Before we know it, we’ll all be in a mad scramble to finish our last-minute gift shopping and wrap all our presents. There’s no doubt that this time of the year is filled with excitement and cheer. Giving gifts and making loved ones happy is wonderful! However, it’s also important to remember there are many out there who are not able to celebrate the holidays in a similar fashion.
The holidays are a perfect time to give back to those less fortunate and/or to give some of our time to a noteworthy cause to show how thankful we are for the blessings we have received throughout the year. There is certainly no shortage of places to donate one’s time to during the holiday season, but just in case, here are some ideas:
Soup Kitchens – When people have no shelter and food, they often find solace in visiting a soup kitchen, particularly over the holiday season. A soup kitchen is a wonderful place to give your time, as there are always hungry people in need of a warm, filling meal over the holidays.
Salvation Army – Remember those bright red kettles that you see around shopping centers at holiday time? Well those are from the Salvation Army, and men and women across the country volunteer their time to solicit donations for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Christmas Campaign.
This campaign enables the Salvation Army to provide food, toys and clothing to over 6 million people during the Christmas season and helps more than 34 million Americans recovering from all kinds of personal disasters nationwide. It only takes a moment to throw some spare change into the kettle; if you’re inspired, you could even volunteer for this important fundraising activity.
Give Blood – Every year millions of people in the United States require a blood transfusion. One pint of blood can save up to three lives. Although you must meet certain criteria, giving blood is a priceless gift. Check with your local blood center or hospital to see if you are eligible.
Social Networking – There are certainly no shortage of social networking websites. From Facebook to MySpace to Twitter, you can follow your favorite non-profit organizations online and encourage friends and family to become involved or donate. By encouraging others to take part, you’re providing a much needed service that costs you little time or money.
Throw an Event for Your Favorite Charity – If you have a favorite charity or non-profit organization, the time, and a group of good friends you can combine fun and doing good by holding an event in the charity’s honor at the holidays. The gathering can be a forum in which you encourage awareness or perhaps even require a small donation to the charity of your choice to attend the party.
Adopt a Family or Child for the Holidays – Participate in an adopt-a-family or adopt-a-child program this holiday season. Often, your local mall will support such a program. It only takes a moment to pick a name off a tree, pick up their requested gift and drop it back off. You’ll be giving someone a gift they never thought they would receive.
Cook a Meal for Others – Treat a family to a home-cooked meal this holiday season. Put your cooking skills to use and cook a meal. Sign up with a local religious organization through which you can donate a meal. It will mean so much to a family to have a hot meal on a cold winter night.
Adopt a Pet – Adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue service. There are always cats and dogs that need loving homes. This could be the opportunity to give a wonderful animal a home and find a life-long companion.
Help an Elderly Person – Unfortunately, not all elderly people have close family who are looking out for them. Maybe you have a neighbor that would like a place to spend dinner or someone with whom to talk; or perhaps there is an assisted living facility or nursing home nearby. Some residents never have visitors and spend the holidays alone; one visit can make their holiday a special one.
Go Through Your Closet and Donate Old Clothes – The holiday is a perfect time for new beginnings. This is the perfect time to clean out your closet and give the clothes you no longer use to a charity such as the Salvation Army, or a local homeless shelter. There are bound to be people out there who will find a use for them.
Participate in a Food Drive – Food drives help feed families in your community during the holidays. Food drives are often organized at your place of work and usually involve bringing in canned foods that can be used to feed the hungry. Not only do food drives require food donations, but volunteers to organize the event and help deliver food to needy families.
Take A Volunteer Vacation – Combine your holiday time off with a little vacation and volunteering for a worthwhile cause. You can tailor your volunteer vacation in terms of the place: domestic or international, and the cause: teaching English, caring for orphaned children, or working with the elderly. The options are limitless.
Be a Big Brother or Sister – Use the holidays as a time to become involved with an organization like Brig Brothers or Big Sisters of America. Being a mentor to a young boy or girl has the potential to be the biggest gift you have ever given. All it requires is a commitment of time and a desire to help change the life of a young person for the better.
The above are only a few ideas of ways to give back at the holidays. There is certainly no shortage; don’t let the season pass without helping to make a difference, however small it may be. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
Published or updated April 4, 2013.