Charity teaches the shared responsibility we have to make our world a better place, and the Holidays are a time when many people look for extra opportunities to give back. This year, as you decorate your tree and write lists to Santa, add a new, charitable activity to your routine! Here are some ideas to help you find the right opportunities for your family…
Shop for others. If your family can afford it, turn the usual-chore of shopping into a chance to do good by taking your kids shopping to buy things for charities. Especially around the holidays, there are endless charities needing new toys to give to kids in need. Explain the purpose of the trip beforehand, and set limits by telling them how many things you’ll be picking out (“three toys and two sweaters”). Involve your kids in choosing what to get and have them consider how and why its recipient will enjoy it. Then, take them to drop off the goods! Toys for Tots has locations nationwide, and a simple online search with your zip code will usually yield plenty of local opportunities too. Or, if you’re worried an actual shopping trip will cause problems and temptations, then donate together online. Organizations like Family Giving Tree allow you to “sponsor a child” – you can view the name, age, and toy wish of the recipients, and then donate the item directly via the site.
Out with the old. In many ways used toys can be just as valuable as new ones! It’s not only wallet-friendly, but it prevents waste. Have your kids go through their toys and books, and pick out the things they no longer use and think someone else could enjoy. Call your local Goodwill or Salvation Army to find out what kinds of items they accept; the Purple Heart Pickup Service will also come get your goods for residents in certain states. Books, blankets, and stuffed animals in like-new condition can be sent by mail to Project Night Night, where they’ll be used in nighttime care packages for children in shelters. And plastic toys, which often remain in particularly good condition, can be donated by those in the New York/New Jersey area to Second Chance Toys.
Get active. Many organizations need extra volunteers during the holidays. Remind your kids that helping out can bring more joy to someone’s Christmas, and makes them just like Santa Claus. (He was, after all, inspired by the always-charitable Saint Nicholas!) Websites like Volunteer Match can help you find the right opportunity in your area by searching with zip code and age-group; the latter even has “Toolkits” to help you start your own charity project! You can also check with community centers, religious institutions, and schools in your neighborhood for other opportunities they may have.
Give gifts that give again. Replace one of your kids’ gifts this year with a donation to charity. While a certificate might not mean that much to them, consider options like the “Good Card” from Network for Good, which works like a gift card for charity – you and your little ones can log on and decide what organization the money goes to! Have them pick out something meaningful to them (music, sports, libraries) that they want to give to others. Or if they’re into animals, sponsor an animal in their name with the World Wildlife Fund. You can chose between over 100 species from panda to monarch butterfly, and most donation levels include a picture and a plush keepsake of the sponsored critter!
Use your talents. Last but not least, remember that you can find opportunities for charity in your day-to-day life! Have your kids draw holiday cards for sick people at the hospital, make Christmas Cookies for an elderly neighbor, or even just include your apartment building’s doorman when they’re out caroling. No matter what kind of project it is, opportunities for giving will teach teamwork, gratitude, generosity, and the wonderful feeling of doing a good deed!