With Thanksgiving right around the corner and the year-end holidays just after that, it’s the time of year to recognize what we’re grateful for. While many of us will enjoy filling meals, gift giving and receiving and warm nights spent with family and friends, it’s also an important time to do what you can to help out those in need. Depending on your lifestyle, there are so many ways – big and small – to give back this season.
1.Food drives – You’ll see them everywhere during this time of year. Maybe it’s as easy as purchasing a couple extra cans of food while you’re grocery shopping or looking in the cabinets to see what you have extra of. Donate some lasting goods such as rice, canned vegetables, protein bars, women’s health items, diapers – whatever you can to help an individual or family in need.
2. Serve a holiday meal – Most soup kitchens and shelters serve special holiday meals to hundreds of people who are hungry and have no other place to go. Carve out some time and involve the whole family to help serve, wash dishes or even greet folks in from the cold with a kind smile and hot drink. It’ll not only feel great, but be a valuable lesson for kids in kindness and charity.
3. Host a sock drive – You can start one with a simple flyer at work, your religious or community group, kids’ sports team – anywhere. Sock drives are all about collecting the basic necessities for the homeless, such as new socks, underwear and toiletries, which your local shelter will gladly take in and distribute to those in need.
4. Volunteer time or items to an animal shelter – Who wouldn’t want to help out some furry little friends!? If you have the time, see if your local shelter needs help walking the dogs or playing with the kittens. If you have extra blankets, can afford some pet toys, extra food or treats, animal shelters will always take them in.
5. Collect toys for kids – If you don’t have old toys at home that can be donated, head to a bargain dollar store and purchase a handful of trinkets. Then, take them home and wrap them up with a removeable note on the outside to distinguish what age the gift is best for. Bring the gifts to a local YMCA or even a children’s hospital to make someone’s day feel extra bright.
6. Visit a nursing home – Bake or buy some holiday cookies and bring them to visit a local nursing home. Statistics show that a lot of these residents spend this time of year without visitors or friends, so why not spend an hour or two and inspire some holiday cheer.
7. Donate blood to the American Red Cross – If you meet the eligibility requirements, consider donating blood to a local chapter of The American Red Cross. According to their website: one donation can save up to three lives and in the U.S. someone needs a blood donation every two seconds. Each year an estimated 6.8 million people in the U.S. donate and The Red Cross provides approximately 40% of our nation’s donated supply.
8. Bake some goods for those who work on the holidays – Many of our local heroes don’t get to take the day off. Bake some cookies or special treats to bring to those on duty at a local police station, fire station, hospital or emergency room.
9. Pass it on – Sometimes giving back can be as simple and affordable as a cup of coffee. The next time you’re on-the-go at a local sandwich shop or coffee place, offer to pay for a future customer’s order ahead of time. Maybe it will even inspire them to do the same!
10. Up your tips – Ideally, we all tip our Uber drivers, servers, baristas and food delivery drivers all year long. But during this time of year, why not add a little extra to their pocket. Increase your tip to 50 percent – or even higher if you can – with a nice little note to wish them and their family a very happy holiday.
11. Write letters to military members – There are several organizations, such as Operation Gratitude, Support Our Troops, Soldiers Angels, Operation We are Here and many more that make it easy to write a letter of gratitude to a soldier, wounded warrior, first responder or veteran. You could even host a party to write several, which they’ll send off for you.
12. Make a donation – A tried and true way to give back at any time of the year. Find an organization you want to support and then give what you can. If you don’t have a ton of cash on hand, but a desire to give more, consider setting up a recurring contribution or host a fundraiser to raise more.
The holidays are all about spending time together, spreading cheer and being grateful for what we have. There’s no better gift than giving back and you may just end up enjoying it so much it becomes a new tradition you do every year!