(Family Features) In these tough economic times, people throughout the country are looking for innovative ways to get involved in their local communities, enrich lives and make a real difference. Fortunately for everyone, as the charitable spirit continues to spread throughout the U.S., getting involved has become easier and less expensive than ever as corporations, nonprofits, schools and even our own administration have actively encouraged citizens worldwide to volunteer their free time to those who need it most. When it comes to volunteering, there is no right or wrong way to get involved. Rather, there are a number of ways to incorporate it into your everyday life and really make it count. Here are a few small things to consider when looking for opportunities that make a big impact. Find an employer that fosters volunteerism.Many corporations are moving towards the trend of offering their employees volunteer opportunities throughout the year. For example, team members at Target have volunteered millions of hours to community projects, from assembling and distributing disaster relief kits to reading to young people and helping makeover local school libraries. When researching a potential employer, look to see if they have an organized volunteer program. Or if your current employer doesn’t offer a company-wide volunteer program, consider starting one. Make it a family affair. As family vacation and activity budgets shrink, find a fun volunteer event that’s not only free but allows your family to play their part on making the world a better place. Many people find that giving to the community can be a rewarding and exciting way to instill values in children, encourage teamwork and foster a positive attitude within the home. Working together as a family is especially rewarding when you choose to support an organization that has special significance or meaning.Find a cause that inspires you. Identify an organization or cause in your community that matters to you most. To find a great place to volunteer in your area use Web services, like VolunteerMatch, which are dedicated to bringing together good people and good causes. VolunteerMatch offers an array of programs to support community and civic service 365 days a year, and any nonprofit organization can join its network.Change the world…one simple act at a time.The old saying “no good deed goes unnoticed” is true to its core. It’s not about a huge cash donation, but rather finding those small, yet everlasting ways to touch people’s lives, like grocery shopping for the elderly or driving the local neighborhood kids to their sporting events. Truly no effort is too small. Grow your skills. The great thing about volunteer work is that it’s not only good for the cause, but also for the people who donate their time. Volunteerism is a way to develop new skills, discover new areas of interest and connect with other people in the community.Don’t over-commit your time. Remember to let volunteering be a fun and rewarding part of your day. If you’re short on time, consider virtual volunteering. Utilize your online skills to help students with homework questions, electronically visit with someone who is homebound or in the hospital, or design a newsletter or brochure for a nonprofit. Whatever you do, make sure it’s a choice – that’s why it’s called volunteer work!For more information on Target’s volunteer program, visit www.target.com/community. Or to find volunteer opportunities in your area, visit www.volunteermatch.org.
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