Generally speaking, the military and family members are no stranger to charity.  After all, there are over 40,000 charitable organizations supporting the military and veteran communities, receiving a total of $2.5 billion donations annually.

Contributions like that to our community should be an inspiration to us to do something in return, no matter how large or small.

It might be easy to become complacent with the idea that military families should only be the recipients for charity, but let's not forget the importance of giving back either.

July 15th is National Give Something Away Day, and why shouldn’t we, as a community, contribute?  Not only will it show our appreciation by reciprocating good deeds, but perhaps build a bridge between our military and civilian communities through donations or service.  It also just feels good to help our fellow man!

Giving locally

One way to give is through donations to your favorite charity or organization.  There are charities out there for every interest, even ones you’d never dream of.  I prefer local charities.  By keeping it local, your donation will have a direct impact in the community you live in.  Nothing feels better than seeing a positive change happen and knowing that you empowered that group to make a difference.

Of course, I may be biased since I run my own charity here in D.C., so I have first-hand knowledge that any donation or act of service makes a huge impact in my day-to-day operations, and I am grateful for every little thing I have ever received, no matter how small in the eyes of the giver.

Giving wisely

If you’d rather help a national charity tackle national or global problems, check out this article from the New York Times about choosing a charity wisely.  It has links to look at the charity’s financial records, BBB reviews, and Charity Navigator’s website (which pretty much does all the research for you).

Giving freely

If you’re not in a position to donate money, or if you prefer to have a more hands-on approach to giving, volunteer!  In our culture of having to constantly recreate our lives and moving from place to place, there’s no better way to make your new neighborhood your true home.

Being able to have a hands-on impact in a local community not only allows you to see the benefits of your work but also it is a great environment to make friends and network.  Some of the best relationships I’ve ever had started out during volunteering.  We were all in the same place because we had the same interests and big hearts, so it was a natural recipe for life-long friendship.

It might be easy to become complacent with the idea that military families should only be the recipients for charity, but let's not forget the importance of giving back either.

Giving time

Also, don’t forget that giving something away can also mean giving a little piece of yourself. Take a few minutes to chat with a neighbor who might be feeling lonely or who is new to the neighborhood.  Make a meal or run an errand for someone who needs a hand.

Sometimes time is our most precious commodity, and when we give another person a little bit of our time, it makes a big difference.  Volunteering doesn’t have to start and end with an organization.  You can volunteer to do something on an individual level and make a world of difference to someone who may have needed your help or company and was too shy to ask.

Whatever it is you choose to do on this day, make the best of it!  In my experience, what I give away is always an investment multiplied and returned.

Natasha Harth is the 2016 Armed Forces Military Spouse of the Year, Employment Analyst for Army for Life, and spouse of Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Patrick Harth. She is an advocate for volunteering and community involvement. Natasha enjoys spending time with her husband and two young girls cooking, being out in nature, and attending local festivals and events.