While a charitable heart is fashionable year-round, I usually find myself with an even stronger urge to give back during the holiday season. Maybe it’s the spirit of Christmas running through my veins. Maybe I secretly want to be Santa Claus when I grow up. Or maybe it’s all the family get togethers and presents under the tree that remind me just how lucky I am. I’m not rolling in the money. I won’t be making it rain up in here. But, I have everything I need. So when the holidays come around, I’m eager to share my good fortune with others.
If you have a similar urge this season (or any season), here are a few ways that you can give back:
1. Adopt a Family
If you too have always wanted to be Santa, then here’s your chance. Adopt a family for Christmas and make their holiday dreams come true by buying them clothes, toys, and necessities that every family needs. The Salvation Army’s Adopt-a-Family program runs every year, but you could also check with your local social service providers, shelters, or churches.
2. Buy Some Toys for Tots
If you can’t afford to sponsor an entire family for Christmas, you can still play Santa for one or two children. Toys for Tots has collection centers all over the country where you can drop off brand new, unwrapped toys for children who might not receive a gift otherwise. And if you’re hosting a holiday party, why not get everybody in the charitable spirit by asking each guest to bring a toy to donate. Then you Santas can really enjoy your adult milk and cookies.
3. Be a Secret Santa
Not everybody is made for the limelight. So for you shyer people, Secret Santa may be more your style. Soldier’s Secret Santa is an organization that helps bring a little bit of Christmas cheer to those children who are missing their parents this holiday season. Deployment is tough on everybody, but these donations help make their Christmas just a little bit brighter.
4. Mail Some Holiday Cheer to Our Soldiers
So many service men and women are deployed over the holidays, but you can also help brighten their Christmas by sending a little something through the Red Cross’ Holiday Mail for Heroes program. Even the simplest greeting card can have a monumental effect. So bust out your craft making skills and mail a little holiday cheer.
5. Clean Out Your Pantry
Of course, giving back this season doesn’t have to mean spending oodles of money that you may not have. The mere act of cleaning out your pantry can lead to the most charitable donations. Grab all those canned goods that you won’t ever eat or have too many of and donate them to your local food pantry to help feed those in need this holiday season. Check out Feeding America to find a food bank close to you.
6. Feed the Homeless
As everyone gets ready to enjoy their holiday feasts, it’s the perfect time to give back to those who may not have a place at the table this year. Volunteer at the local food kitchen. Donate your holiday leftovers. Or make something special for that homeless man that you pass on the street every day.
7. Visit Senior Citizens
Many senior citizens can’t keep up with the hustle and bustle of daily life, let alone their tech savy family members who use smart phones and Twitter to keep in touch. Because of this, many senior citizens often feel depressed and lonely during the holiday season. But, you can offer them the companionship they crave. Visit a senior center, retirement home, or hospital to give a senior citizen the gift of your time. I guarantee they have some awesome stories to share.
8. Make a Furry Friend
Our furry friends need some love over the holidays, too. If you’re thinking of adding to your family this Christmas, consider rescuing a dog or cat from your local shelter. And if you’re not expanding your family, you can still visit the local shelter to donate your time to the sweet furballs who are still waiting to be adopted. Take them for a walk. Play with them. Dote on them. And remind them that they will find their forever home soon.
9. Gift Donations
There’s always that one person on your Christmas list who has everything or likes nothing. It can seem impossible to find the perfect gift for them. Well, if you have a few of those people on your list too, consider making a donation in their name to their favorite charity or cause. Whether that’s animal welfare, ending child hunger, medical research, or theater arts, there are plenty of amazing causes to choose from.
10. Perform Acts of Kindness
Sometimes the smallest acts of kindness can spread the greatest joy. This season, look for small opportunities to spread holiday cheer around your community. Buy a cup of coffee for the person behind you at Starbucks. Hand out care packages for the homeless. Bake some goodies for your neighbors. Leave your waiter a generous tip. Or buy a homeless person a hot meal. There are opportunities for kindness every where you look. Embrace them.
Giving back doesn’t have to be just for the holiday season. Wear your charitable heart year-round. Donate. Volunteer. And perform acts of kindness during every season. I guarantee the shelters, food banks, and people will appreciate the help throughout the year.