I spent last Saturday at a local music and arts festival – and when I say “local,” I mean LOCAL. Organizers held the venue in my city’s park, all food vendors were from “mom-and-pop shops” around town (no national chains), artists from around the area displayed their jewelry, paintings, clothing, and other merchandise, and all musicians were from within the tri-state area. I had a great time shopping, eating, and listening to great tunes with family and friends, and I’m grateful for everyone who worked so hard to put together the festival.

I’m a firm believer that getting involved in your community is beneficial for both your mind and your body. There’s a sense of connection, solidarity, and strength that comes from organizing or participating in an event within your own neck of the woods.

With that being said, below are seven ways you can get involved in your own community.

1. Look for Local Events

Keep an eye on newspaper and news station announcements. Whether it’s a music and arts festival, a performance by your local dance troupe, or a special presentation such as an outdoor movie viewing, GO!

2. Volunteer Your Time

There are TONS of ways you can volunteer your time. For example, you might volunteer as a dog walker for your local animal shelter or volunteer to read to the elderly at retirement homes. Just think about what’s important to you, reach out to that organization, and ask!

3. Donate Your Resources

If you don’t have time to volunteer, then donate. Actually, donate anyway! Some donation ideas include donating:

  • Clothes and household goods to your local thrift shops or area Salvation Army or Goodwill.
  • Food to your city’s food bank.
  • Bed linens to your town’s city mission or homeless shelter.
  • Books to area libraries.
  • Food, cleaning supplies, and bedding to your local animal shelter.

NOTE: There’s DEFINITELY nothing wrong with donating money, too, but I feel like actual products get you more involved in the community.

4. Shop Locally

Buy from local vendors. I purchased the cutest handmade bracelet from the festival, and there were paintings and clothes there, too. You can also skip the Big Box grocery stores and shop with locally owned grocers or at farmer markets.

5. Join a Class or Group

Two summers ago I joined a running class hosted by a track runner from one of my state’s universities, which – surprise! – is located in my city. I met like-minded people, learned more about an activity I enjoy, and spent registration money – you guessed it – locally.

My town also has ongoing groups for runners, bikers (of the pedaling variety), and other outdoor activities.

6. Support Your Local Sports Teams

You might not even be aware of how many sports teams surround you. Think about it. Does your town have a Little League? What about a Minor League? Think about high school and college sports teams – can you go support them? Remember: Players play because they love the game, but seeing fans in the stands can make a world of difference.

7. Organize Your Own Event

OK, so maybe you don’t feel qualified (or have enough time) to organize something as involved as a music and arts festival or marathon, but that doesn’t mean you can’t team up with a few friends and organize a fun event! Think about special kids’ events at the library, car washes to raise money for your church, or putting together goodie baskets for hospitals and retirement homes.

Your turn! How do YOU get involved in YOUR community?