Giving back to your community is a great way to help those in need this time of year, when workloads tend to slow down and money is too easily tied up in gift-shopping. Spread the same joy so many homes have and celebrate the season by dedicating your time to ten days of giving.
Here are ten different ways you can help for the holidays:
1. Build Care Packages
Assemble holiday care packages for children or families who need them the most. Fill old shoeboxes with items that kids love and need: a small toy, school supplies, and even essentials like soap and toothpaste. Check with local shelters and organizations that assist these families to see which items would be appropriate to give. You can also get involved with a project like Operation Christmas Child to expand your efforts beyond your own neighborhood.
2. Random Notes of Kindness
Sometimes, all it takes is some kind words to help someone through a difficult day. Turn these simple gestures into handwritten notes; anything from an inspirational quote to a thank-you is a lasting pick-me-up when other aspects of one’s season are less than perfect. Find spots to place them in your community, like on a car windshield, a tip jar, or tucked between the pages of a library book. Budgets are stretched during the holidays, but random notes of kindness cost nothing!
3. Shop Locally
Choosing to buy locally for the holidays rather than online or at big shopping centers isn’t just better for the environment—cutting down on the pollution created transporting products—but also bolstering to your community’s local economy. Skip the mainstream bustle of Black Friday and shop on Small Business Saturday instead. In addition to supporting my community, I often find wonderful holiday gifts that are truly one of a kind.
4. Give to a Stranger
You don’t have to love someone or even know them personally to give them a gift they’ll appreciate. Surprise a person you’ve never met before with a helping hand, item, or meal—and inspire them to pay that kind gesture forward. This story about a young teen who gifted a toy to a child in a department store is just one example of spreading the idea of generosity and giving to others you walk past every day.
5. Deliver a Meal
Prepare a healthy meal for another family in your community. It can be a friend or neighbor—anyone who would benefit from a home-cooked dish they didn’t have to make or purchase. If you know of someone lacking the means to feed or cook for themselves, organize a meal train among your friends and have each person sign up to deliver a dish on a different day. This can be especially helpful to a family dealing with illness, or one that has just welcomed a new baby!
6. Pick Up Litter
The environment is a big part of your community, one that is easily overlooked over holidays that inevitably yield more waste. You don’t have to organize a massive cleanup to make an impact; every bit can help over the next month. Give yourself the goal of picking up a certain amount of trash for the day. With enough people following suit, you’ll all enjoy the benefits of your own efforts.
7. Help an Animal
Here’s a tremendous way to give back, and not just to local humans . . . Animals need love too, and what better way to give it than by adopting or fostering a pet from a rescue organization? Providing even a temporary home can be a huge gift! If you’re unable to offer an animal a new home, there are similar ways to help make their holidays a little brighter: Donate blankets, supplies or simply the gift of your time to an animal shelter that may not see the most foot traffic this year.
8. Make a Blanket
Speaking of blankets—they are always appreciated by those in need when the weather turns cold. If you know how to sew or knit, make a quilt or stitch a throw to donate. This is also a great opportunity to reuse and recycle any scrap fabric that you can piece together in a larger blanket. You don’t need to be an professional to be crafty, though; some no-sew blankets are easy enough for kids to help assemble.
9. Kids’ Choice
Helping others for the holidays is a great way to show kids the importance of giving back to the community. Give them an opportunity to come up with their own ways to help. Get them involved in your ten days of giving, but let them take the lead after a few group initiatives. You’d be surprised by the things children come up with as ways to give back.
10. Jacket Drive
As you pull out your winter clothes this year, see if you have a coat or two you can spare (everyone does, if they look hard enough). Spread the word to your friends and have them do the same. It doesn’t take a ton of effort, rather just a quick e-mail or Facebook post to ask for donations and a place to round them up. Contact a Salvation Army branch nearby to donate your old pieces. You can also leave jackets on lightposts with notes that they are not lost, but for someone in need.
What are some ways you plan to help for the holidays? Share your ideas in the comments!
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.