By Hayley Simpson | Published on March 29, 2022
The holidays are a busy time for everyone. You're planning family meals, going to holiday parties, perfecting your decorations, and getting last-minute shopping done, but carving out time to volunteer is a selfless act that will impact your community in a positive way — and give you a new perspective. As you appreciate all that you have, it's important to keep in mind that you have the privilege to help others. There are so many ways to give back to the community during the holidays — whether you volunteer, donate, or just help out a neighbor. The experience of giving back is guaranteed to have a positive impact on your community and you, too.
Your local community is always in need of volunteers, and the holidays can be an especially busy time. So, why not celebrate the season by giving back? For those who are food insecure or houseless, the holidays are difficult — this is amplified by the cold weather and shorter days, so people with no access to a warm meal or a safe place to sleep are at a higher risk of health challenges.
You can help by reaching out to organizations in your community and offering your time and any skills you think may be particularly beneficial. If you're crafty, you can volunteer to make wreaths at a senior living center; if you like to cook, you can volunteer at a local soup kitchen. Or, if you have excellent organizational skills, you can take charge of a local toy or food drive. However you choose to do good, you'll learn so much and connect with people in the most unexpected ways. That's what the spirit of the holidays is all about: giving without expecting anything in return.
Giving back can make others feel good and appreciated, but it's also proven to have a positive effect on your personal well-being. It boosts your self-worth and self-esteem as it promotes the release of endorphins. The euphoria your brain experiences through the act of giving is akin to the feeling you get from hugging, eating, or exercising. It's a good feeling to know that you're making a difference in someone's life with one small act of kindness.
Including the entire family in giving back to the community can be a teaching moment for children, as it emphasizes that kindness and respect for others goes a long way. You'll bond with each other over your shared experience of doing something good — and it can be an excellent opportunity to start a dialogue with your kids about privilege. You may just find a new tradition in holiday philanthropy with holiday and Christmas volunteering as a family.
Food is such a staple of holiday celebrations. However, more than 38 million people in the United States are food insecure. Find an organization that is local to you that has a mission you resonate with and ask how you can help with food pantries, food assistance programs, and drives. Collecting donations from friends, family, and colleagues is an easy way to pitch in and can help to ensure that people have the food they need. If you have a little more time, local soup kitchens often host holiday gatherings, and they always need help with decorations and serving the guests. You'll meet people from all walks of life and find things in common that may surprise you. After all, sharing food brings people together.
If you can't find the time to volunteer, that's okay. At the end of the year, organizations are in a mad rush to meet their fundraising goals, so your dollar can go a long way. Find a non-profit that speaks to you and send a monetary donation, or purchase a gift from their wishlist.
An organization like Angel Tree supports incarcerated mothers and fathers by providing gifts to their children, thanks to your one-time or monthly donation. Pay Away the Layaway helps parents work with businesses that set aside their desired gifts through layaway until they're fully paid for. You can do a one-time donation or organize a fundraiser to settle multiple layaways. Another option is to make a donation or purchase a tree through the Christmas Spirit Foundation, which provides farm-grown trees to U.S. Armed Forces' families. And local animal shelters often have wishlists, too, so you can purchase new toys or beds for the animals looking for their forever homes.
There are so many small but impactful ways to give back to the community. Remember that holiday philanthropy starts right in your own neighborhood. Get out of your comfort zone and ask around to see if any of your neighbors need help putting up their Christmas lights, or offer your services in a local Facebook group. Often, people are too vulnerable to ask for help, so extending a hand can mean so much to someone. This could be as simple as offering to drive them to a doctor's appointment, putting together a care package, picking up their groceries or walking their dog — your small gesture will make a big difference.