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Pay It Forward on International Pay It Forward Day

Kindness is a powerful tool, which, when used correctly, has an immense impact on the world. Even little steps of generosity go a long way in lifting spirits and building an altruistic community.

One famous way of showing generosity is by “paying it forward”— doing something generous for another without any intention of reciprocation. This Friday, April 28th, marks the annual celebration of International Pay It Forward Day. According to their website, Pay It Forward Day “… is a global initiative that exists to make a difference by creating a huge ripple of kindness felt across the world.” Paying it forward is a way to spread goodness into the world. If you want to get involved this International Pay It Forward Day, check out these ways to pay it forward.

1. Give someone a ride.
Tried and true, car rides are the way to a friend’s heart. Pay it forward this week by offering a ride to someone in need.

2. Buy a friend a meal.
Celebrate Pay It Forward Day by going out to eat with a friend and buying his or her meal. It’s a win-win situation: you get a delicious meal; they get a free meal.

3. Pay for someone’s coffee.
Everyone loves a good cup of coffee, and this is a simple way to pay it forward. Next time you’re standing in line at the shop, offer to pay for the coffee of the person behind you.

4. Pre-order a stranger’s gas.
Sometimes gas can make a world of difference for a struggling individual or family. If you’re at the pump, talk to the cashier about paying for the upcoming person’s gas—a surprise that may mean more than you could know.

5. Leave a warm fuzzy.
If you’re short on cash this time of year, leave a warm fuzzy note for a friend, family or even a stranger, because you never know how badly someone needs to hear they’re appreciated.

6. Make a homemade present.
If you want to keep costs low but still give a gift, make something homemade you can pass along to pay it forward. Everyone knows homemade comes from the heart.

7. Help someone out.
Next time someone is struggling, be the first to step up and volunteer to help out. Whether it’s moving a couch, babysitting or just being a shoulder to cry on, your support is valuable.

8. Tell others.
You can share the value and importance of Pay It Forward Day by telling others about the initiative and the impact it has. When you do pay it forward, make sure the recipient knows why you did it, and encourage them to pass the generosity along.

9. Volunteer in the community.
There’s always a need in the community, and you can pay it forward this year by volunteering to give back. Clean up a garden, help at a shelter or just be there to fill a need.

10. Donate to a cause.
Finally, keep paying it forward by donating to a cause or organization you care about this week. Give back and you’ll know that your contribution paid it forward for others struggling.

This International Pay It Forward Day, spread kindness and live an altruistic lifestyle by giving generously to those around you. When the cycle is started, we can all get involved, and continue to show love and goodness to others.

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Volunteering While in School: 6 Ideas for Students

We get it, life is busy. And when you’re a student—high school or college—life is even busier. Between classes, extracurricular activities and work, what little free time you do have is preoccupied with finishing up homework and perfecting your scholarship applications.

There’s a lot you can be doing with your time, but one in particular is using it to serve others in the community. Whether it’s a few hours or a long commitment, volunteering not only supports those around you, but positively influences you as well. Here’s six ideas to get started.

1. Become a mentor.
Becoming a mentor for a child is a simple yet fun way to get involved and volunteer with those in your neighborhood. Whether you’re working on homework together, going to a sports game or just hanging out at the mall, you can be a positive influence on a child who’s looking for support.

Check out local elementary and middle schools in your area to see what programs they have available, or go straight to nonprofits who offer mentoring jobs. While you’re helping a child in need, you may be surprised at just how much you get back through the time together.

2. Donate gently used goods.
Are you spring cleaning this time of year? Take those old, gently used items to your local shelter and help support families struggling in these upcoming summer months. Whether it’s clothes, shoes or non-perishable food items, your donation matters and can make a difference in another’s life. For busy students, volunteering through your material items doesn’t take much time, but goes a long way in making a difference.

3. Tutor students or language learners.
There’s a lot of younger students or newcomers to the community who could use guidance in language learning or homework. Whether you’re working with elementary-aged students or adults brand new to the country, volunteering by tutoring is a great way to give back with your time and talents. Education is a valuable tool, and you can help others use it by tutoring an hour or two a week.

4. Walk or run for a cause.
Summer is just around the corner, which means community walks and runs will be coming up faster than you know it. Check in your area to see which ones go to support a cause you care about, and sign up to make a difference! Opportunities like these are useful because they take up little of your time, but a small contribution goes a long way in helping others.

5. Give back at a local shelter.
If you have a few extra hours to spare, consider giving back at a local shelter by volunteering to serve food, clean or sort items. Volunteering options like these may be less regular and more sporadic, so they can fit into a schedule that may be more difficult to manage. If you have a spare hour or two, use it to commit some time to helping those in your community. When it comes to giving back, a small step can be a huge help.

6. Clean up the community.
Finally, volunteer to clean up your surrounding neighborhood. Even a few hours can help clean up trash, beautify parks and gardens and wipe down city streets to make your community as attractive as possible. Helping the environment not only will make you proud of your accomplishments and your neighborhood, but it will serve those around you with fresher air and a cleaner future.

If you’re a high school or college student, a busy schedule doesn’t have to mean you can’t help others. Volunteering can be anything from a few sporadic hours here or there to a significant commitment. Whatever time you have in your schedule, use it as an opportunity to live altruistically and serve others lovingly.

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Brain Injury Services Opens New Office in Winchester Virginia

On Thursday, March 30th at 11:30am a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held with the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber celebrating the opening of Brain Injury Services’ newest office in Winchester, Virginia. This new office now provides specialized programs to meet the needs of adult survivors of brain injury, stroke and concussion in the Winchester area.

“We know there are many regions across the Commonwealth of Virginia where comprehensive brain injury services are needed,” said Karen Brown, Executive Director of Brain Injury Services. “Our organization is excited that we will now be able to offer services to adults living in the Winchester area for the first time.”

The new office is one of five satellite offices Brain Injury Services has opened across Northern Virginia and serves individuals residing in Clarke, Frederick, and Warren Counties and the City of Winchester.

If you’re looking for more information about our Winchester Office, email Amanda at ajenkins@braininjurysvcs.org.

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Simple Ways You Can Help End Homelessness

When it comes to living an altruistic life, it’s easy to get bogged down in the big picture of serious issues, and feel like there’s very little impact we can actually make. How can just one person make a difference on such big problems like homelessness?

Homelessness is a significant issue which plagues our community and the world. With such a huge challenge, how can we as individuals make a difference? Today, we’re going to go through some simple, tangible ways you can help put an end to homelessness in your community.

Locate local shelters.
The first step in ending homelessness is simply being aware of the local resources in your neighborhood and community. Search online or in the phone book to learn more about homeless shelters near you, who they serve and what services they provide to clients. Compile a list of local shelters to share with others, or with homeless individuals you may meet. Sometimes the greatest strength in solving a problem is knowing what’s available to solve it.

Fight stereotypes.
Secondly, help dispel homelessness by understanding who homeless people are, and fighting the stereotypes that surround them. A homeless person may be one who has just lost their job, a child coming out of the foster care system or someone with mental illness.

Educate yourself on the various potential reasons for homelessness, and remember every situation is unique. With greater knowledge comes a better understanding of how to combat negative stereotypes, which you can share with your friends, family and community members. When we all work together to recognize homeless people as individuals, we can start meeting their individual needs.

Show respect.
Sometimes what those living in homelessness want more than anything is to be recognized as human beings. They’re often overlooked on the street, completely ignored or even ridiculed or harmed. You can break this cycle by recognizing the homeless as people of value, and showing them the same respect as others. Whether this is having a long conversation, sharing a kind word or just a small gesture is up to you. By treating homeless individuals with respect, we can learn how to better treat them with kindness.

Understand their needs.
The homeless’ needs can be as varied and unique as they are themselves, and understanding those needs takes time and research. Reach out to local shelters and see where their needs are not being met. They could require more job training teachers, one-on-one tutors or greater medical assistance. By asking where the most need is and then working to fill it, you’re helping to fight homelessness exactly where it is, rather than oversaturating one area of need and under-serving another.

Give generously.
Finally, the most basic—but often undervalued—way to help end homelessness is giving. Giving is more than just money and gently used goods. Giving can be giving up your time, talents and resources to serve those who are less privileged. When we give more to others, we unconsciously fill up our own hearts.

Big issues like homelessness can sometimes seem overwhelming and even unsolvable. But, if all of us take small steps like these, we can put an end to homelessness together. Try out some of these simple steps in your life and see how altruism impacts you.

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How to Celebrate Keep America Beautiful Month

April is National Keep America Beautiful Month, commemorating the national organization which seeks to inspire and educate people to take action every day to improve and beautify their community environment. Keep America Beautiful aims to end littering, improve recycling and beautify communities, but these efforts stretch far beyond just one organization.

Keep America Beautiful Month is about coming together to give back to our beautiful country. This month, you can try some of these activities to support your community.

Reduce waste.
The first step you can take in keeping America beautiful is reducing the waste you and those in your household produce. Before throwing out items, check to see if you can repurpose or reuse them in a new and creative way. Cut down on the number of disposable items in your house—for example, plastic cutlery and water bottles—and switch instead to reusable products. You can even use this as a teaching opportunity for children to show them how to reduce their environmental footprint.

Recycle items.
Along with reducing your waste output comes recycling goods. April also celebrates Earth Day, and you can join in by making sure our Earth stays beautiful for many generations to come. A lot of items can be recycled that we may not even be aware of, including metals, paper, cardboard, glass, plastics, batteries, light bulbs and even electronics. Recycling is just a small step you can make to have a big impact in your community and the world.

Clean up litter.
While a small amount of litter may not seem like a big deal at first, it quickly adds up to a huge environmental impact in the United States. This month, help keep America beautiful by being conscious of your own littering habits, and even helping to clean up litter around you. Adopt a highway, street or park and work to clean up any trash in the area. Additionally, use this time to teach children and younger generations the negative impact littering has and why it’s important to avoid it.

Plant a garden.
If you want to take things a step further, use this time to research and plant a garden, either in your own home, yard or neighborhood. Gardens are great for the environment and help support the local economy. Their bright colors and delicious smells also make the surrounding area even more beautiful. April is home to Arbor Day, so you can even celebrate by planting a tree to bring fresh air and a warm, inviting glow to the community.

Beautify the community.
Finally, you can work to keep America beautiful this month by helping to beautify areas in your surrounding neighborhood. Whether that’s painting a fence, cleaning up debris, or planting some flowers along a path, whatever contribution you make will help keep the community vibrant. If you’re able, consider donating to a local or national organization that works to promote good recycling and repurposing habits in the area. Whatever your contribution, you can be sure it’s going to a good cause.

This April, celebrate Keep America Beautiful Month by working in your community to get up and clean up. There are lots of ways to beautify our world, and together we can keep it that way for generations to come.