Jerry Liu, 59, got lucky in 1972 when a
friend helped him land a job in commercial
construction. Now Liu owns a thriving contracting business in Montgomery County,
Maryland, and for the past 18 years has
used his team-building skills to help the
needy stay in safe housing. Liu, who gives
through Rebuilding Together, says the
teamwork is uplifting. “I don’t know anyone
who says, ‘What’s in it for me?’ It’s just,
‘What do you need? I got it. It’s on the way.’”
Embrace your inner teacher •How it works Join other 55-plus folks to tutor struggling elementary-schoolstudentsonreadingbasics. •Time it takes Participate in about 20 hours of training to learn how
to teach reading; then commit to a
couple of hours a week with one child
for at least a semester. •Contact Experience Corps (202- 478-6190; experiencecorps.org).
Spruce up a house •How it works Join others in your community to repair the homes of
low-income people, including those
who are older or who have disabilities.
You’ll learn the necessary skills when
you show up. •Time it takes As little as one day or can be an ongoing commitment.
•Contact Rebuilding Together(800- 473-4229 or call your local affiliate;
Grant a wish •How it works Get matched with a person 68 or older whose wish you
could make come true because of
your skills—say, as a painter, dentist,
photographer, orcook. •Time it takes A few hours or as muchasyoucangive. •Contact Twilight Wish (877-893- 9474; twilightwish.org).
Create jobs •How it works Select an aspiring entrepreneur with few resources,
then lend him or her a modest amount
of money—the average individual loan
is $35— to start or expand a very small
business, or microenterprise, in the
United States or in developing coun-
tries around the world. •Time it takes Less than an hour. •Contact Kiva (415-358-7512; kiva .org).
Sing a comforting song •How it works Lift the spirits of those who are severely ill by lifting
your voice at their bedsides. •Time it takes Two and a half hours every other week for six months (for
rehearsals), followed by an average
of twice-monthly sessions singing at
bedsides with one or two others. •Contact Threshold Choir (415-669- 1413; thresholdchoir.org).
Take a stand on poverty •How it works Educate your family
Thelma Harris was just eight when her mother
collapsed suddenly and died. Today Harris, at
59, is helping kids in need cope with their own
traumatic losses. As an Atlanta volunteer
for the National Court Appointed Special
Advocate Association, she assists children
who are in foster care. “We are often the only
ones who stay with the child through the transitions of case managers and attorneys,” says
Harris, a retired IRS executive. It’s tough work,
she says, but she gets as much as she gives.
“These are bright, sensitive children, and if
you nurture them a little bit and give them
love, often it will be okay.”
People Helping People Thelma Harris, left, with Tamika, a teen she guided.