Every January, we resolve to be better versions of ourselves. While losing a few pounds is probably a good idea if you’re like me and ate way too many Christmas cookies, channeling all that good will and intention by giving back to the community is a resolution windfall. From volunteer opportunities to donations that make a difference, there’s plenty of meaningful ways to make an impact on the lives of your less fortunate neighbors. Ring in the New Year by not only doing good, but also feeling great for doing so. Here are 15 local organizations that would love your helping hand.
1. Lend a Paw
Tucked away in an industrial park in East Providence is the nation’s third oldest humane society, the Rhode Island Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RISPCA). The non-profit advocate for homeless and abused animals does not receive any state or federal funding, and in turn relies completely on individual and corporate donations. With a little help from fur-loving friends, the RISPCA is able to provide rehabilitative programs and outreach. 186 Amaral Street, East Providence. 401-438-8150.
Save the Date: March 20 for the annual Heart and Paws Pasta Dinner. RISPCA’s biggest event of the year tends to be a sell-out, so reserve your tickets soon.
Wish List: RISPCA keeps a current wish list on their website with items like dog and cat food, blankets and postage stamps.
How to Help: Volunteer, donate money or items, attend an event, adopt an animal.
2. Hang Out with a Senior
As a non-profit, St. Elizabeth Manor is unlike most facilities that offer short and long term care for seniors and adults with disabilities. Personalized elder care and specialized programs are made possible by fundraising. One of ten St. Elizabeth Community facilities in Rhode Island, the Bristol location specializes in Alzheimer’s and dementia, rehabilitative care and hospice. Volunteers work alongside nurses and caregivers to provide support and resident companionship. 1 Dawn Hill Road, Bristol. 401-253-2300.
Volunteer Opportunities: Taking a walk or reading with a resident, answering phones at the receptionist desk, or helping to bake for a fundraiser are just a few fun and easy ways to get involved.
Save the Date: St. Elizabeth’s big fundraiser, Rose Bids, takes place in September each year. Last year’s gala was held at the swanky Belle Mer in Newport.
How to Help: Volunteer, donate, attend an event.
3. Give a Lesson
Every day is a struggle for those who are not secure in literacy. From English as a second language to undereducated adults, the Literacy Volunteers of East Bay serves upwards of 150 learners each year thanks to dozens of volunteer tutors. No previous experience is required to be a tutor, and the organization will provide thorough training in advance of a match. Helping someone read and write is a lifelong gift – for both the tutor and the learner. 17 Croade Street, Warren. 401-247-2177.
Small Donations, Big Impact: $25 buys classroom supplies while $100 purchases 20 GED workbooks.
Library Classrooms: Students meet their tutors at one of the many libraries throughout the East Bay for lessons.
How to Help: Volunteer, donate money.
4. Help a Family in Need
Located on the lower level of the Barrington Library is the volunteer-run charity TAPIN (Touch a Person In Need). A combination food pantry/furniture and clothing bank, TAPIN’s mission is to provide assistance to East Bay residents who are having trouble making ends meet. With the help of over 100 volunteers who sort donations and help run collection drives, the organization is able to make a positive impact in our own backyard. 281 County Road, Barrington. 401-247-1444.
Donate Stuff Your Don't Need Anymore: TAPIN accepts used children’s clothes, household items and furniture that are in good condition. Visit the website for a list of accepted items.
Volunteer Opportunities: Teens and adults are encouraged to donate their time in a variety of ways, like stocking shelves and greeting clients.
How to Help: Donate money, donate gently used or new goods, volunteer.
5. Fight Violence
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men have suffered physical abuse from an intimate partner. These startling statistics fuel the volunteer-run New England Advocacy Services (NEAS), an agency assisting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Volunteers provide clients with emotional support, navigate them through the Rhode Island legal and court systems and coordinate other victim services. 1 South Lake Drive, Barrington. 401-743-7695.
Wish List: NEAS distributes donations, such as pillowcases, towels and diapers to domestic violence shelters around the state. A wish list can be found on their website.
Pass it On: Got a smartphone as a holiday gift? Then consider donating your old one. Cell phones are one of the most requested items (911 can be called without a service plan) at local shelters.
How to Help: Donate money, donate items, volunteer.
6. Find Your Wild Side
With over 325 acres of protected land in Middletown, the Norman Bird Sanctuary maintains a pristine natural habitat for dozens of bird types. Recent unique sightings include a bald eagle, a red-bellied woodpecker and a turkey vulture. Public offerings – all made possible by ongoing fundraising – include trails open daily, a summer camp program and educational talks and walks. 583 Third Beach Road, Middletown. 401-846-2577.
Be An Animal Ambassador: Norman Bird Sanctuary is currently providing care for about 20 animals that cannot be released back into the wild. Animal ambassadors help to pay for the essential care of these animals through an “adoption” programs.
Save the Date: The site has multiple family-friendly events throughout the year, such as Birds & Breakfast (May), a 5k Run/Walk (June) and the Harvest Fair (October).
How to Help: Volunteer, donate money, donate goods (wish list is available online), attend an event, become a member.
7. Add Some Drama
Arts Alive! is a children’s performance arts program that is made available in Barrington public schools through a collaboration with the parent-teacher associations. Kids and teens sign up for the school’s musical, and in turn gain self-confidence, learn different ways to problem solve and strengthen their creative skills. After four or five months of after-school rehearsals, the kids perform a handful of live performances for the community. PO Box 678, Barrington. 401-258-1180.
Behind the Scenes: Volunteers help build sets, sew costumes and design programs and posters.
Save the Date: Performances for Willy Wonka Kids, Aristocats Kids and Wizard of Oz run this month through the end of February.
How to Help: Volunteer, donate money, attend a performance.
8. Feed the Community
After 20 plus years of serving meals to the hungry, the good neighbors Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry ran out of space in its Bristol location and recently moved to a larger space in the former St. Brendan’s School building in East Providence. The need for the food pantry continues to increase, and in 2013 alone they served over 16,000 meals to the food insecure. 55 Turner Avenue, East Providence. 401- 433-0045.
Volunteer Opportunities: Donate your time and you’ll be tasked with picking up food donations, grant writing and preparing and serving food.
Wish List: Non-perishable food, winter coats and personal hygiene prod- ucts are on the top of their most-wanted items list. Updated requests can be found on their website.
How to Help: Volunteer, donate money, donate food and items.
9. Provide a Little Comfort
Hospice care is essential for terminal patients approaching their final days. With a focus on quality of life, hospice volunteers from the Visiting Nurse Services of Newport and Bristol Counties provide companionship, comfort and emotional support. The care and reinforcement is equally important to the overwhelmed family, as hospice staff helps loved ones with end-of-life symptoms and decisions. 1184 East Main Road, Portsmouth. 401-682-2100.
Save the Date: The organization hosts several signature fundraisers like a summer golf tournament and autumn’s Chocolate Brunch.
Volunteer Opportunities: Tasks range from clerical to running errands.
How to Help: Volunteer, donate, attend an event.
10. Protect the Land
With its sweeping views of the coast, agricultural land and woodlands, Tiverton is one of the most naturally beautiful corners in New England. And thus the Tiverton Land Trust has a straightforward mission: to preserve the town’s rural character by protecting the open environment. Supporters create public and educational awareness and coordinate community events and galas. P.O. Box 167, Tiverton. 401-625-1300.
Save the Date: Several annual events benefit The Tiverton Land Trust, notably the annual Land and Sea Gala (summer) and a Country Day at Pardon Gray (September).
Be a Member: A wide range of membership levels (starting at $25) helps the organization with the costs of conversation.
How to Help: Volunteer, attend an event, become a member, donate.
11. Provide a Little Comfort
The face of homelessness has changed, and the displaced look just like you and me. The East Bay Coalition for the Homeless serves families with children by providing them temporary housing in one of their 18 apartments in the East Bay. With a support staff helping families to become independent, the Coalition’s goal is to turn a housing crisis into a stable living situation. 100 Bullocks Point Avenue, East Providence. 401-437-5104.
A Warm Welcome: The Coalition provides, when possible, welcome bas- kets for families trying to get back on their feet. Household items such as dish soap, brooms and toilet paper can be donated, or you can create a basket on your own.
Buy a Brick: For a more permanent contribution, you can purchase an engraved brick that will be placed in one of two legacy gardens in the East Bay. Bricks range from $100 to $250.
How to Help: Volunteer, attend an event, donate products, donate money.
12. Show Your Red, White and Blue
Over 150 volunteers work year-round to make the Bristol fourth of July Parade Celebration the rip-roaring spectacular that it is. Fundraisers, like spaghetti dinners and a multi-week lottery, are pretty much always happening, along with contests that engage the community to design official t-shirts and buttons.
Vanity Plate: One of the more unique ways to help is buy ordering a graphic license plate. The design is approved by the state; you get to keep your registration number while the Parade keeps a portion of the proceeds.
Save the Date: Be sure to follow them on Facebook to keep up with the ongoing fundraising events.
13. Get an “A” for Effort
Across the board non-profits struggle with budget cuts and lack of funding, and public schools are not an exception. The Bristol Warren Education Foundation (BWEF) was founded in 2007 to provide grants to teachers for progressive educational programs otherwise not covered through school budgets. Past initiatives that were made possible by BWEF grants include the purchase of iPads and a collaboration with the RI Philharmonic. P.O. Box 543, Bristol.
Save the Date: The Foundation’s signature event is the Bodacious Bee, a rollicking adult spelling bee held on March 7 at Roger Williams University.
Thank a Teacher: A $25 donation to Thank a Teacher not only supports BWEF programming, but also publicly recognizes an exceptional educator.
How to Help: Volunteer, donate, attend an event.
14. Loan Yourself to Your Library
From educational resources for kids and adults to enrichment activities, libraries are such an integral part of our communities. Most libraries have a separate fundraising arm – like the Friends of the Rogers Free Library in Bristol – run by volunteers and supporters. Funds secured by the Bristol Friends, as an example, has underwritten the school-age summer reading program and provided new library furnishings. Check with your local library for opportunities.
Donate Books: Have a stack of books you’ve read or your kids have outgrown? Check with your library, as some accept gently used books as donations.
Buy Books: Friends of libraries typically hold book sales as fundraisers. Be sure to like your community library on Facebook to keep up on all events.
How to Help: Volunteer, donate books or money, attend events.
15. Save an Animal
On an unassuming lot of farmland in South Tiverton lies the West Place Animal Sanctuary, a facility that gives abandoned, unwanted and injured wildlife and farm animals a second chance at life. Providing shelter, food and medical care when needed, the sanctuary has helped rehabilitate dozens of animals since its inception in 2007. 3198 Main Road, Tiverton.
Volunteer Opportunities: West Place encourages teens and kids in organized groups, like Boy and Girl Scouts, to volunteer. Adults are always welcome, too.
Success Stories: Heart-warming stories of alpacas, wild turkeys and oth- er furry residents saved by the sanctuary can be found on the website.
How to Help: Volunteer, donate money, visit.