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‘Tis the Season for Giving Back

Carol Walton

two people holding a gift

The holidays are upon us, and as we prepare for the festive season, here are some ways to spread merriment to those we hold near and dear and share the gift of giving.

Give a gift that gives back

Want to give a gift that not only lets a loved one know you’re thinking about them but also contributes to the greater good? Purchase your holiday gifts from companies that use a portion of their proceeds to donate to charitable causes. This twofer is a sure way to give back while bringing delight to family and friends. Additionally, if you know someone passionate about a particular social issue, donate on their behalf to an organization working in the issue area they care about

Donate needed items

There are plenty of organizations accepting material donations to help individuals and families in need during the holiday season. Look up and contact your favorite local nonprofit to see what items are needed. Some donation ideas include:

  • Toys. Bring joy to children in need this season by donating new or gently used toys. One annual toy drive of note is the Samaritan’s Purse International Relief’s Operation Christmas Child. Donors fill shoeboxes with toys, hygiene items, and school supplies that are delivered to children in 100 countries.
  • Coats and winter clothes. The winter months are the most brutal on individuals and families in need, especially those who are unhoused or staying in shelters. A donation of a gently used coat is always in demand during this time. Look up local coat drives such as this locator offered by One Warm Coat. You can also donate gently used winter gear like scarves, hats, gloves, sweaters, socks, and boots to a local shelter or nonprofit. Some charities run clothing drives such as the Clothing Collaborative organized by Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island.
  • Toiletries and baby products. Donations of items such as sanitary napkins, sanitizing wipes, deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, diapers, and baby wipes are essential items always in need. Make sure to donate undamaged and unopened items.
  • Veterinary supplies. Donate materials such as pet food, treats, toys, collars, leashes, clean bedding, and other veterinary supplies to a local animal shelter or animal rescue group to help unhoused animals. You can even consider adopting a rescue pet! Contact your local animal shelter to see if they have a  wish list with suggested donation items.
  • Food. Contact your local food bank to see what foods they need and to inquire about their donation process. Invite your family, friends, and neighbors to join you in donating nonperishable food items and make sure the donations are not expired or damaged. Lastly, invite your co-workers to donate food items as well; you can ask your employer to help sponsor a food drive
  • Blood. During the holiday season, blood donations decrease due to more people traveling or dealing with illnesses such as the cold or flu. During 2020, there was a 34% drop in blood donors nationwide. Donating blood during the holidays can be a life-saving way to give back.  

Spread neighborly love

A kind gesture goes a long way in helping to build community camaraderie and provide immediate assistance to those in need. The benefits are two-fold when you help your neighbor; small acts of kindness can improve your well-being and help you feel connected to others. It also reduces feelings of loneliness and leads to a more optimistic perspective on life. Some simple acts include delivering groceries or prescriptions to a homebound neighbor, preparing a home-cooked meal, or even just a simple check-in to say “hi!” You can help a working family by babysitting a few hours or setting up a playdate. Are one of your neighbors living on their own? Invite them out for a cup of coffee. Even a warm and cheerful greeting uplifts a neighbor’s mood during the holiday season and beyond. 

 

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Check out inspiring stories of people who have moved from intention to action in our Ideas for Action blog.

Carol Walton

Carol Walton is a community organizer at Idealist. She connects our community of idealists with opportunities to volunteer and take action in their area.