While the holiday season is a great time to count our blessings, its an even better time to help those who are less fortunate. While making a financial contribution to your favorite charity is a wonderful holiday gesture, many of us forget that we can give back in a more hands-on way by volunteering locally. In addition to making a difference and teaching your kids that the holidays are about giving (and not just getting), community outreach can be a great family bonding activity. Here are five ideas for giving back to your community that can be fun for the whole family.
- Adopt a family. Many local organizations and religious groups can help you sponsor an underserved family in your area over the holiday season. Sponsoring can entail anything from buying food and gifts to preparing meals and spending the holidays with your adopted family. If youre worried that you dont have enough financial resources to spare, remember that the greatest gift you can give someone is your time.
- Donate to a food bank. Picking out food at the grocery store is an easy and fun activity for children (and adults) of all ages. Take your kids on a special shopping trip to pick up their favorite nonperishable goods for a local ministry or food bank. Theyre always in need of extra food – especially around the holidays. And if you got a little overzealous on that last trip to Costco, dont be afraid to give away some of your own surplus items.
- Volunteer at a shelter. When it comes to giving back, few activities provide as much instant gratification as preparing and serving food at a local homeless shelter. Not only will you have the opportunity to personally provide people in your community with a hot and nutritious holiday meal, you can make them feel human again by engaging them in conversation and offering them clean clothes. Bonus: Shelters are great for families, offices or any other organization interested in volunteering as a group.
- Donate clothing, toys and appliances. The holidays are a great time to donate your old clothing, toys, appliances, furniture, and electronics – and declutter your home in the process. If your childrens toys arent in any condition to be given away, take the kids shopping for new toys theyd love to have – but will donate to a local shelter or nonprofit instead.
- 5. Visit a nursing home. The holidays can be especially difficult for seniors who dont have any family in the area. Thats why taking your family – or a group of kids from your childs class – to visit a local nursing home or senior center can make such an impact during this time of year. Call ahead to schedule your visit, bring cards and decorations, and rehearse some carols to brighten the residents spirits. Exposure to younger people – and live music – has been proven to not only elevate the moods of senior citizens, but to extend their longevity.
By taking time out of the season to serve people in your community, youll enrich your own holidays and teach your kids an invaluable lesson: To give is truly better than to receive.