Take a Break from Retail Madness to Make a Difference this Holiday.
After the massive retail blitz from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, you might welcome a little change of pace - A way to focus on giving back in the spirit of Thanksgiving and the holidays. #GivingTuesday is next Tuesday, December 3, and comes on the heels of some of the biggest shopping days of the year. Traditionally, it focuses on financial donations to nonprofit organizations around the U.S. and the world. However, there are many ways to make a difference on this designated day of giving. Perhaps all you need are some inspired ideas to enjoy with children, family, and friends that will do good and make your heart merry. Here are a few....
Volunteer at a Food Shelf You can make an enormous difference for the food shelves and the families they serve by spending a few hours sorting, packing, or stacking. Additionally, it can be a very fun and rewarding activity to share with family and friends. Reach out to your local food pantry and find out when they most need help. Serve a Meal Thanksgiving is one of the most popular days to volunteer at soup kitchens or food banks. However, Eileen Heisman, CEO and President of the National Philanthropic Trust suggests that “if you really want to volunteer, pick any day, but don’t pick Thanksgiving or the day after Thanksgiving,” and explains that many charities, especially smaller ones, can be overwhelmed by an influx of one-time volunteers. It takes charities time and resources to train volunteers, she said. Of course, that still leaves any of the other 363 days when volunteers are needed. And if you can make it a long-term commitment, it is the best way to help.
The holiday season is full of time to celebrate and enjoy family and friends. However, for those who are isolated, whether due to illness, the recent death of a loved one, depression, incarceration, living far away from family and/or being new to a neighborhood, it can be a lonely and sad time.
People Experiencing Illness: The holidays are a tough time to be ill, keeping people away from loved ones and participating in traditions and activities. If you know someone who is ill, brighten their day by bringing them soup, running an errand for them, texting them periodically with uplifting or humorous messages, or stopping by for company.
Senior care homes: Many senior care facilities have activities for the holidays, but there is no substitute for family and friends. When seniors are far away from family and community, it can be especially lonely. A visit from old or new friends can make all the difference.
Consider bringing a group or your family to sing carols or volunteer for an activity where you can engage with people that might not have anyone else visiting this time of year.
Write to someone in prison It may be a very overlooked opportunity but people who are incarcerated experience significant isolation. Letters can be life-changing. "Mail is the only thing to look forward to in here..." (J.S., Camp Lejeune, NC) "I've been in for quite some time now, 10 years to be exact, and it has been so lonely. My heart aches to care again, and I long to know that someone cares for me." (T.V., Fox Lake, WI) Read more about how meaningful your letters can be.
Studies show mental health and wellbeing, as well as success after release, are highly related to connection with the outside world.
Remember those in your own life who might be more isolated or for whom this time of year can be difficult due to loss of loved ones. A phone call, letter, or a simple text can bring a spark of joy.
DONATE GOOD STUFF
Warm Someone's Heart (and Hands) With winter weather here for good, it is a critical time to help those who are less fortunate and may be facing the elements without proper clothing. You may be finding out that you somehow have amassed 12 scarves for each person in your household. It's the perfect time to share your winter gear, or anything else you no longer need, with those who do. Look for a drive (like Operation Warm in Chicago) or search local organizations Here.
Bring that Box: Maybe you are making room for the holiday table, tree, or other decorations and still realize you still have those boxes of stuff marked 'donate'. Now is the time - if you're out shopping anyway, why not take the box with you and drop it off on the way? If you aren't sure where to bring things, search local organizations, search Here
Buy one, Give one: In addition, maybe you are finding such incredible holiday sales that you are inspired to buy extras for donating. If you just need to know where to bring that coat, hat, toy, or other item, check out DonateGoodStuff.org. Pick out what you don’t use and give it away to someone in need.
Host a Drive for Donations This is easier than you think - especially with people already gathering this time of year. Choose a cause or organization you love (like literacy) and ask people to bring items (like books) to you. Once collected, you can make a single trip and bring happiness and joy with your donations.
#GivingTuesday provides special opportunities to help causes that you care about. Why? On Giving Tuesday, Facebook offers a match of $7 million dollars to encourage donations. In addition, many organizations have matches that will double or even triple your gift to make your donation go further. It is important to note that many organizations rely on monetary donations to do their important work in every community. Many count on year-end donations to cover the cost of providing services throughout the year when donations dwindle. This is the perfect time to give a few dollars (or more) to make the world a better place.
RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS
From the Heart: Give A Smile! Always say thank you (even when you don’t “have to”). Tell others how much you love them. Notice details and given an honest (and unexpected) compliment. Give encouragement.
Acts: Help out when it’s needed so others can rest. Shovel snow for someone. Be aware of who needs your help. Stop to help. Treat someone to coffee or tea.
Something Extra: Bake cookies or bring treats to a neighbor. Clean up after yourself at home, or do extra chores. Forgive something you've been hanging on to.