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Your most important to-do this week.

An invitation can be powerful.

It opens doors, makes connections and creates a sense of belonging that relationships and communities need to thrive.

Before I joined United Way, I thought a lot about this simple yet elegant action, and its transformational power. In fact, it was at the heart of our work at Broad Street Ministry, in which we welcomed hundreds each day to a warm meal and a helping hand—those who often didn’t feel like they belonged anywhere. But it was this humble gesture that initiated change within our entire community, from the staff that opened the doors each day to those who clung to our open invitation as a daily lifeline. It made a profound difference.

This week, as we celebrate National Volunteer Week, we will shine a spotlight on the impact that service has on our communities, as well as ourselves. Powered by Points of Light, together, we join a movement to highlight the people and causes that inspire us to serve, and recognize and thank those who lend their time, talent and voice to make a difference.

I can’t help but think of this week as a great opportunity to extend an invitation: to be of service.

If you’re not sure where to start or how you can help, start by asking yourself these questions:

What moves you and makes you feel it?
What evokes a true desire for change? Follow it. This may be the most important sentence in this whole blog: small acts matter. Generosity has such transformational powers, for those receiving help as well as those giving of themselves. I challenge you to take action and find out.

Can you share your skills or talents to elevate someone else, to help them learn, grow or thrive?
There are many skills-based volunteer opportunities that can pair your talents and abilities with needs in the community. One recent example is United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which provides confidential, free tax preparation to eligible individuals. Each year, volunteers are trained and IRS-certified to help connect working families with important tax credits that can serve as a substantial annual budget boost. Learn more about VITA.

Are you maximizing your leadership potential to make your local community a better place?
The truth is that nonprofits need strong advocates in the community to drive awareness of their mission but also to bring fresh ideas and perspectives to their leadership table. A great introduction may be to volunteer for a committee or join in a fundraising team that is planning an event, or even pursue a nonprofit leadership development training, such as our Young Leaders Program.

How can you inspire others to join you?
Shared service builds community. It fosters teamwork and synergizes common goals, and quite simply, it feels good. Bring your colleagues, invite your friends, and gather the kids. Demonstrating to children that helping others is vital to a strong community not only helps our neighbors in need, but it helps them too. Being generous has a remarkable effect on self-esteem and happiness, and also provides an opportunity to develop something we all need a little more of…empathy. Identify a team project here.

Join us in our work to end poverty in our region. Together, we can improve lives and strengthen our communities. Find your way to serve at

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