“Your greatness is not what you have, but in what you give.”― Alice Hocker
The holidays are all about giving. That’s why people flood malls and overload Internet servers on their quest for the perfect holiday gifts. Whether your holiday shopping budget is big or small, your loved ones will appreciate the thoughtfulness of your gifts to them.
Giving back to your community is just as important as giving to your loved ones. There are dozens of nationally-recognized charities that solely focus on making people’s lives easier during the holidays, an especially difficult time for those less fortunate than us. Too many people spend each winter hungry, cold, and lonely – but you can help to make the season easier for them.
When it comes to holiday giving, everyone has a different budget. Even if you can’t afford to donate to charity this year, you can still make a difference by giving your time to a worthy cause. These ways to give back this holiday season keep tight budgets in mind to show how anyone can contribute to something greater than themselves.
1. Volunteer to Serve Food
Nowadays, people in need of a free meal have several options: they can go to a traditional soup kitchen, an organized community meal, or a crisis center. All of these resources rely on the selfless volunteers who cook and serve the food. Indoor establishments are likely to see more foot traffic during the colder months, which means local organizations will need an extra hand in the kitchen. Volunteer your time for a special event or for a few days to help combat food insecurity!
If you aren’t sure of your community’s resources, reach out to churches, food banks, and homeless shelters. They will likely have more information on places to volunteer.
2. Donate Your Old Clothing
When you have old winter clothes that you will not wear this season, it’s easy to sell them online. Instead, consider donating these items to shelters. Homeless shelters, domestic violence safe havens, and youth crisis centers can all benefit from the clothes you don’t need. Many people in these accommodations only have a few articles of clothing, so your used coat could be the only warm weather item they’ll have this season.
Call your local shelters to see what they need the most, but these organizations can make use out of anything you donate. Consider donating coats, jackets, sweatshirts, thermals, hats, jeans, scarves, and gloves. Don’t feel bad about donating items with school logos, brand advertisements, or freebies from events you attended – what matters is that these items will keep people warm.
3. Shop with Amazon Smile
As you do your holiday shopping this season, select a charity to support through Amazon Smile. When you purchase something through the online retail giant, Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of that item to a charity of your choice. It may not seem like much, but purchases from millions of people add up. You’re essentially donating to charity without spending extra money!
4. Write Holiday Cards
Are you creative? If so, make and send holiday greeting cards to people who are facing hardships this holiday season. Children’s hospitals, nursing homes, and military bases always appreciate the effort people put into making cards. After all, it shows how much a stranger cares about them!
When writing holiday greeting cards, remember to use inclusive language – not everyone celebrates Christmas! Additionally, some hospitals object to cards that say “get well soon,” since each patient has a different prognosis.
5. Visit a Nursing Home
Not every patient in your local nursing home will have visitors this holiday season. Be a friend to those patients by visiting your local nursing home. By talking to the patients, exchanging stories, and playing games, you can provide them with support and recreation – both of which are important to their health. Help them feel cared for when others don’t show it!
Nursing homes often accommodate children and teens who’d like to volunteer. If your child has an interest in visiting a nursing home, find out what criteria they need to meet.
6. Pay it Forward
You may have read stories online about people who pay for the person behind them at a drive-thru or the person in front of them at a coffee shop. Even if you don’t start a train reaction, paying for someone’s order can make that person’s day. This random act of kindness shows people that despite greed and arrogance in the world, there are still good people who will lift them up.
If you can’t afford to pay for someone’s entire order, consider giving the employee in charge of orders a $5 bill to apply to another person’s order.
7. Start a Facebook Fundraiser
If you use Facebook regularly, you may have seen birthday fundraisers on your newsfeed. Facebook’s fundraising feature lets anyone collect donations for the causes they care about. It’s easy to share your fundraiser with friends, and you don’t even have to contribute anything yourself. Facebook handles the funds, ensuring that they land in the right hands.
Facebook’s fundraising platform lets users choose any organization that’s registered with the site. That includes many local non-profits!
8. Bake for a Neighbor in Need
When someone you’re acquainted with is faced with a sudden hardship, bringing a homemade dish to their door is a great way to show support. It won’t take away the pain of their struggle, but they will hopefully feel loved as a result of your gesture.
9. Join or Organize a Toy Drive
As the holidays near, you’re likely to see toy donation boxes at churches and restaurants. Organizations like Toys for Tots send new, unopened toys to underprivileged children. Donate a toy or game to make a child’s holiday extra special.
10. “Adopt” a Family
If you have a larger budget for holiday giving, consider “adopting” a family for the holidays. Organizations like Salvation Army pair donors with families in need. You’d receive a list of household members, complete with their ages, genders, clothing sizes, and known interests. Participants use that list to supply their “adopted” family with holiday gifts. With your generous donations, less fortunate parents can have gifts to put under their Christmas tree when it would otherwise be left barren.
The holidays focus on giving, so many organizations put extra effort into publicizing opportunities to contribute to their causes. There are ways for anyone to give back to their community, regardless of age, financial capability, or ability to leave their house. When you see a need for help this winter, be the helping hand that less fortunate people have been praying for!
The USPS has opened an Operation Santa website this year. You get a letter to Santa and become his little elf helper.
I know there are so many more ways to lend a hand and give back this Holiday season, what is your favorite? Oh and another tip, let your kids join in on the volunteering. They are always watching what we do.