I Made a Difference and You Can Too!

A few nights ago I got a call from Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York. He said he was putting together a committee of concerned parents to discuss several issues that affect our children like gun violence, mental health and predators. I didn’t hesitate to offer my support because even though I was not a resident of New York I always liked him and care very deeply about families.

No, I never talked to Bloomberg on the phone but the dream was real. I had gone to bed wondering how I could do more to help parents. Perhaps thinking about parents and Bloomberg took over my subconscious to try and create a perfect environment for families in the only way I know how.

This morning my first thoughts were of parents and of course Michael Bloomberg, but I believe the real message is that we all be encouraged to look toward ourselves to be part of the solutions. Almost any parent I know has offered up suggestions or criticisms about their community and at the same time felt powerless to do anything to affect change.

The good news is that there are things you can do to help in many instances. You could focus on a specific need or issue where you live; maybe it is something that needs to be changed or improved. Awaken the advocate within and get busy— make phone calls, talk to your town officials and go from there. Maybe it is a dangerous location where many accidents occur, maybe there is a place where a playground would be useful, an empty lot needs to be cleared or other important need is brewing. When you make those calls, if they can’t help you then ask who can.

Schools are a good place to inquire and offer support or services. Think about what your skills are and offer your time in a specific field. Choose a particular interest like food banks or for the blind. You could help in the library, on the field or offer to tutor. Monitors watch hallways, restrooms, cafeterias or at the end of the day for crowd control. The office may need help with a mailing or filing; the needs are endless. Everything you do benefits your own community and touches every parent and child.

With a two-year-old in tow in Parsippany I took daily walks and picked up litter by the driveway to our apartment complex. It was not an involved project but it was something we could do, we had fun doing it and got a healthy dose of exercise. It looked much better and I’m sure other tenants were uplifted pulling into a clean complex. I noticed there was less litter every week and the owner stopped and commented on how much nicer it looked.

Years later having a handicap made it more difficult for me to volunteer so I found an interest where I could volunteer virtually to help revamp the website for www.2ndChance4Pets.org. It is an organization whose focus is preventing the euthanization of pets after the deaths of their owners. The work was pretty easy and I was able to help virtually rather than physically at my local shelter.

Handicapped parking has been an issue where I have been able to help and it not only benefits me but friends and other people who have handicaps. I wrote a letter to the owner of the property where I shopped for food and explained that I was not able to shop if there were no parking spaces available near my store. I noted the small number of spaces for the entire parking lot and requested he look into it. The result was the addition of several new handicapped spaces not just for my store but the entire shopping center, all from one letter! I heard many senior citizens comment on the welcome change and that was empowering.

In another instance, a new-construction shopping center was built but there was a problem; the decorative shrubs created a barrier to wheelchairs which would force them to enter the auto traffic lane in order to get to the stores. This time I dealt with the actual builder rather than the owner but he understood the problem and immediately corrected it by digging up the shrubbery and installing a cobblestone walkway. All it took was one well-constructed letter to the right person. It’s not about making waves but making life better for everyone in the community.

If you need ideas there is always Google; you can google “volunteer school” or “advocacy” to find ideas. Get in touch with your township or community boards. Libraries and citizens’ groups are a great source of ideas. Look around and then be ready to step up to the plate. Remember Kennedy’s ‘ask-not’ mantra and offer your skills and services in your community. Don’t look for tangible rewards to put in your pocket because there is no way to measure the true gain— it’s not about money but they are there!

Michael Bloomberg… imagine that!

Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.

New Jersey 24-Hour Family Helpline: 1-800-THE-KIDS

Parents Anonymous® of New Jersey, Inc.
Phone: (609) 585-7666
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Parents Anonymous® Inc.
Phone: (909) 621-6184
Fax: (909) 621-0614
Website: ParentsAnonymous.org

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About Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

Jackie has volunteered for more than twenty years for children and family issues. Currently she writes for parents in the "Reminder" and "Parent Rap" Facebook page. If you are interested in receiving the "Reminder," send her a message.
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