group to get involved.

Support Democracy
It is each citizen's democratic responsibility to vote and is a practice that needs to be encouraged within every community. Start by registering people to vote. You could also offer to pass out election material, or you could volunteer at a polling booth on the day of an election. You would need to get in touch with your local authorities to offer your services. Lastly, take a friend along to the polling booth to vote.

Other ideas include:
  • With all the required permissions, you could paint a mural over graffiti.
  • Raise money for braille books and read books or the newspaper on tape for visually impaired people.
  • Clean up trash along a river, beach, or in a park.
  • Teach at Sunday school.
  • Learn to be a peer counselor.
  • Send a letter to one of America's veteran or overseas soldier.
  • Participate in a marathon for your favorite charity.
  • Become a candy striper at your local hospital.
  • Teach at an adult literacy center.
  • Gather clothing from your neighbors and donate it to a local shelter.
  • Volunteer at the next Special Olympics event in your area.
You will find that when you volunteer, you receive much more than you give. What you receive may be intangible, but it can transform your life and the world around you. So find a program in your area and sign up. Or, start your own outreach.