Spread the Cheer: 5 Ways to Give Back This Holiday Season
It’s hard not to feel the warmth of the holidays when you have so many ways to celebrate…family time, fireplaces, presents, food — the list goes on.
The abundance of these blessings create the perfect recipe for giving back to the community. There’s no better time to pay it forward than when you’re bursting at the seams with love and gratitude.
But how do you decide where and how to give back?
Making a donation can be a passion investment. You’re putting time, money and energy into something you truly believe in, and you want to be sure your donations and hard work go directly to the causes you’re trying to support.
Some organizations can be deceiving in how the distribute their income, and in worst-case scenarios end up giving less than 5% of their funds to the people and programs they claim to help.
From volunteering to donating, here’s a collection of tried and true ways to feel good about the impact you’re making.
Choose a Donor
Choose an organization that has a mission you can get behind 100%.
Are you passionate about supporting our troops? Focus on a program that helps homeless veterans. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans has a list of options in every state.
Love kids? Check out organizations like Stand Up for Kids, which supports unaccompanied and at-risk youth in most major cities.
If you live in a more rural area, the need for you is greater than you think. Talk to your local church and closest shelters.
Bonus points for gathering camping gear as well, as it is useful even to those who live in warmer winter climates.
Volunteer at an Animal Shelter
Everywhere you go, there are animal shelters that could use some extra help.
If you’re an animal lover looking to share the joy of giving with your whole family, organize a day or two to volunteer together at your local animal shelter.
Contact the volunteer coordinator at the shelter of your choice, explain how many family members want to participate, and wait for your assignments.
If they have a hard time finding duties for each family member on one day, break into teams. Assign one team to help with shelter tasks like animal walking or holiday decorating, and another as a “home team” to work on things like donation outreach.
Visit a Senior Center
Visiting a senior care center is another great family activity. Contact a local senior center and ask them if there are any tenant who could use visitors.
Alzheimer’s and dementia tend to be common amongst senior care facilities. Check out these gifts for Alzheimer’s disease that help keep their minds sharp and bring back comforting memories.
Bring Toys to a Children’s Hospital or Shelter
Chances are, the children in your family will get at least one gift they already have (or may not use for long). These toys can find a new home in the arms of a child spending the holidays in a hospital or shelter.
Or toss a few extra gifts on your shopping list to donate directly to a child in need. Think educational toys, fun slippers, instruments to practice, and anything else that can bring them a sense of normalcy and entertainment.
You could change a child’s entire holiday with a few small acts of kindness.
Adopt a Veteran
It can be a lonely and confusing world when a veteran returns home from duties.
Many are in care centers, shelters, and hospitals without family or loved ones. And research shows this isolation can cause even more health problems for veterans to grapple with.
Thanks to programs like Adopt-a-Veteran, you can make a veteran feel loved and appreciated. You can either go about this by volunteering for the Elks National Veterans Service Commission or by contacting your local VA hospital and expressing your desire to sponsor a veteran.
For veterans with families, there are programs like Soldier’s Angels, which is a holiday specific program that donates gifts and grocery cards to struggling military and veteran families.
Organize a Local Blanket and Clothing Drive
For many Americans, a warm and cozy winter is out of their reach.
Cold nights can be deadly for the homeless, and families in particular have a hard time finding shelters to stay in.
While donating your own clothes and blankets will most likely help a person or two, taking the extra step to engage your community has a guaranteed direct impact with no cost to you — besides a few hours of your time.
Here’s 6 easy steps to organize a blanket and clothing drive for your community:
1. Choose a location
- This can be a school, church, home, or neighborhood gathering spot.
- Be sure to inform the owners of the space, and delegate specific time windows if someone needs to be present to receive donations.
2. Choose a date window
- Depending on your location, the date window could be anywhere from one day to a week.
3. Gather a team of volunteers
- Pick 3 or 4 reliable friends or community member to help you spread the word, receive donations, sort, and deliver.
- Print out flyers and post them in any facilities where community members gather...coffee shops, schools, churches, gyms, etc.
- Some facilities will allow you to make an announcement about the drive. This can be great to initiate face-to-face commitments, which tend to have a higher follow through rate.
- Create a Facebook event so you can post any updates or reminders, and recipients will receive a notification each time. Later, you can use the event attendees list to create a Facebook group to use as a permanent community forum after the drive is complete.
- Encourage your team to invite their circles to the event, and remind others to RSVP to spread the word.
- Make a few calls to others that come to mind that would like to contribute.
- Have someone present at the donation spot during drop-off times.
- This can help move along the process of donation sorting, and also adds a personal feel for the donors, making it more likely for them to share their experience with others.
6. Organize & Deliver
- Get together a few people to go through donations and make sure they’re all gently used, clean, and ready to go.
- Schedule a delivery time with the organization you chose to help to drop off the donations.
The joy of the holiday season is even greater when shared with others. Take a moment to look through these organizations, and see what calls to you most this holiday season.
Want to discover even more ways to give back this year? From baking to community sponsorship, here are even more ways to experience the joy of giving this holiday >