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It’s the beginning of a new year and the start of a new decade. 2020! Where has the time gone? I feel like we just celebrated 2010.

So many of us try to make a fresh start as the old year finishes and the new one begins. A new decade is an even cleaner start to better habits.

But there’s more to a fresh start than a new diet, a new exercise routine, a new job. There are better means of improvement; ways to improve your character or mood, ways to better the world…and one of the easiest ways to do that is to give back to the community.

Looking back, 2019 wasn’t exactly stellar for me. While some awesome things did happen, the less-than-positive mental state I was in overshadowed the positives. Boy, was I glad to see the end of it! By December I was determined not to have a repeat in 2020. I made up my mind: it was time to change my outlook. It was time to become a more positive person. Maybe then, finally, things that have been put off for years could finally be ignited.

For me, and hopefully for many others, this means not only getting my butt in gear—exercising more, actually starting that novel—but also finding a way to connect to others, to help improve my positive outlook so that I’m more inclined to reach my goals. And as January comes to a close and many people start flaking away from their New Years resolutions, we should all start thinking about ways to keep the new-year-new-decade momentum moving forward.

I’ve decided to give back in 2020.

While one should never give purely for self-improvement, there are a lot of health benefits to giving. And what’s more, it’s fun. From volunteering with your family and getting your teenagers away from their devices to helping out at an animal shelter with all the pups and kittens, there are as many ways to give back as there are hobbies. All you need to do is a little bit of research. Two years ago, I lucked out: I came across Leap of Joy, a wonderful project that happened to combine both my passion for dance and working with kids. It’s been very rewarding!

This year, I’m going to do more, and I’m starting with the community. Here are five ways you, like me, can help the positive vibes in 2020.

          1. Spring Cleaning
          2. Volunteering your Time
          3. Pick up Trash
          4. Participate in a Fundraiser
          5. Enroll your kid in a class

Spring Cleaning

Embarrassing truth: My closet hasn’t been cleaned out since I moved into my apartment in 2014. In fact, there’s still a box on the floor that I haven’t unpacked. It’s awful. I’ve made several attempts throughout the years to start organizing, but the truth is, it’s so daunting that I can’t seem to get started.

Sound familiar?

This year, I’m determined to get through it. By attacking it small chunks at a time, my goal is to get rid of everything I don’t need by the time September rolls around.

I made small steps last year: whenever I bought a new article of clothing, I had to put one existing article of clothing into the Goodwill pile. Now my donation pile is huge! I’ve got a stack of clothes ready to donate to someone in need…and my closet is starting to look less cluttered, at least the hanging portion of clothes. I can’t say the same for the floor, but hey, it’s a step forward.

This is a great way to start giving back. There are so many people out there that can’t afford basics like warm clothing in the winter (one of the reasons Leap of Joy hosts their Caps & Mittens campaign every year). Instead of letting all those old clothes that don’t fit you pile up in your closet, put them all in a bag and take them to the Goodwill, or the Salvation Army, or even a local charity of your choice.

Here’s a link to places in Austin where you can give your in-kind donations. If you do donate in-kind, make sure whatever charity you choose gives you a receipt. Under certain circumstances, you can claim the donations on your taxes.

Don’t have a lot of clothes to get rid of? Here are some other ideas: go through your kitchen appliances. Have you used an item in the past year? No? Donate it! Do you have a bunch of holey sheets, old blankets, or towels? You can take them to a local animal shelter and free up some space.

In-kind donations can help knock some things off your to-do list, improve your living situation, and help some people less fortunate!

 

Volunteering Your Time

Time is money. As a freelancer who also works a full-time job and tries to have a life outside of work, I know this from experience. That small amount of time I have that I’m not working is very precious for me. We as Americans are nonstop, busy busy busy, and sometimes–that’s a lie, all the time–it feels like there aren’t enough hours each day.

If you find yourself with some extra time, why not donate it to someone in need? Nonprofits are often struggling for volunteers—and so donating your time is one of the best ways to help out!

On top of that, there are volunteer opportunities for every taste and schedule. Do you like to garden? Check out your local parks department or local public gardens. Love pets? I once had a long conversation with someone from an animal shelter who said they’re always looking for people to come spend time with the animals. Like kids? Volunteer at a day care, or at a local nonprofit dance center!

On top of helping the needy, volunteering is a great way to meet new people and make friends. It gets you out of the house, experiencing life, and depending on the kind of volunteering you do, can open your eyes to a world you never knew.

Last October, I volunteered with Leap of Joy at their booth at ACL. I had so much fun! Live music is a passion of mine and I got to meet so many new people, while some of my favorite artists served as a musical background. Volunteering doesn’t have to just be grueling manual labor. It can be whatever you want it to be!

Ready to volunteer? Here’s a link to an Austin 360 article with lots of local volunteer opportunities! The best thing–it’s organized by subject.

 

Pick Up Trash

Austin gets an average of 228 days of sunshine a year. While July and August are grueling, there is plenty of beautiful weather in the spring and fall. Joining a community clean-up is a great excuse to get outside in the sunshine! Not only do you get some exercise and vitamin D, but helping to clean up the community helps the environment.

On top of that, it costs the city a lot of money to clean up litter; volunteering means less of our tax dollars going toward trash pickup. That’s more money that can be dispersed elsewhere…maybe towards funding arts programs in public schools! (I can wish, can’t I?)

Picking up trash is fairly self explanatory. It cleans up the city, making it look much nicer, allowing us to enjoy more of the beautiful city and the nature that surrounds it. Additionally, picking up litter helps the environment.

On the same note, helping in your everyday life to reduce the use of plastics and reuse what you can’t avoid is another way to give back not only to your community, but the Earth as well.

Here’s a link to Keep Austin Beautiful, a great resource for community cleanups. Not only can you register for existing events, but if there’s an area in town you think needs help, you can schedule your own!

 

Participate in a Fundraiser

One of my favorite ways to give back is attending a fundraiser. As an artist, writer, dancer and actor, I’ve always enjoyed going to live shows and art exhibits. A lot of these shows use ticket sales to raise funds for their programs, including Leap of Joy.

If there’s an organization you’re particularly fond of—mine include Austin Shakespeare and Tapestry Dance—the best way to stay informed of what they have going on is to subscribe to their newsletter. Whenever they have an event, you’ll be notified directly in your inbox. This way, you’ll have direct access to fundraising opportunities like ground-breaking plays, incredible dance performances, and heart-warming recitals.

(Psst…if you’d like to hear more from us, why not consider subscribing to Leap of Joy’s newsletter? Scroll down to the bottom of our home page to subscribe)

Not a fan of dance shows or theatre? There are many other events that raise funds for non-profits. Are you a runner, or just like to walk? Many running events help raise funds for charity. Like to dress up? Consider a ball or a gala. Like volunteering, there are fundraising opportunities for all tastes. All it requires is a little bit of research. This, too, is one of the easiest ways to give back, because not only are you helping out a good cause, but you’re getting something out of it, whether it’s entertainment, or a really awesome workout. Cynical of me? Maybe, but in my experience we all are more inclined to do things when there’s a direct benefit for ourselves 😉

Don’t know where to start? Check out Eventbrite’s Charity Events filter.

 

Enroll Your Kid in a Class

If you subscribe to our newsletter, you know we’ve just opened up new Saturday dance classes for kids. This is the first time we’ve ever opened class up to the public, and we’re very excited! Classes are on Saturdays from 10-11:30, for ages 7-14. It costs $250 for 14 weeks, or $18 per class, but as always, we offer scholarships for kiddos.

All the proceeds from these classes go to help Leap of Joy fund our other events, helping us bring dance and theatre to some of the less fortunate kiddos in Austin.

But it doesn’t stop at Leap of Joy. Many nonprofits that focus on the arts also offer classes and workshops—including the two I mentioned above, Austin Shakespeare and Tapestry. This is one of the main ways they’re able to raise enough money to operate. If you’re looking for a reason to get your children (or yourself!) out of the house and learn something, taking a class or participating in a workshop with a local nonprofit is a great way to do it.

These are just a few ways to give back to the community this year. There are many other ways, if none of these options suit you. But I challenge everyone to give back at least once this year. We often take for granted the opportunities and resources given to us every day; there are so many people out in the world who need our help. Giving back, just a little, can make the community a better place to live.

Help us at Leap of Joy stick to our resolutions; help us give back in 2020. Who knows; you may even start a trend.

 

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