It’s Thursday, and here at Let’s Do Some Good Today, Thursdays are challenge days! This week’s challenge is a pretty simple one. Are you ready?

Are you familiar with the shelters in your local area? If someone needed to know where the homeless shelter was, could you tell them? What about a women’s shelter? A shelter for teens? An animal shelter?

Most of us have shelters in our community. We’re grateful that they’re there, but we can easily forget about them because we don’t need them.

But what if you did?

You might never end up there. I sincerely hope and pray that you and I don’t. I hope that you are sitting in a home in which you feel safe and that you have money in the bank. I hope you have a safety net of family, friends, and community support. I hope that if hard times ever fall on you, you’d have people to lean on until you got back on your feet.

But what if you didn’t?

If you were absolutely desperate, you would hope that there would be somewhere to turn. You would hope that there would be a safe place for you to stay, and you would hope that somehow, there were strangers who cared enough about you – a stranger – to take you in.

Today, you and I don’t need one of these shelters. And for most of us, we don’t spend a whole lot time thinking about them. But to the brave men and women who have made this their life’s work, they spend almost all of their time thinking about these safe places … and they are hoping that others will think about them, too. Because without the support of a community, most shelters don’t have a hope of continuing.

Let’s think about them.

This week, we’re going to look at our local shelters. We’re going to learn where they are, and we’re going to learn what they need. That’s it. That’s all I’m asking.

The shelter challenge

First of all, if you don’t know what shelters are in your local area, a quick internet search will pull them up. Just type in “shelter” and your zipcode, and see what comes up. For me, the top results are homeless shelters, women’s shelters, family shelters, and animal shelters. Another minute of effort will also connect me to men’s shelters and a shelter for teenagers. There are so, so many in my area.

The need is SO great.

I wish with all my heart it wasn’t, but it was.

So pause now. Do an online search, and find a shelter nearby that touches your heart.

(Did you do it?)

Great. Now that you’ve found it, there’s just one more thing I’d like you to do: Find out what they need. Many times, shelters will have a website with a wish list page. If not, find the phone number and take a moment to call. Ask them what their greatest needs are. I can almost guarantee that there will be someone who will be very happy to answer your questions.

And that’s it, friends. Find a shelter, and find out what they need.

Because once you know what the needs are in your community … well, you won’t need me to tell you what to do after that.

You might realize you have an extra $5 you can donate.

You might pass by a clearance rack at Target and notice an item that’s on your shelter’s “urgent needs” list.

You might realize that you have a few hours you can use to volunteer.

You might grab an extra box of granola bars the next time you’re at the store. Or maybe an extra pack of socks, or a bottle of laundry detergent.

You might decide to take some donations to a shelter for homeless teens, and while you’re there, you might realize for the first time that right in your city, there are teenage girls who are selling their body for food. You might realize that you had absolutely no idea that there were people in your very city who are so absolutely desperate. You might get angry – FURIOUS – that this is the reality for so many. And when your fury subsides a bit, you might realize that you might not be able to fix all of the problems in your community, but you might be able to donate a bit of food. And with that bit of food, someone will be able to eat tonight without resorting to desperate measures.

A broken, defeated woman might be able to take a shower tomorrow morning and start to feel a little bit more feminine because you donated a bottle of nice shampoo to the shelter she has fled to.

A man might be able to button up his new-to-him dress shirt (that, as of yesterday, was hanging in your closet) and go off to a job interview, confident that he looks professional and competent.

Tomorrow someone might read your Facebook post … “Hey, local friends – did you realize that we have a women’s shelter that’s of closing because they need more donations? Come on – let’s help!” Or “Did you know that our local animal shelter is going to have to put down three dogs this weekend unless they find homes? Anyone need a new pet?” And your friend might realize, thanks to you, that there is a need that he or she can meet.

You can give. You can advocate. You can learn and share. And you can make a HUGE difference in the lives of the most vulnerable in your community.

I don’t know what you’re going to do with this week’s challenge.

But I can’t wait to hear.

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