You’ve made a list, you’ve checked it twice and — oh no! — looks like you forgot to add giving back. Well no fear, there are still plenty of ways you can make a difference in people’s lives this holiday season.
For a few fabulous ways to spread seasonal cheer and help those in need, check out these 10 ideas:
Feed a Food Bank
It’s as simple as adding a few extra items to your grocery list. Donating food to a food bank or pantry is often made even easier around the holidays by an increase in drop off points like designated vehicles or shopping carts at local grocery stores, schools, churches and other establishments.
Food banks are always in need of crucial staples like canned fruits and vegetables and non-perishable proteins. Around the holidays, they’re also looking for seasonal items to help those in need get a holiday dinner too.
Serve a Meal
Whether that’s volunteering at a soup kitchen, inviting lonely neighbors to join your holiday meal or working together with a church to host homeless families, there are plenty of ways to make sure everyone gets a lovingly prepared holiday meal.
Check with local agencies to see where you can volunteer or consider adding a few extra seats ‘round your holiday table.
Adopt a Family
Look for a local charitable organization that can match you (or you and a group) up with a local family. By “adopting” them you’ll help see to anything from Christmas gifts, a holiday meal or necessities like clothing.
The holidays are the perfect time of year to commit to sponsoring a child in need through programs like Compassion International or World Vision.
Not sure about making a multi-year commitment? There are plenty of seasonal ways to give through programs like Salvation Army’s Angel Tree or Operation Christmas Child through Samaritan’s Purse.
Shop the Catalogs
Skip the thousand page toy or gadget catalogs and turn to charitable catalogs instead. Heifer International and ABWE are just two of the life-changing organizations that provide donors with a catalog of charitable opens for humanitarian aid.
Say Yes to the Round Up
Only a true Scrooge would turn their back on one of the simplest, easiest, cheapest ways to give.
Many retailers and fast food chains partner with charities to raise money by asking patrons to round their total up to the nearest dollar or add an extra dollar to their charge. That miniscule addition will go towards charity. It’s a simple, quick way to give back when you’re out doing your holiday shopping.
Write Thank Yous
Set aside time to write thank you notes to those dedicating their lives to serving others. Write to soldiers and veterans, police officers and firefighters, EMT’s and teachers.
Take it a step further and reach out to the truly underappreciated: your mail carrier, your trash collectors and others who work hard in underappreciated fields.
Volunteer Your Time
When you mention “holiday volunteering,” most people think of soup kitchens. While it is crucial to make sure your local shelters and charities have enough volunteers for the holiday season, there are other people who will greatly appreciate your time.
Many residents in local nursing homes either have no family nearby, no family living or no one compassionate enough to take the time to visit. Ask your local home for a list of residents who don’t receive visitors and carve out time to sit and talk with them.
On the shy side? Take an activity as an icebreaker or get family or friends to go with you.
You’ve heard the one-in-one-out advice for dealing with clutter, but it’s also a great piece of charitable advice. Get yourself and your family in the one-in-one-out routine whether that’s for clothing or toys.
Even if it’s awkward — which talking about finances or inequality often is — have an honest chat with your kids about why you’re donating some of your possessions. Then take the items that are in good repair to local shelters, charity closets, toy drives or thrift shops.
Make a Resolution
The holidays are about joy and peace, so resolve to extend those gifts to everyone you meet. Give a bit of grace to grumpy shoppers and do your best to be a bright spot for retail workers.
You can also take the time to make farther reaching resolutions, like how you’ll continue to give back in the new year.
Remember, people are in need all year round, not just during the holidays. So if you haven’t checked your charity box by December 25, don’t worry, there are still plenty of ways you can help.