In the spirit of the upcoming holiday season I'd like to share some ideas for giving back to your community and in turn teaching your kiddos about the gift of giving.
1. The easiest and least time consuming is to give a charitable monetary donation to your local food bank, homeless shelter or other local non-profit organizations that support families in need. Many organizations have a holiday appeal to the public, as they experience an increased need for support and services during the holidays and the winter season. If you are in the U.S. you can find a listing of food banks here. If you are in Canada click here to find your local food bank.
2. Support special holiday projects. Some local organizations will hold special projects to collect proceeds to help them during the demanding holiday season. This may require some searching on your part to see what is going on in your area, but it shouldn't be too hard to find something. Special holiday concerts or holiday cards designed by local artists are a couple examples. Radio stations, newspaper ads and the good old Internet will surely point you in the right direction to find something in your area. For those of you that are in Nova Scotia here is a list of some special projects in support of Feed Nova Scotia.
3. Find and give to a toy drive in your area. Toy drives (or toy collections) are a way to give toys to the children who may not otherwise receive gifts for the holidays. Here Halifax there are several options to do this. One of our local radio stations hosts a yearly holiday toy drive where toys are collected at the annual Holiday Parade. Toy drives are also hosted by many local non-profit organizations. Many churches also host toy drives. All you have to do is ask or look around and I am confident you will find one!
4. Sometimes organizations host holiday gift shopping for families in need. They can match you up with a family who would otherwise not be able to afford buying their kiddos presents and you can do the holiday shopping for them! We did this one year and Maddie loved shopping for her "Secret Santa".
5. In addition to one or all of the above, you can donate your time and energy to a local food bank or soup kitchen and help out during this busy season. Many food banks and soup kitchens need volunteers to help prepare the food packages that go out to families, to collect and organize food donations and sometimes even to help prepare and give out holiday meals. Call your local food bank and soup kitchen to find out how you can help. If your kiddos are old enough they will gladly help out too!
6. Host your own fundraiser in support of a local organization by collecting food, money and/or toys from your family, friends, coworkers, neighbors and employees (if you are a business owner). This is also a great way to involve young children.
7. Go through your closets and cupboards and find clothing or other household items in good condition that you no longer use. Particularly, clothing that can help those in need stay warm during the winter. Usually these items can be donated to homeless shelters and often local churches have arrangements set up to donate to local organizations.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but I hope it's put you in the holiday giving spirit! And you may have noticed that I focused on doing things within your community. Of course you can also give to charitable organizations abroad, they need support as well. But for now I wanted to focus on the organizations that help within our community as they often don't get enough "exposure".
Maddie, Christmas 2008
I'd love to hear what your family does to give back during this time of year!