Giving back and community

This new monthly column about giving back and community involvement will explore all the aspects about making a difference in our community.

With the start of the new year come the many resolutions associated with self improvement — losing weight, eating better, exercising more, getting rid of a bad habit or starting a new good one — perfectly reasonable to resolve to make the necessary sacrifice and commitment to change for the better. Yet there is an aspect of life that rarely makes the list. How to make the place we live, work and play better for others who are less fortunate than us.

Let’s make it a point to incorporate adding value to our community to our New Year’s resolutions list. Giving back, either by volunteering your time, talent or treasure is one of the most important acts of civic responsibility, engagement and investment in your community you can do. It is a way of paying your good fortune forward. Plus, you can make this a family activity and teach your children a lifelong lesson about making a difference.

Many people do not know where to start or think that they do not have the time, money or skill to volunteer. What is interesting is that most people I know always find the time for the things they are passionate about. So, the magic for finding time starts with the most critical ingredient — passion!

Whatever moves you, whatever makes your heart beat a little faster or your eyes water from emotion is where you should focus your energy. There are hundreds of causes and non-profits in Miami helping tackle issues ranging from education, animal rights, arts, humanity, homelessness, elder care and child welfare issues, to name but a few. Each with a clear mission to make life better for those they serve and an endless list of volunteer time wishes and financial support needs to successfully achieve their goal.

Once your passion has pointed you in the right direction, make sure that the organization you have selected is as passionate about the cause as you are; matching your passion with the right organization is critical to self satisfaction and personal mission fulfillment.

To find the right non-profit you need to do your homework and it starts by asking your friends or neighbors for advice. There are also excellent local resources online including the Miami Foundation website or Charity Navigator, a national directory of non-profits that provides crucial information about the charities and also rates their effectiveness and efficiency in achieving their mission.

Once you have narrowed your choices, reach out and make contact either by phone or email. Most non-profits have a community outreach manager or volunteer coordinator that can help you match your abilities with their needs. These professional staff members will discuss with you their organization’s needs and how you can help them.

Many non-profits will be happy to give you a tour of their operations. Seeing them in action will help you connect and make your commitment stronger to your designated non-profit of choice.

The final step is to engage with the organization you have chosen to support. Allocate the time you and your family can devote to the organization or decide at what level you can contribute financially. Adding this commitment to your list of New Year’s resolutions and keeping it will not only be rewarding for you, it will make our community a better place and may change someone’s life forever!

Carlos Fernandez Guzman is chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Chapman Partnership. Chapman Partnership operates two homeless assistance centers with 800 beds located in Miami and Homestead. For more information, go to

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