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Five ways to help, even if you’re broke

Let’s face it. Some people have full hearts and empty wallets. Money isn’t always available to donate to a cause that matters to you, but you don’t have to walk away feeling guilty. Here are five things you can donate to charity besides a check.

1. Time

Your time is exponentially more valuable than any dollar amount because, ultimately, money is just the means. Sure, it pays for the food at a food bank, but who distributes the food? And yes, it pays for a charity event, but who plans and runs the event? A good cause is not served by money alone. It takes a lot of people doing a lot of different things in order to make a difference.

2. Skills

Similar to the last point, if you want to do something a little more specialized than volunteering at a charity event, you can use your career or hobby to make a difference. If you run a business or are a freelancer, you can offer your services at a discount or even for free. Entertainment and catering are often big expenses for events, and any type of discount is sure to help. Even if you do something for fun and not professionally, like photography or graphic design, chances are it still can be used for the cause.

3. Voice

Good causes often need a voice. This is not a “The Little Mermaid” situation, but rather simply advocating for an organization or cause that you care about. Even if you cannot personally donate money, you can still ask others for support on behalf of the organization or cause. This is also a good option if you lack money AND time, as this can be as simple as trying to increase awareness to your Facebook friends or signing a petition that will somehow benefit the cause.

4. Gently-used items

Whether it’s a shirt that’s too small, a coat that’s too warm or a toy that your child played with for a day, gently-used items can have a new life once donated. These things can be collected by specific drives or donated to a thrift shop that gives some or all of its profits to a certain charity. Take the Bigbee Humane Society Thrift Store, for example. Used items are donated and then resold at the benefit of the Bigbee Humane Society.

5. Blood

This is a fairly obvious one, but I thought it was still worth talking about for the simple fact that donated blood saves countless lives every day. Cancer patients, severe anemics and trauma victims are just a few different types of people who need blood transfusions, and sometimes the need may be greater than the supply. There are various blood service providers that you can donate blood to, such as American Red Cross or United Blood Services, and you can even apply to host a blood drive yourself.

Without a doubt, there are plenty of ways to support a charity or cause without donating any money. Even if you don’t think of something as valuable, it will likely make a big difference in the end.

(This column originally appeared in the Wednesday, August 29 issue of the Demopolis Times.)