Make 2018 the year of helping veterans

(BPT) - For many of us, the new year is the perfect time to make resolutions that improve our own lives. What if, this year, your resolutions included giving back to a community that has sacrificed so much for not only you, but our country?

According to the most recent U.S. Census, there are 18.8 million veterans in the U.S. Today, more than 9 million are seeking treatment at their local U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs medical center, and more than 39,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Now more than ever, consider lending a hand to those who have selflessly defended our freedom and need our help.

There are many ways to help a veteran in need. Below are a few suggestions on how you can make a difference in a veteran’s life this year.

Reach out to a veterans service organization to learn more.

Knowing where to begin can seem daunting, but you don’t have to figure it out alone. The American Legion Auxiliary (ALA), The American Legion and Sons of The American Legion are three organizations actively involved in veteran causes with local units across the U.S. They offer community through memberships, organize and hold volunteer events throughout the year and accept monetary donations. As a first step, visit the websites of each organization and look for a unit close to you. Meeting with these organizations or others can kick-start your efforts to get involved with the veteran community.

Tie your passion to your action.

We all have passions that bring us joy. There are many ways that suit your interests to give back while helping veterans in need. For example, do you like to spend time outdoors? A large number of organizations host volunteer activities like cleaning a veterans memorial in the community. Are you more of a people person? Give your time to a local veterans facility to connect with a resident in need of company.

Donate a day of service.

Everyday life can get messy with full-time jobs and commitments. One way to identify free time for charitable activities is to use a day off engaging in community service. “Donate” your Memorial Day to help the ALA distribute handmade poppies that support veterans in local hospitals, visit a veterans facility or deliver a meal or care package.

Give a gift during the giving season.

The holiday season is a time to reflect on what you have and to appreciate the loved ones in your life. This year, extend your thankfulness to the veteran community. On Nov. 27, participate in #GivingTuesday, the global giving movement. Make a monetary donation to an organization that dedicates its efforts to helping veterans. Whether you come together as a family, a company, a community or by yourself, a donation can make a real difference.

Helping a veteran can be a year-long commitment or a one-day activity. To learn more about how to take the first step, visit