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​Community activism: How to start and where to get involved

by Faye Seidler | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Culture | December 8th, 2017

fayeseidler@gmail.com

Last week I wrote about what it means to be an activist. It can be very hard and emotionally draining work, but it can also be incredibly fulfilling. It can be a summer volunteer opportunity that individuals take on in order to spruce up their college application or it can be devotion to a cause year after year.

What matters is that individuals know where they want to volunteer their time, what they’re getting out of it, and how much time they can commit. Easy, right?

First off, there has to be a call to action. That’s where an individual sees something as a problem. It could be women getting harassed in front of Red River Women’s Clinic. It could be a possible Fargo initiative to spend some income on a fence to block homeless individuals from sleeping under the bridge. It could be in response to hate crimes or the unwillingness of a state to pass anti-discrimination bills for LGBTQ+ individuals. It could be a call from above for an individual to be more involved with their faith community. It could be wanting to give back for services that individuals have benefitted from in their lives, like Big Brother Big Sister. It might even just be a desire to want to get involved somewhere.

Ultimately, those who want to get involved in the community just need to sit down and think about what’s important to them, determine where they want to make change, and consider who they want to impact. After that it is just a matter of finding an organization to get involved with and committing some time each week or month to helping that organization out.

I highly recommend that individuals looking to volunteer make sure to start off slowly. That means that if you have an option of volunteering either two hours or ten hours a week, start off at two. If that’s comfortable, you can then work towards what can be handled, instead of being overwhelmed.

One of the best places to look for opportunities to volunteer in this community is https://impactgiveback.org/app/#/volunteer. If individuals do not have easy access to the internet, they can also call First Link’s 24/7 help service at (701) 235-7335. First Link is itself an organization designed to connect community resources with the community. For example, individuals can call them up and say they’d like to get involved with senior living centers and walk away with a half a dozen options.

There are so many options for community involvement that I couldn’t list them all in this article, so let me focus on broad categories instead!

We have organizations involved with basic needs and community development that focus on making sure the needs of various communities are meet, such as Fraser Ltd (701) 232-3301. We have children and youth services that seek to improve the lives of children like Big Brother Big Sister and also The Village Family Center (701) 451-4875. There are organizations for helping people with various forms of disability like Creative Care for Reaching Independence (218) 236-6730. There are services that are geared towards helping families find things like housing, income, or even family planning, such as Planned Parenthood (218) 236-7145. There is no end to the amount of work someone can contribute towards healthcare organizations and initiatives, like Essentia Health Volunteer Services (710) 364-8898.

There is also an urgent need for helping hands in homeless organizations like Churches United (218) 236-0372 or independent living programs like Red River Human Services Foundation (701) 235-0971. If an individual wants to help connect people to these kinds of resources, there are volunteer opportunities at places like First Link (701) 293-6462.

Beyond all that there are also services for helping individuals with mental health issues at Southeast Human Service Center (701) 298-4500, there are programs to meet student needs like Fargo Public Schools Development Foundation (701) 446-1041, there are senior services like Bethany Homes (701) 239-3000, and substance use and abuse programs like Prairie Saint Johns LLC (701) 476-720.

In a less emotionally intensive capacity there is also room to get involved with outdoor recreation through something like the Fargo Park District (701) 499-6060.

Some of these places just need a warm body, some of them are internship-based, some need a degree, but if an individual is interested there are usually ways to get involved and help a cause. Even if there isn’t something going on at the moment, you are always welcome to follow these organizations on their website or Facebook to see if opportunities arise in the future!

As a final thought, volunteering and activism doesn’t have to be a self-sacrificing chore. It can really just be hanging out with one’s friends or meeting some new people and contributing to something that benefits the community. Maybe that can mean spending a few hours one night with one friends at Moorhead’s No-Sort Recycling Program, picking up trash from our parks, or helping out with the Dorothy Day Food Pantry. Whatever it is, the work itself can be its own reward!

[Editor’s Note: Faye Seidler is North Dakota Safe Zone Project Spokeswoman]

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