Ask not what your community can do for you, ask what you can give to your community. People are typically drawn to live in neighborhoods with community associations because they want what those neighborhoods have to offer: great amenities and opportunities to connect with their neighbors.

It’s no surprise that the same community-minded people who choose to live near and with others also want to give back to their communities. But giving back can mean a lot of different things to different people. Maybe you aren’t even sure what you can do to make your community a happier, healthier, more pleasant place for everyone who lives there. Here are a few ideas:

Shop local.

Many planned communities have stores and restaurants right there in the neighborhood. You can help your community stay wonderful by supporting these small businesses. Walk to the neighborhood café for your morning coffee, buy the makings of a great meal from the local grocery store, and pick up a hostess gift from a nearby store. By supporting small businesses near you, you’re making your neighborhood better by keeping those businesses open.

Use your creative talents.

Do you sing? Play the piano? Paint? Use your talents to give back to your community. Donate your paintings to a silent auction for a local school or charity. Gather neighbors who love to sing and share your voices with others by singing Christmas carols. Offer to play the piano or guitar to entertain residents at a local nursing home. Knit a baby blanket for a neighbor who is expecting. You can easily put a smile on your neighbors’ faces by doing what you already love to do.

Take action.

When you’re out for a walk and see a piece of litter, pick it up. If you often see litter, consider carrying a plastic bag with you so that you can plan to pick up any you find. Similarly, always carry a bag when you’re out walking your dog so that you’re never tempted to leave dog mess behind. If you see the equipment in common areas that need repair, let the Board or Property Manager know so that steps can be taken to fix the problem.

Get to know your neighbors, so you’ll know their needs.

When you know your neighbors, it doesn’t feel strange to offer help. When you know the people around you, you won’t feel weird asking older neighbors, or single parent, if they need you to pick up something from the store. If you love animals, you can offer to walk a neighbor’s dog. If you love to bake, surprise the person next door with some fresh baked tasty treats.

Everyone has something to offer their community. By taking stock of your talents, interests, and skills, you’ll likely discover there are many ways you can help your community. Best of all, giving is often contagious. When you do something nice for someone, chances are very good they’ll be inspired to do something for someone else.