Take Time To Remember And Pay It Forward: Building Community Through Volunteering

“ After 9/11 my sons and I learned, through the kindness of strangers, how important it is to our healing to serve others and pay it forward. ”

Cindy McGinty, wife of 9/11 victim Mike McGinty 


In the wake of that fateful morning on September 11, 2001, there was an outpouring of philanthropic response. Non-profit foundations, companies, and individuals pulled together an estimated $2.8 billion dollars over the course of the aftermath, helping provide emergency services, rebuild New York City schools and libraries, re-establish communities, and provide direct assistance to victims and their families. Children set up lemonade stands, churches collected special offerings, schools held pancake breakfasts—all for the want to help.

And donations weren’t just money. Blood donations soared in the week following 9/11, with regional blood banks reporting 572,000 more units than their typical collection. Strangers opened their homes, brought food to the families of the fallen, lit candles, and held hands. This generous response isn’t just due to the historic nature of the attack. It’s a reflection of the generous nature of the American people. Whether locally or globally, it is not enough for us to bare witness to tragedy. We are called to give.

And so, with the support of Congress and the citizens of the United States, September 11th was designated as a National Day of Service and Remembrance, also known as Patriot Day.

We at Aventure have talked about the importance of volunteering as source of additional skills and service on your resume. And it is that, yes. But let that be the smallest benefit in the giving of your money, your time, and your energy. This month, let’s turn the question inside out. Instead of “What can this volunteer opportunity do for me and my career?” ask “What more could I be doing to help?”

Here are some ideas and resources to get you started.

  • Head to 911day.org. This volunteerism search engine is powered by VolunteerMatch and AllForGood, two organizations that match individuals with opportunities to serve in their local areas.
  • Share Random Acts of Kindness. Pay for a stranger’s coffee, send a heartfelt letter, or one of the hundreds of ideas mentioned by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.
  • Include the whole family. Lead by example. Even kids as young as two years old can recognize the value of sharing toys with kids who need it or sharing their favorite food items with a local pantry. Points of Light offers several more family-friendly volunteer ideas.
  • Books. Clothes. Movies. New or used, these items are needed. Make a monthly event of taking stock and then taking a trip to your local donation center.
  • Think closer. Volunteering doesn’t always have to be a structured event on a national level. Take a look around your neighborhood and see if there are ways you can help. Is there a new mom who needs a break? Does your elderly neighbor need help bringing in the mail or raking leaves? Is there a patch of weeds where flowers could grow?

There’s a reason volunteering looks great on a resume and why it’s a solid idea for companies to do it, too; it shows global thinking, a well-rounded approach to life, good balance, and a connection to the surrounding community. Regardless of your motivations, remember: volunteering is ALWAYS a good thing, especially when you keep it going.

After all, there’s no telling what your ripple will do.

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