Every Saturday during the summer and early fall J-Town host a local farmers market where everything is produced locally. Photo by Olivia Evans.
Every Saturday during the summer and early fall J-Town host a local farmers market where everything is produced locally. Photo by Olivia Evans.

Six ways to become more active in your community

Everyone knows that being involved in your community is beneficial to being a productive member of society. Getting involved in your community encompasses more than just volunteering once or twice a year. The involvement and skills you learn from community opportunities can better prepare you for future experiences in life. Being an active member in your community not only directly impacts the environment that raised you, but it looks good for colleges as well. Research also demonstrates that volunteering and community involvement lead to better health and happiness. At first it may be hard to find a cause for which you are passionate, but once you do, community involvement will become easy to you.

Volunteer at a local non-profit

As a volunteer, you have the opportunity to work with many types of organizations and build a high level of professional skills. These skills can be applicable to college and the job field. Another way volunteering provides personal benefit to high school students is that they can list it on resumes and college applications. While volunteering in your community provides a slew of perks for yourself, it benefits the community you live in to a greater degree. Volunteering at a nonprofit provides them with the resources they need to continue flourishing. There are lots of local nonprofits, such as My Dog Eats First, The Backside Learning Center and La Casita. Many national nonprofits, such as Dare to Care, American Red Cross and World Wildlife Fund, also have locations within cities like Louisville.

Donate to charities

If you are too busy to volunteer somewhere, you can donate items or money to organizations. Every little donation truly does matter and can help an organization have a larger outreach to people who need help. For the American Red Cross, five dollars can provide resources to one of their 200,000 volunteers annually. Local libraries tend to host book drives for one cause or another.

Another way you can involve yourself with community donations is to find out what items that schools within the area are asking for. Sometimes schools will host disaster relief drives, Thanksgiving canned food drives and clothing drives for shelters. In JCPS there is a constant need for clothing donations to the 15th District PTA Clothing Assistance Program (CAP). One national organization that is easy to help is Boy Scouts of America. They collect canned foods and other items every year. Groups such as the Humane Society and other “no kill” shelters are always in constant need of supplies for pets, ranging from pet food to pet beds and toys. Donating items offers a simple way to provide your community with more resources.

Shop locally

While yes, it’s a lot easier for someone to say to shop local rather than do local shopping, it is still something everyone in a community should strive to do. Shopping locally can be anything from a farmers market to a mom-and-pop store. Keeping your money local has a multitude of advantages: it can build a stronger local economy, bring the community closer together and promote a cleaner environment and cleaner eating habits.

Local businesses are able to hire hometown workers for both their staff and for any repairs or remodeling needed for business. According to the American Independent Business Alliance, local stores are more likely to carry other local products. The Environment Protection Agency did a study that shows when you shop local, you’re more likely to walk or bike than individuals who only shop at chains. This can save an average of 520 miles and 24 gallons of gas annually, thus keeping the local environment free of more pollution. While sometimes big chain stores may be unavoidable, always remember that before you hit up Lowe’s or Home Depot you could hit up your local J-Town Hardware store.

Locally owned J-Town Harware is in the Historic Gaslight District. It competes with big name companies such as Lowe’s and Home Depot. Photo by Olivia Evans.

Even though everyone seems to be on a Whole Foods kick, try and visit a local farmers market and help Kentucky Proud Farmers while you Keep Louisville Weird all at the same time.

Join a class at a community center

Participating in community center classes allows you to meet new people, learn new skills and give back to your hometown. Community centers offer a variety of programs from crafting classes to exercise classes. Most of these classes cost a small fee; however, that money is put back into funding for causes like youth sports leagues for the community most of the time. In Louisville alone, there are 18 community centers. Several community centers also offer classes for kids. Types of classes include swimming and studying for school. Community centers help to unite the people of a community in a simple and fun way.

A scrolling announcements sign in J-Town offers citizens details about upcoming community events. Photo by Olivia Evans.

Mentor underprivileged kids

Mentor programs give adults, and even teens, a chance to take the lessons they have learned in life and help younger kids who are considered underprivileged or “at risk.” Today in America about 18 million kids qualify as “at risk,” according to the National Mentoring PartnershipAs privileged citizens, it is a moral duty to help children who don’t have the same opportunities that you did. As a mentor you would do a lot more than just hang out with these kids once a month. It is a time-consuming and strenuous process to even undergo consideration to become a mentor.

Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America is one of the longest standing formal mentorship programs. They, along with other formal mentorship programs, have very long application and screening procedures to ensure they are partnering the kids who need the most help with people who can help them the most. A study done by the Annie E. Casey Foundation discovered that private prison companies invest in one prison bed per third-grader who reads below the average reading level. As a mentor, you would have the ability to at least slow this effect. Mentors also provide these kids with stable relationships which they may lack at both home and school. By seeing what a stable relationship looks like and feels like, it helps to re-socialize kids. Mentoring is a big commitment, but it is a commitment that quite literally changes the lives of others.

Participate in the political community

One last way to involve yourself within your local community is to participate in politics. Voting is by far the easiest way; however, once you are of voting age you must first register to vote. Another way to get involved in local politics is to call your Senators and House Representatives and tell them what you do or do not want in politics.

You can also join political protests or special interest groups that look to establish change in certain areas. You don’t have to be the one to organize the protest; by simply showing up, you help to have your voice and the voices of others heard. Often in government it feels as if the individual doesn’t truly hold any power; however, when you enter the political sphere in your own community, you make your voice heard.

At Jeffersontown City Hall, citizens can participate in political matters. Photo by Olivia Evans.

Within your local community there are a multitude of ways to get involved. Some forms of community participation require more effort than others, but there is truly something for everyone. Every member of a community not only has the ability to give back, but also should give back. Remember, even if you did not grow up in the community, it still has provided you with so much. It is your moral duty to help when you can help others. Community involvement has the ability to open new doors and opportunities for you and those around you.

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