By Gerald F. Schnepf        Executive Director, Keep Iowa Beautiful

How About a Present for Your Community?

Several studies indicate that the average spending per person for Holiday Season gifts ranges from $100 to $1000. All of that tends to go to other individuals. That is our heritage! How about a slight change by adding another recipient of the generosity of the holidays – your hometown community! This is a new one on the giving list. The addition or change requires us to think a little differently and ask ourselves how that gift could help the community.
That gift can range from a simple act of volunteering for a community project or service club project benefitting the community to providing a financial contribution to an ongoing community project. It could also take the form of maintaining/watering flowering plants and/or hanging flower baskets
Volunteering can include adopting a park or natural area, maybe a street or a parking lot to help keep it clean and possibly some landscaping. It could also be helping in the city hall or with community improvement projects. In addition it can be agreeing to serve of committees that aid the city in their efforts – parks board, planning and zoning, long range planning, ordinances review, etc.
That financial gift can go either directly to the city or to a service club that is sponsoring the project. Maybe you can encourage others to join with you in the idea so that the gift becomes fairly significant.
The financial type of projects can range from helping to buy:

waste/recycling receptacle(s),
outdoor lighting feature,
lighting for the city Christmas Tree or maybe the tree itself,
webpage development or updating,
promotional material on the community,
trees, flowers, shrubs for public areas,
flower planters,
new/replacement signs,
support for home improvements and
many others that you explore with your home community

Whatever the case, make sure that the city is receptive to the idea, the volunteer effort and/or the gift. Don’t give them something they don’t need or want and don’t force your volunteerism (even if well intended) on to the city if they don’t need or can’t handle it.
In fact, one idea my wife suggested is that the city sponsor a holiday tree. Decorations on the tree can include envelopes with notes in them identifying projects that can be done in and for the community. Maybe there can be an event in which individuals, organizations or businesses could bid on the opportunity to pick an envelope for their project.
Another way to give a gift to your community is to make a gift to your county wide or local community foundation. That gift is special as it keeps on giving as a percent (normally 5%) is donated back to community projects each year in perpetuity.
Your gift of time, talent or treasure can make a difference, encourage others and give you a great sense of satisfaction.
Remember, if you can’t make a gift or if you forget, take the opportunity to make a New Year’s resolution that will benefit your community. Resolve that you will get involved and help your community in some way that makes the community a better place and builds a sense of pride.
Happy Holidays from Keep Iowa Beautiful!