I just offer help if I’m able. Ex: offer a jump start, help push a stalled car off the main road, offer to help carry something for someone struggling, grab something off the top shelf at the supermarket, etc… These things only cost me a little bit of time, but I get the satisfaction of helping.
One time, a lady tracked me down and sent a thank you note with cookies to my work. That was nice. No old ladies have written me into their will yet though.
@Cerridwyn On the toiletries subject, Norman, OK has a christmas store where families can buy, with “points” presents for their kids and then they are given some additional points to buy other things they need (also kids, for 10 cents could buy their parents presents). The items that vanished the fastest from the “adults buying for themselves or the family” when I volunteered with them was things like tampons and pads, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes, soap, moisturizer, other hair care products, razors, combs and brushes, diapers, laundry detergent, dish soap, cleaning supplies… all the stuff you need for daily life that you can’t buy with food stamps.
Someone in our area started what they call a blessings box. It’s a covered area where people can either donate or take items they need, from canned/boxed goods to toiletries to school supplies & more. The family that started it posts heartwarming (anonymous) stories on Facebook about the people who donate or the families who have come when they were in need & then come back to donate something when they were back on their feet. Those stories have helped restore my faith in humanity. People really can be awesome sometimes.
Our community has a “Santa” profile set up on facebook. This person frequently posts about families in need of certain necessities, volunteer opportunities, or other such things. The most recent being paying off all of the overdue lunch bills for the students in the town, which was roughly $16,000, and is now $0.
Contributing to these things that really focus on the community is the best way I think I can pay it forward.