When the economy is bad, we tend to cut back on everything that isn’t absolutely necessary in order to make the dollars that we do have go a little further. Unfortunately, since charitable giving is voluntary, that is one place that many people decide to “cut back on”
Please don’t. Instead, make an even greater effort to do whatever you can to help those who are in need. If your own circumstances have gotten worse, think of how those whose circumstances were already bad must be faring.
Here are some things you can do that will help those less fortunate than you without spending a lot of money.
1. Start a food pantry in your house so you will have food to donate to the poor.
I don’t mean for you to open your home to serve meals to the needy, although you could do that I suppose. What I mean is to slowly begin to build up a supply of food that you can give to the local groups that distribute food to those who need it. The Salvation Army or the local mission are good places to start.
You don’t have to go out and buy ten cases of soup or a 100 pound bag of beans at one time. Just throw a few extra cans of good food into your basket when you are doing the shopping for your own family. You will hardly even notice a few extra dollars at the check-out stand, and you will enjoy watching your food pantry for the poor grow over time.
Encourage your children to take a bit of their allowance and watch for sales so that they can add an occasional can or two to the pantry themselves.
Tell your friends and neighbors about your food pantry. They may want to donate a few items of their own, or even start a food pantry at their own home.
2. Meet the needs of the homeless in your area.
In any town, there always seem to be a few street-corner panhandlers who make a lifetime profession out of begging. We usually don’t know the circumstances of these people but prefer to avoid giving them money lest we find ourselves unknowingly supporting a drug or alcohol habit. Instead, make up personal packets containing a toothbrush, small containers of toothpaste, a disposable razor, soap, a washcloth, a comb, and other grooming items homeless people might need. Add food that they can eat without cooking, or prepare over a campfire. Individual packages of coffee or tea, cans of Vienna Sausage, packaged crackers, soup, etc. are always welcome.
Donate unused sleeping bags, blankets and coats. Giving these things to a needy person costs us nothing, but may be life-saving to a homeless individual.
If your church has some space, offer free haircuts, or shower facilities. Have someone available to counsel those individuals who are willing to take advantage of such a service but don’t push it on them.
Use left-over material to piece a quilt and donate it to your local mission. This will cost you nothing but time, and be gratefully accepted by the mission. If you can afford to invest a little money in yardage, missions also have a constant demand for men’s pajama bottoms, so put those sewing skills to work.
3. Do what you can to help the jobless.
Set up a place in your church or place of business and invite those who are looking for work to gather there. Have volunteers keep a record of the people who need work, what skills they have, and of employers that may be interested in hiring at this time. Ask these volunteers to call local businesses they hear of that could be possible employers.
Have coffee and snacks on hand and try to instill a sense of hope in the jobless people who stop by. Help them with writing resumes, letters, etc. If they need tips on grooming, have someone available to provide it. Teach them telephone skills, and help them practice for job interviews
Offer to baby sit the children of single mothers who need to look for work. Once they are on their feet financially, they can make other arrangements, but when you have no money coming in, trying to find a job is almost impossible when you have a baby to care for.
Drive people to job interviews. The last thing a jobless person needs right now is to see his last few dollars being gobbled up for fuel to drive around looking for work. Give him or her some hope by lifting that burden from them as often as possible, and be there for the person to encourage them before and after the interview.
If a jobless person seems unemployable, see if you can track down a place for that person to learn some skills that will make them more valuable to an employer. Draw on your own experiences to show them things that may help them be successful in their job search. Look for training that fits the person involved, and that they will be able to complete in as short a period of time as possible. Search out in the community for people willing to share in the cost of job-training.
Keep your eyes and ears open as you go about your errands. Information about an available job will sometimes pop up in the most unexpected place. Don’t be afraid to ask a few questions if you do hear of an available job and pass the information along to your job center as quickly as possible.
There you have several inexpensive ways you can help the poor, the homeless, and the jobless in your area. Get your friends to join you and together you can help your community weather the economical storm that is causing so much distress in our country.
When the storm finally does pass, you will have great satisfaction in knowing that you were able to help others survive even though you may have had less money than usual to use for charitable causes.