If you’re looking to give back to your community but are strapped for cash (thanks, pandemic!), there are lots of different ways to use your time, passion and even blood for good. Here are a few easy ways to be philanthropic without a Bezos-level budget.

Stock a community fridge

If you live in Toronto, you’ve likely seen fridges appearing on curbs in front of stores and restaurants. Four community fridges were established by Toronto native Jalil Bokhari along with Ten chef Julian Bentivegna in an attempt to remedy widespread food insecurity in July, inviting people to “take what you need, leave what you don’t.” Fridges are stocked with essentials like fresh fruit and vegetables, water and non-perishable items such as pasta, so it’s easy to pick up a couple of staples during your next grocery run and help keep your community fed. Check out a handy little guide to stocking the fridges here.

Bake for a cause

If you’ve discovered an affinity for baking during the pandemic (those of you with a dried-up sourdough starter still sitting on a shelf can move on), virtual bake sales are a great way to support important causes and flex that culinary muscle – which, undoubtedly, has become toned from all those hours spent mixing and whisking. Bakers Against Racism, an American organization with a chapter in Toronto, put virtual bake sales on the map back in June amid protests for racial justice, raising a collective $1.8 million for Black-run organizations worldwide.

Donate blood

When COVID-19 shutdowns began in Canada, Prime Minister Trudeau made a public callout for blood donations in case of shortages. Regardless of the pandemic, blood donations are always needed. Canadian Blood Services are now open with COVID-19 safety measures in place, like by-appointment-only donations and increased cleaning. Like their tagline states, it’s in you to give. Plus, who doesn’t want to know their blood type?

Donate gently used clothing and essential items

Conducting an annual closet clean-out? Instead of dumping your clothes at your local thrift store, see if any organizations are looking for specific items. Women’s shelters, like the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre in Vancouver, carefully outline what they need on their site – for example, the DEWC is currently looking for toiletries, feminine hygiene products, makeup, hair accessories and reusable face masks.

Volunteer with an encampment support network

If there is one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that we need to help and support each other. Job instability due to COVID-19 has forced many across the country to become homeless or precariously housed, and Encampment Support Networks are providing support for those in need via tent, sleeping bag and food donations. Toronto’s ESN has been very active of late, and volunteers are needed to visit encampment hotspots and deliver essential items that were secured using funds from donors. Find out more about how you can donate or volunteer here.


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