Five ways to pay it forward

Here are five inspiring ideas to help express your charitable side

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1. Job interviews can be scary enough without worrying about not having a thing to wear – literally. Organizations like Dress Your Best collect new or gently used items for men and women such as suits, blazers, ties, and even cosmetics and grooming products. It’s also a feel-good, guilt-free way to clean out your closet. Be honest, you were never going to wear that almost-new pant suit from two sizes ago. Then, challenge your friends and coworkers to a closet clean out drive.

2. Looking for a great, not too pricey piece of art by a talented but yet to be discovered artist? Meet Koko and Michael, two apes (really!) who’ve been commissioned by The Gorilla Foundation and now a limited number of their digitally reproduced paintings are available for your private collection. The pieces range from $100-$350 and each one (Tree Lettuce, Apple Chase, Stink Gorilla More) has been personally named by the gorilla artists. The proceeds go directly to the Foundation which is dedicated to the preservation, protection and well-being of these endangered gorillas. And, these chimps, especially Koko are not only artistic but brainy too – the 35-year-old female has a vocabulary of over 1000 signs, and understands even more spoken English.

3. Forget Face Book, make friends with a group or organization that shares your same passion for a cause, such as The Friends of Algonquin Park. As a registered, non-profit organization with over 3,000 members from around the world, you’ll have an instant group of people to call “friends.” With activities that include publishing the Park’s newsletter, adding trails, to working on a children’s program, or supporting the bear, bird or wolf research, there’s sure to be an activity to spur the naturalist in you.

4. Like many, you want to help yet you’re strapped for cash. What about all those aeroplan points you have banked? Why not donate them to an exceptional organization like Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières. MSF is an independent and international medical humanitarian group that delivers emergency aid to people affected by epidemics, natural or man-made disasters and armed conflict. Every year, doctors, nurses and other medical and non-medical professionals volunteer their time, assisting in more than 4,700 aid assignments. So forget Tijuana and imagine how much further your points could go in helping someone provide and receive emergency aid.

5. Too lazy to walk a dog and hopeless when it comes to keeping a plant alive? Then adoption may be the answer for you. Adopt a frog, turtle or your favourite furry creature. With a variety of price points, you can have the satisfaction of being a “parent” without any of the work or worry. Or invest a little more for visitation rights with a real zoo keeper. If fresh water is more your thing, then adopt a pond.