THE BLOG
07/04/2011 03:10 am ET Updated Sep 02, 2011

Fourth Of July 2011: Share Your Patriotism And Give Back

Do your part to make a difference on Independence Day!

Parades, barbecues, picnics and a three-day holiday weekend! As Independence Day approaches, many Americans are making plans or thinking about what they want to do. I strongly suggest you consider adding a charitable component to your celebrations!

This year the good ole USA celebrates 235 years of independence! One doesn't have to be a great lover of history to realize that the Founding Fathers (and Mothers) had a pretty good idea when they decided to put their faith in a free county as well as their fortunes and in some cases their lives. These "revolutionaries" definitely made a difference. And by declaring our independence, this decision, in many ways, led directly to the creation of the nonprofit/philanthropic sector because there wasn't a king or queen to provide support for hospitals, libraries, schools, churches, poor houses, etc. The colonists in signing their names to that document in essence created the nonprofit sector in which more than 12 million of us work (that is 9 percent of the work force) today!

Today there are many ways you can give back philanthropically to celebrate and embrace the independence spirit that created this sector so long ago! Here are a few suggestions.

Military

What often comes to mind on July 4 are the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Here are some ways to make a difference:

Most veterans' organizations have some sort of ceremony or celebration during the July 4th holiday. Check in with your local VFW or American Legion to find out what is happening in your community and how you can participate or help.

Take time to send a letter or care package to a solider. This can be easily accomplished by following the suggestions and tips on the Any Soldier website. Many soldiers never received mail or a care package; by sending something you are telling the soldier you have not forgotten.

Fireworks and Community Events

Community celebrations abound around the July 4 holiday. Macy's is again providing financial support to insure the July 4th Fireworks Show over the Hudson River in New York City occur. Brad Paisley and Beyoncé will be performing and definitely making a difference (note: you can watch the festivities on NBC at 9 pm EDT).

On the west coast, Microsoft along with Starbucks are again providing the financial support to insure Seattle's fireworks show happens. These two corporate giants are working together to make a difference in their community.

However due to the economy in many cities, including my beloved adopted hometown of Chicago, fireworks displays are canceled. That doesn't mean you can't have a celebration, it just means it might be a bit different. Consider these options:

Most communities have a parade and/or community celebration. These types of events need volunteers to help with the organization of them as well as people to participate and be supportive. By attending your community's celebration of the July 4th holiday you will be making a difference!

Many cities and towns have sporting events, such as softball tournaments, marathons, kickball tournaments and golf outing, to raise funds for much needed projects in the community. Consider participating in a charitable event to raise money for worthy cause. Again, you will be making a difference!

Shopping

Yes, I know it is hard to believe that shopping could make a difference for the Independence Day celebrations but it is true. This year Old Navy will once be offering an opportunity for shoppers to give back. From July 1 - 4 Old Navy will be collecting everyday items such as socks, t-shirts, flip flops, etc. for the men and women who serve in the military via Operation Care and Comfort. Customers donating personal care items, Old Navy merchandise or $5 cash will receive 10 percent off their purchase.

Many other companies will be doing similar things to honor our service men and women; pay attention and shop for a cause over the Independence Day Holiday Weekend!

Family

We often heard it said that nothing is more important than family. Take the time this holiday weekend to spend it with family members. Make an effort to get together to talk, listen to stories and simply be in each other's presence. That is what our Founding Fathers (and Mothers) worked so hard for 235 years ago -- to provide opportunities for a better life for their families. Take advantage of what they fought for all those years ago.

Here are five recommendations and tips on easy ways to make a difference on this Forth of July holiday weekend:

1. Write a letter to a soldier or talk to a veteran who served; thank them for what they are doing for the USA.

2. Go to the cemetery and read the headstones of those military service men and women who died; quietly thank them for the ultimate sacrifice they made.

3. Support your community by attending community functions; sometimes just showing up makes a difference!

4. Organize with a good old fashioned picnic with your neighbors and friends celebrating being American. Take up a collection at the picnic for one of your favorite causes or charities. Ask folks to donate $5, $10 or $20 to make a difference!

5. Take time to read the Declaration of Independence; by simply reading what our country's founders wrote long ago, you will be making a difference!

Bonus Tip: Often times in our communities we have soldiers returning from service. Make an effort to be present for those homecomings by attending in person or sending a note. Either way, you will be making a difference!

This July 4, the United States celebrates the 235th anniversary of the declaring ourselves free from a monarchy. The Founders made a difference and every day since Americans have found a way to do the same. What will you do this Independence Day Holiday to make a difference?

Subscribe to Must Reads.
The internet's best stories, and interviews with their authors.