The holidays are coming! The holidays are coming! Have you thought about all of the ways you want to give back to the people you love this year? What about those you have never met who could use some extra love? Our family has been thinking of new traditions that we could incorporate into our holiday fun to help us remember what this season is all about. Here are our top 10 ideas for giving back to those in need this holiday season.
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- Pay for someone’s groceries. This is probably one of the simplest ways to lend a helping hand this season and it’s even easier if you embark on this task with the intention of completing it anonymously. As a teenager, I worked in a family owned grocery store in Northwest Arkansas which I am still partial to. One day, a customer came up with a request that I will never forget. They asked if we could take some cash from them and use it to pay for other people’s groceries. It was simple, add in $20 here or there to help some of the others out. I honestly have no idea how much money they left with us or who all we used it for but I do remember the pride that swelled in my chest with each bright smile passing through my line. I can’t imagine how far that ripple went but I am sure it can still be felt to this day.
- Pay down on someone else’s layaway. A lot of stores have layaway programs and while they cannot give you the personal information most will help you out if you are honest about your visit. You can ask for an account that seems to have several children, one that is full of certain items, or ones that are at or below a certain dollar amount. Either pay off one you can afford or put small amounts towards several. The choice is yours and you never know just how big of an impact you can make.
- Donate to a food bank. This one seems like a no-brainer. So many people automatically think of food banks when they think about holiday giving but few take the time to really consider what the food banks need. If you are going to make a food bank donation this holiday season, please, take a moment to read this great post over on “foodlets”. It is full of ideas on how to best plan your donation.
- Donate to the shelters and halfway houses. It can be so easy to take your child’s coat from last winter and toss it into that garbage bin on the way out but why not put it to a better use. Most shelters have donation centers where they accept clean clothes for men, women, and children as well as household supplies. Feminine products, new socks, and new underwear tend to be under-donated so why not stock up on your next trip to the store? Looking to donate actual gifts this year? Try unwrapped toys (make it even more special by donating new toys), gift cards to clothing stores or restaurants (a $10 McDonald’s card could be just the special treat someone needs!), or even movie passes to help them get away from it all for a day.
- Donate to the animal shelters. There are so many animals out there needing good homes and the shelters are overwhelmed. Cash donations are great for helping pay the bills but they can also use blankets, towels, food, cleaning supplies, and animal care products like shampoos or even toys. Most people think of regular dog or cat shelters but don’t stop there. We should also be looking to specialized nonprofits, such as Horses for Healing, and helping make sure their needs are met.
- Participate in Operation Christmas Child. Our family is very excited to be making this one of our yearly traditions. Operation Christmas Child is run by Samaritan’s Purse, a foundation that provides international relief to struggling countries and families. There are several ways to get in on this including packing your own shoe boxes, holding a packing party, building a box digitally, or volunteering at a collection center. We are planning to pack 6 boxes yearly (1 boy & 1 girl for each of the 3 age ranges) to drop off during collection week! You can find out more about how to pack your box >here< or read through a list of suggested gift (and what isn’t allowed) >here<. This year, National Collection Week will be held November 16-23.
- Donate your books. Thanks to Better World Books, founded in 2002, it is easy to make a difference in the world’s literacy and education levels. Instead of being a company that gives to causes, they are a company with a cause at their core. Through the company, you can donate books to libraries, individuals, bookstore partners, and book drive partners. For families like us who travel full time and love to read, this is a wonderful idea for unloading our collection along the way. You can even see where in the world the donations are helping out!
- Volunteer. There are endless ways to volunteer and an abundance of places to do so. Just a few ideas of places to help out at are shelters, soup kitchens, churches, libraries, or donation centers. You can even take the day to clean up a park. Get some buddies together and one afternoon can make a big difference.
- Visit retirement centers. If you call in advance, many retirement centers allow visitors and even groups to come by to play games, do crafts, or even just spend time with the residents. They usually allow you to bring children or pets as well which can really brighten some spirits. Our oldest’s dance teacher loved taking the youngest kids for mini performances and it was the sweetest thing ever. It is disheartening how many elderly are never visited by their friends and family, even for the holidays. You can make their season special or even stop by once a month just to check in and let them know they are still important in the world.
- Donate blood. The holiday season gets a lot of individuals thinking about how they can give to others but with all of the ways to give food or presents, donating blood slips through the cracks. You can contact your local donation centers to find out their policies and hours or you can find more information via the American Red Cross.