Helping your Community Heal: How You Can Help in the Wake of Perennial Tragic Events

We felt compelled to write this after hearing the news of mass shootings in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton within a week of each other. A majority of VolunteerMatch staff members live in Northern California and the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting hit so close to home. Tragedies like these often spur us to want to take action and help the victims any way we can. But what do you do when the tragedy’s struck in another state yet you feel so compelled to do something? Oftentimes, when we ask face this predicament, we forget to look within our community, because the truth is there is probably a lot that can be done right where you reside that can be a source of inspiration for a community reeling and looking for next steps. Below are strategies to take actionable steps to make your community safer and encourage the safety and healing of others. Good spreads, and as MLK Jr. once said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people”.

How to help when immediate disaster relief is needed

Though our first thought is often to get to the affected area and offer assistance, often certification and special training can be required of initial responders to ensure the safety of those affected. Get certified through organizations like The Red Cross, which offers to train and station volunteers for disaster preparedness. If you’re interested, click the following link and narrow the location to your area to sign up for their postings:

If you’re not able to get to the affected area, that’s okay! There are ways you can help right where you reside.

What you can do to help where you live

You may think that there isn’t a way to help where you are, but consider that there are themes to tragic events that we can address in our own communities. For example, can you help a church shore up its safety program, donate time at an after-school program helping students prepare for life after school, write compelling content about a cause you’re passionate about, or help people cope with their issues by fielding calls and texts at a crisis line?

Before committing to any opportunity to help create change, do take a moment to assess what you’re interested in positively affecting in your area. Ask yourself questions like what upsets me that I want to change? What topics can I discuss for hours that always motivate me to take action? Answer these questions honestly. Those causes that you just thought of are the ones that you can use to drive your search. It’s really important to reach out to an organization whose mission and focus interest you so to ensure you follow through.

Once you’re ready, get started by visiting and filter volunteer opportunities by location (or go virtual) and cause area (e.g. disaster relief, crisis support, immigrants and refugees, advocacy & human rights) to find active opportunities to give back.

Use your voice to advocate

If you’re unable to give time to volunteer in your area, consider expressing your thoughts to your elected officials! This is an important strategy because, in these moments, a collective voice can influence policy. To keep that momentum, email, call, and/or send a letter to your elected officials and ask them what they’re doing to make your community safer.

Families USA has shared sample contact templates to use to clearly frame your thoughts: Share your ideas and keep engaged where you can.

Communities take time to heal

Keep in mind, recovery takes time and affected areas will likely feel the effects of life-altering events for generations. You can help promote communal healing and resiliency by servicing your community through a nonprofit whose mission reflects your values and interests then share your work with your peers.

Additionally, contact your local, and state officials and use your voice to advocate and stay engaged.

Finally, check out the Red Cross and other disaster relief organizations to sign up for preparedness training so you can provide immediate support assistance.

If you’re a nonprofit in need of volunteers, learn more about our network at

Have other volunteer strategies? Share them in our comments below!