Causes to Care About

If you’re like me and love to do volunteer work, but are unsure of where or how to get involved, or would rather only serve with organizations that are personally recommended by someone you know, keep reading!

1. Feed My Starving Children

Unfortunately, this organization’s locations are limited to Arizona, Illinois, and Minnesota; however, they also have MobilePack’s that are and can be organized in other areas. Of course, if you aren’t able to physically participate (which is by far the most fun), there are always the options of donating or fundraising.

I’ve volunteered at this non-profit about 8 times in the past two years, with both my team from work and youth from my church, and I still wish I could go more often.

FMSC is a Christian-based organization that distributes meals, called MannaPacks, which have all been prepared by volunteers, to children in Third World, starvation-ridden countries like Nicaragua, the Philippines, and several others all over the globe.

Volunteers have several options of how to participate when at the packing centers, including labeling and doing some heavy lifting in the warehouse, but where I’ve always contributed is the packing station itself. In an assembly line of sorts, each team of at least 6 carefully measures out ingredients into the plastic bags, which are then sealed shut and packed in a box. The shift leaders keep the energy high with peppy music and competitive chants, and you can’t help but want to get as many MannaPacks packed as possible during your session!

At the end of each shift, volunteers are shown the amount of boxes that were stuffed and the breakdown of how many meals will be made from those numbers; it truly is an incredible feeling, knowing the impact of what just a couple of hours of your time will have for a child halfway around the world.

All volunteers are then welcome to pray over the pallet(s) of potential meals to ask God for protection in its shipping and distribution. As you can guess, this is my favorite part.

There is also a small store within the packing center where handmade products from many of the communities and villages are sold. What I like best about these goods is that next to the price, the tag tells you how many meals that purchase is equivalent to. I fell in love with a quirky, colorful beaded necklace made out of strips of magazines that cost $20, or 45 meals. Whenever I am complimented on it, I recognize it as a chance to point others to this amazing organization.

2.  United Blood Services

I have been giving blood for over a decade now–I donated for the very first time in my 11th grade of high school. At the time it was with the American Red Cross, which is also a great organization, but since I moved to Arizona it has just become more convenient to donate with United Blood.

Some people have a phobia of needles, some people are anemic, some have illnesses preventing them from donating; I get it. However, if you don’t fit into any of those categories, or any other category that would prohibit you from giving a pint of blood, I sincerely encourage you to get on it. The national blood bank has been at a critical shortage for most of this year, due to the many natural disasters and crises, and they are in desperate need of donors.

The entire process, from the time you check-in to the moment you’ve finished some snacks they’ve provided, should take less than an hour. Everyone who has ever helped me at these centers has been friendly, gentle, and helpful. They know what they’re doing, and that alone is enough to put you at ease.

I’m the kind of person who needs instant gratification or assurance; I need to see results and know my efforts were not in vain.

A few days after my last blood donation, I received a text from United Blood stating “Anissa, your donation has been sent to a hospital to help a patient needing a transfusion. Thank you for being a lifesaving blood donor!” Needless to say, that text made my week, and the prospect of that happening again will cause me to continue to donate blood as often as I am able to.

3. Lovishly

I can’t remember how I found out about this company. I think it was through a series of clicks on Instagram (@lovishly), or at least it’s a probable guess.

Anyway, I’ve followed them for quite some time, always finding myself inspired by their meaningful jewelry pieces and the real transformation stories they’d post along with them. I’m not one to buy these kinds of things for myself, but I finally couldn’t stand it anymore and purchased a simple, understated bar necklace that states Love Does.

Every time I wear this necklace I find myself absent-mindedly reaching up for it to run my finger along the delicately etched letters, and I’m then reminded of two important thoughts: Love is an action verb, and, even if no one else understands my current situation or my heart’s intentions, agape love, God’s love, always does.

Five dollars from each necklace or bracelet that is bought goes to various non-profits all around the world that correlate to the theme of the item purchased. This one supports the organization called Love Does, founded by a man named Bob Goff who also wrote a book with the same title. As the link will tell you, this group provides education to children who live in conflict zones. Having somewhat of a teacher’s heart myself, I can’t deny the sense of purpose that wearing this simple treasure gives me, knowing the greater good it is doing even in a faraway land.

4. Habitat for Humanity

By teaming up with this organization within the past year, our CEO has established a mission for Grand Canyon University to help out over 700 houses in the area surrounding the campus. This is possible in two ways. The first is through tax donation. As an employee, I can choose for a portion of the state taxes that are already coming out of each of my paychecks to actually be allocated to Habitat directly, without any inconvenience to me or the state. The second option to be involved with Habitat is, of course, through volunteer activities and projects.

This past spring, my coworkers and I signed up with Habitat for Humanity to join a large team of volunteers to do restoration and maintenance on a house in the nearby neighborhood. We spent the morning giving the exterior a fresh coat of paint, and laughing quite a bit while doing so. When we finished, we were all speckled with grey paint, and somehow I had ripped my skirt, which really shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me. Bottom line, we had a blast.

The Habitat leaders were experienced and down-to-earth–a couple of them had been associated with the organization for more than a decade. With their help, we were able to get the job done much sooner than most of us expected, and before the midday heat made it unbearable.

The greatest reward from this experience, however, was the look on each of the household members’ faces, and their genuine gratitude for what we had accomplished for them.

5. Keep It Wild Co.

I’ve been following this account on Instagram for quite some time now, but hadn’t gotten around to purchasing anything for myself. For my birthday back in June, my coworkers got me this ‘Roam On’ shirt that I just adore. It’s a unisex size small, but it shrunk enough to be perfectly roomy and it’s super soft, too.

The best part about this shirt and all of their other products, though, is that a portion of the proceeds from every sale goes to organizations in charge of actively maintaining or restoring local wild areas. The company itself also partners with some of these organizations for actual volunteer events and cleanup days in which anyone can be apart of.

If you make a purchase, they will send you a trash bag to take on your next outdoor adventure to encourage you to pick up trash in whatever area you find yourself. Post and tag it with #letskeepitwild and they will send you a free sticker!

6. Children’s Cancer Network

I got involved with this Arizona charity after picking up one of their pamphlets at a volunteer fair on GCU‘s campus. There are multiple ways this organization does good deeds, but I signed up to be a back-to-school shopper for a child with cancer, along with her siblings.

Within a couple of weeks, I received a packet in the mail containing the check, along with extremely detailed instructions. The paperwork included a checklist for the entire process, tax letters and donation forms in the event a store would be willing to give additional funds or products, and there was a separate envelope for all receipts to be included when delivering the purchased items. The ages and names of each child, their school supply needs, as well as their sizes, favorite colors, and the types of clothes each needed for the school year, were included as well.

To say the least, I had a blast shopping! I’m well known as a bargain shopper (or the Coupon Queen); I find it a fun challenge to get as many items as I can with the amount of cash I have to work with. The fact that this was for a family with a seven year old cancer patient made me try even harder to bless them big time.

However, as there was a specific deadline, I was quite short on time. The only chance I could get to shop was an evening after work, the day before I left for a week trip to Oregon.

No sweat. The coordinator of the Children’s Cancer Network was so personable and willing to work with me. We spoke a few times over the phone, and she was able to set up a convenient drop-off spot on campus so I didn’t have to drive all the way over to Chandler where they are located.

Then, after my vacation, I came home to a card in the mail, and inside was a handwritten note of sincerest thanks. These people are most obviously compassionate and generous, but they are also very real and considerate.

I definitely plan to be involved with this organization in the future, one way or another. I highly recommend you do the same!

7. tentree

You’ve probably heard about this one on social media as well–this is another outdoorsy apparel company, but they’re also so much more. Their main goal is that for every item purchased, ten trees will be planted somewhere in the world where reforestation is much needed. But their impact doesn’t stop there.

Every article manufactured by them, be it clothing, accessory, or even the very tags these items come with, is made with the environment in mind. Clothing is made with materials like organic cotton, recycled polyester, and TENCEL (click for more info on that, if you are unaware of it), and their price tags are made from recycled paper.

I know this because I caved and bought a crew neck sweater. Now, I’m not going to lie to you, their prices are a bit steep. But, after reading about this company’s objectives and conscious efforts concerning all groups and aspects that are affected, the cost, to me, was worth it. Feel free to click the tentree link to read more in depth of the different ways the company is mindful in every step of their manufacturing process–they clearly have no secrets and are wanting to be as transparent with their consumers as possible.

I’m no model; I don’t even pretend to be, but I stood outside in triple digits to get the picture below so you all can see the fit on a real-life, only-sort-of-in-shape person. Despite it being out of season for the moment, this sweater is SO soft and relaxing. I can’t wait to wear it this fall and winter with my various plaids!

Each item comes with a small metal token attached to the tag with the company logo on one side, on the other is your tree code you can register right away on their site. This was definitely the fun part, and it was super fast too. I plugged in the numbers and was instantly given a few choices on how I wanted my contribution to have an impact. After a series of clicks I reached the final step that showed where in the world my trees were planted–right along the western coast Madagascar! This destination was never very high on my list, but now I feel a connection and a desire to visit someday sooner rather than later.

There may be other ideas out there on what to do with this token after the code has been applied, but I decided to put it on a necklace chain alongside a similar shaped charm that has a famous Peter Pan quote engraved in it; it seemed fitting.

I also copied this note below directly from my confirmation page, just so you can have a good idea of how the business model works:

“Clothing manufacturing takes planning and forecasting. Before each season we design each garment and project how many of each we’ll sell. We then match this to our tree planting initiatives. Say, we plan to sell 100 hats. For each hat we plant 10 trees, so this means we will plant 1,000 trees and we reach out to one of our tree planting partners and place an order for 1,000 trees.”

8. Blessing Bags!

This isn’t a specific organization, but if you’re really at a loss or just find yourself with a bit of time and cash and want to make a difference locally, Blessing Bags are a great start. This can be a great project for youth groups or families as well. I’ve made them a couple of times, once by myself and another time with a small group of girls from my church.

Everyone brought the kind of supplies they could think would be useful for someone living on the streets: dry snacks, packaged drinks, cough drops, gloves, deodorant, bandages, tissues, and so forth, and we began divvying up the goods in gallon sized baggies. I also included a printout that contained local shelter information and a handwritten bible verse or word of encouragement on the back. When we’d all made at least 6 bags for each of us to keep in our vehicles, we prayed over them as a group and asked God to help us place them in the right hands.

Obviously, I don’t recommend walking out alone seeking a homeless person to give one of these to–the general idea is to have them on hand in your car and should you happen to see someone with a cardboard sign at a stoplight, hold out the bag and watch his or her face light up with surprise. This exact experience of making someone’s day has made my day numerous times now.

That’s it, for now! Keep in mind, this list only consists of the organizations I have a personal experience with, but by no means am I limited to them. There are plenty more I am aware of, but haven’t done adequate research on, or would like to have an opportunity to be involved with, but have not had sufficient funds or time to dedicate thus far.

To name just a few…

9. Drop4Drop: #W4WATER, advocates clean water for everyone

10. Operation Groundswell: “Backpacking with a purpose,” offers opportunities to volunteer abroad

11. Love Does: (as mentioned above) provides education to children in conflict zones

12. Rice Love: “Buy a Bag, Feed a Family,” buy a unique, handmade backpack made from recycled burlap and other materials, and the proceeds supply a family with rice

Some of us can do more than others, whether with our time or with our finances, but as long as there is a heart willing to make a difference, there will always be a corresponding need somewhere for that desire to be targeted.

If any of you know of someone or an organization doing admirable and honest charity work for an amazing cause, I’m all ears!