Family

WAYS TO GIVE BACK DURING THE HOLIDAYS

The concept that it’s better to give than to receive rings true in the Christmas season. Giving back within your community is something that doesn’t have to cost much more than your time, but the rewards are immense.

It’s an emotional and spiritual gift to yourself, and your family, to reach out to others who might be struggling during what should be a joyous season for everyone.

Involving your children provides them an opportunity to reach beyond themselves, gives them an understanding of other peoples’ situations, and helps them realize that they can make a difference.

Although this is a notoriously busy time of the year, pick a project or two that engages your children by reinforcing how important they are for this endeavor, and spend a little time brightening the lives of others.

RING THE BELL

The Red Kettle Campaign for the Salvation Army is their primary fundraiser for the entire year. Not only do they provide food, clothing, and gifts to families throughout the world during Christmas, they meet these needs every day. Contact your local Salvation Army office to sign up for a time slot where you and your children can ring the bell bringing hope and a Christmas celebration to families within your community. It’s easy to do, and is a great opportunity to meet many pleasant and giving people.

WRAP GIFTS FOR OTHERS

In nearly every city or town there are organizations that provide shelter and other necessities to families in need, including collecting gifts at Christmas. People are typically extremely generous donating toys for children, and these groups need help wrapping them all to hand out. Reach out to the organizations in your area to see when they are wrapping and distributing gifts. It’s like being one of Santa’s elves!

SING TO SENIORS

The Christmas season can be a difficult time for seniors in a nursing home or assisted living complex whose family might live elsewhere in the country, or are too busy to make regular visits. The songs of the season are sure to brighten their day. Gather a group of friends and their children, and offer to sing carols at your local seniors’ home.

BAKE COOKIES FOR CHRISTMAS DINNERS

In many communities, churches and non-profit groups host Christmas dinners for families and individuals, and are often looking for cookies and other baked goods to add to the dessert table. Touch base with these organizations to see what they need, and have your kids lend a hand in creating a special Christmas treat. Here are some easy 5-ingredients-or-less cookie recipe ideas.

DONATE TOYS

Christmas time is a good opportunity to go through the home and gather items to donate to Goodwill or other charitable organizations. This is especially beneficial to let your kids know why you’re doing it, and what it will mean to other children who will enjoy the toys just as much as they did.

FEED THE BIRDS

Don’t forget to treat our feather friends. Smear peanut butter in a large pine cone, and roll it in seeds before hanging outside. Or hang dried corn cobs in the trees for the birds, as well as the squirrels who also love to share the bounty.

SEND HOMEMADE CARDS

Turn an art project into a way to brighten the day of hospitalized children. Have your kids create Christmas and holiday cards using their creative talents, and send them to: Cards for Hospitalized Kids at 7290 W. Devon Ave. Chicago, IL 60631. (www.cardsforhospitalizedkids.com)

VOLUNTEER WITH THE UNITED WAY

Teaming up with dozens of local non-profit groups, United Way is a sort of one-stop shopping for those looking for ways to help. If you’re looking for unique organizations who needs a hand this season, check out United Way’s website at www.unitedway.org to find the opportunities in your area.

DELIVER MEALS

Meals on Wheels delivers food to senior citizens and those who have difficulty cooking for themselves 5 days a week. While there might be a team of regular volunteers who make the rounds, they welcome additional hands – and wheels – to lighten the increasing number. It’s a way to bring a hot meal and a smile to those who need it the most. Call your local Meals on Wheels to sign up.

HELP A VET

The holidays can be challenging for our soldiers, and while they deserve our thanks throughout the year, the Christmas season is a good time to step up and lend a hand to those who’ve protected our freedoms. Contact your local VA Center to learn of ways you can help. You can also explore additional ways of giving, including writing letters or sending handmade gifts, to our active soldiers and veterans to Operation Gratitude  at www.operationgratitude.com.

SHOVEL A NEIGHBORS SIDEWALK

If you have a neighbor or neighbors who can’t easily shovel their own sidewalks, head out early to do it for them. This small act of kindness is sure to brighten their day.

Giving to others brings joy not only to those who receive the gift of time and care, it resonates deep within your own heart elevating the season to what it truly should mean.

This article was written by Amy Grisak, contributor for The Daily Clutch.