Pay it Forward Challenge

This year I committed to posting a sustainability challenge monthly, but I have spent the last week thinking on this and decided to go in a different direction for the month of April given the circumstances. I encourage you to continue to participate in my previous challenges. Keep avoiding plastic bottles, keep trying to clean up your cleaning product, keep avoiding single-use plastic bags, and continue eating less meat.

In addition to those challenges, I am starting up a new challenge for the rest of the month. A pay-it-forward challenge. One where you give back in some way every day of the month. That can mean anything from donating money, starting a meal train for hospital workers, making a card for a loved one or supporting a local business. Doing something kind and generous for someone other than yourself.

While the bigger picture items like donating money or blood are crucial during this time (when they’re possible) small acts of kindness can also go a long way.

Here’s an example: yesterday I created care packages for a few of my local friends. I put a bottle of wine, some chocolate, and a note in a bag and delivered it to their houses. It took me a total of an hour to assemble and deliver them and it felt so good to bring a smile to their faces, even if for only a night.

Note: I wore a mask and gloves to put them together and deliver them. I also asked my friends first if they felt comfortable with this.

In a time where it often feels like we have no control of the situation, doing something to help others is a way to make a difference, whether big or small in their lives and feel a bit of control in our own lives.

I’ve made a list of 15 ways to pay it forward to help get you started. I really hope you’ll join me in this challenge and help to make a difference during this difficult time in one way or another each and every day this month.


1. Donate money. Even if it’s $10 or $20 or even $5, every dollar counts. These are the organizations that we have donated to personally: Feeding America to help food banks around the country, Feed the Children to help feed hungry kids around the world, and Meals on Wheels to help deliver meals safely to the elderly.  This week, we are using the Homeless Shelter Directory to find local homeless shelters. I’ve reached out to a few and have offered to donate food, money, or supplies based on what they need.

If you’re looking for another type of monetary donation, CNN put out a great comprehensive list of organizations that are helping people in need right now.

2. Donate food. One of my neighbors started a meal train for hospital workers at a local hospital that we donated to and passed around. Using, it’s easy to organize one yourself too.

3. Donate medical supplies. Donate your PPE and Mask Match are a great place to start. And if you can sew, make homemade masks to donate as well. A friend of mine is making masks for a local fire department which has inspired me to learn how to sew. I’ve literally never done it (don’t ask me how this is possible) but now is the time!

4. Donate your time. Volunteer to be a crisis counselor for The Crisis Text Line and help others through their anxiety about the Coronavirus.

5. Donate blood. To find a blood center near you, check out America’s Blood Centers and Blood Centers of America.

Send a Smile

6. Bear hunt. Create a fun activity for the kids in your neighborhood by putting up teddy bears in your windows for when they walk by. I texted all of the neighbors that I knew and had them text the people they knew and now when we do our morning walks, we go on a bear hunt! I’ve also seen pictures of other neighborhoods that put up hearts or signs of encouragement.

7. Buy dinner for a friend. Among my friends, we each have our up days and down days. When someone is having a down day, order dinner for her/her family. Tell her what time it’s coming and tell her not to worry about a thing. It’s such a thoughtful gesture and takes one thing off of her mental load that day.

8. Write letters. Call/email a local senior center or nursing home and ask where you can send letters and pictures to their residents. Then write out a handwritten note in addition to art (if you have a kiddo) to brighten someone’s day.

9. Make a video. Does someone you know have a birthday, anniversary, or big milestone coming up? Contact their friends and family and put together an epic video for them! Whether it’s a lip-sync mash-up or just messages of love, it will make their day.

10. Deliver care packages. Safely deliver care packages to your loved ones who live nearby taking every precaution possible. Write a personalized note and include something that you know will make you smile.

Support a Small Business

11. Buy a gift card to your favorite local restaurant. This is a bonus one because you can give the gift card to someone you know to send them a smile! Or keep it for your own family so you have something to look forward to.

12. Continue workouts online. This one hits close to home because Anel’s business has taken a major hit in the last few weeks. But we are so lucky that many of his clients have been incredibly supportive and have continued their workouts with him online. If you work with a personal trainer, yoga instructor, or boot camp coach, reach out to see if they’re offering their services virtually. A ton of amazing companies are giving out free workouts online, but if you have any cash to spare, don’t forget the little guys! Shameless plug here 🙂

13. Shop locally. While you can’t go into a store, we realized this week that we could call our local toy store and place an order over the phone for curbside pickup. We needed to fill Amalia’s Easter basket and did it this way. Now that we know this, we’re trying to support local hardware stores and pharmacies as much as we can if they have safe pick up options instead of shopping Amazon so much.

14.  Order takeout for curbside pick up and tip generously. Support your favorite local restaurants by ordering food for curbside pickup. We’ve been doing this once a week as a special treat and it is always an exciting adventure to drive there and back as a family. It’s the little things these days… Don’t forget to give a generous tip. It will go a long way. For my local followers, check out my Fairfield County Locals Guide for some of my personal favorite spots.

15. Offer a skill. If you have graphic design, web dev, or social media/marketing skills, reach out to your favorite local small businesses and ask them if they need help running their online presence. If you don’t have one of those skills yourself, reach out to friends who do and suggest the idea.

Let me know if you have other ideas for this challenge! Are you in?

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  1. Diane said:

    I paid my hairdresser for the appointments I couldn’t make due to social distancing. A lot of hairdressers are self employed and won’t get unemployment.

    4.8.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      That is such a thoughtful thing to do!

      4.9.20 · Reply
  2. Elizabeth said:

    Last week I decided to Venmo my nurse and doctor friends a surprise $10 for coffee or wine as a thank you and a pick me up on me. I think this could go for anyone in essential services right now!

    4.8.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      That is so sweet. I’m going to follow suit and do the same!

      4.9.20 · Reply
  3. Kristen said:

    Love your blog today!! we definitely don’t want to forget about our local animal shelters. They hold a very special place in my heart. They are in desperate need of supplies, money, fosters etc. ❤️❤️ I donate regularly to them & have donated even more with everything going on. They are extremely appreciative ❤️❤️

    4.8.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Absolutely, good call! Thank you for sharing this.

      4.9.20 · Reply
  4. Wendy said:

    Columbus House shelter in New Haven ( and New Reach women’s shelter also in New Haven are both desperate for donations. You don’t even need to email them, both organizations have donate buttons right on their site. My students are also working on fundraising drive area shelters and food pantries. Food pantries in particular prefer monetary donations because they can purchase bulk food much cheaper than the average person’s food donation.

    4.8.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Will donate right now thank you!

      4.9.20 · Reply
  5. Ashley said:

    I love this! I have done a few things like this – a bakery by my office ran a donation promotion where you could send lunch to local hospitals, one of my favorite New England-based hotel chains has started a support fund for their staff, and I’ve been sending weird doodles to friends in the mail. I love that you’ve made this your challenge, and I hope this inspires many in your audience!
    For what it’s worth, there are proven benefits to service to others, among them a heightened sense of gratitude. Doing for others will help us to care for ourselves, and in this new situation it may be more important than ever! Wishing safety and wellness to all.

    4.9.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Thanks for the ideas! And a heightened sense of gratitude is something we could all use right about now xx

      4.10.20 · Reply
  6. Melinda said:

    I love this mindset! One of my friends has a cookie business but has shifted to 3D printing reusable masks for frontline workers. She donates all of them and recently purchased a second 3D printer ($1400) to expedite production. Materials cost her $3 per mask. She is very humbly accepting donations so she can cover her costs and continue providing this service. If anyone wants to contribute via Venmo, her Venmo is @themodernbetty

    4.9.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Checking her out now thank you so much for sharing! It’s so amazing and inspiring to see people doing things like this.

      4.10.20 · Reply