Rachel and her family lived in a mid-sized city in a middle-class neighborhood. She lived in a bubble of comfort and stability but knew that not far from her people were struggling to pay bills or have enough food for their families. She wanted to help, but she felt powerless to do anything about the poverty around her.

Poverty is a personal problem, but it’s a community issue, too. No one needs to feel powerless against it because everyone can get involved in the fight. Here are some ways everyone can help:

Bridges Out of Poverty
The first step toward fighting poverty is understanding it and learning how you can help. The Bridges Out of Poverty course at Community Action Services and Food Bank is for people who want to get involved. In the free workshops, participants learn how poverty works, how it impacts families, and ways to help people pull themselves out of poverty and achieve a more sustainable lifestyle. This course is the perfect starting point for people who want to learn about poverty or volunteer with organizations fighting it.

This nationwide program helps people living in poverty pull themselves out of it, graduating when their income exceeds 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Volunteers in the program, who are called allies, become mentors to Circles participants, who are called leaders. Becoming a Circles Ally is a commitment because allies meet at least weekly with leaders. The program has opportunities for volunteers to work in the children’s program as well. But there also are one-time volunteer opportunities in the program, including donating weekly dinners. If you’re interested in making a difference in the lives of people in your community, getting involved in Circles is an excellent choice.

Giving money to someone with a sign on the street corner will help them for a day, but doesn’t solve the problem. Plus, it’s illegal in many places to pass money from your car to someone on a public street. Instead, consider giving to a reputable non-profit in your community because it knows how to best use your donation.

• Food: The easiest way to contribute to your local food bank is to participate in a food drive. In the spring, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts conduct the annual Scouting for Food drive, delivering bags to homes and picking them up. There also are collection bins located in communities, especially during the holiday season. But you also can take items directly to a food bank. If you want to be more involved, organize a food drive yourself. Many food banks publish lists of most-needed items, so it’s easy to know what to give. And don’t worry if you’ve got recently expired canned goods—most food banks accept canned food in good condition that has expired within the last four years.
• Money: If it’s feasible for you, cash is the best kind of donation for a food bank. Because of partnerships with grocery stores and local farmers, Community Action Services and Food Bank can turn a $1 donation into 15 pounds of food. That’s enough to feed a family of four for a day.
• Kits: Making specialty kits is a great way to get people involved in your donation effort. At Community Action Services and Food Bank, we give packages to meet the urgent needs of our clients, like hygiene packs for adults and children and emergency supplies for the homeless. Hygiene kits include items like soap, toothpaste and toilet paper. The homeless kits have a flashlight, emergency blanket and more. We also offer back-to-school kits and birthday kits for kids.
• Time: Giving your time is just as valuable as donating goods or money. Volunteer opportunities abound in your community, whether you want an ongoing commitment or one-time opportunity. United Way and JustServe are great places to start.

Serving your community by donating time, goods or money is a valuable way to get involved in the fight against poverty.

Poverty is a community issue, not just a problem for people living in it. So if you want to be part of the fight, learn about poverty through a program like Bridges Out of Poverty. You also can get involved in a Circles Initiative donate money or goods, or volunteer. There’s no reason to feel powerless against poverty in your community.