A dozen ways to spread cheer in your community this holiday season
By Katherine Saunders
At this time of year, generosity goes around. We spend time with our loved ones, exchange gifts and make each other smile. Many people choose Christmas as a time to do something extra special, to give back and offer support where it is most needed. If you’ve been touched by the holiday giving spirit and are looking for places to share it, here are some that you may not have considered.
Host an ugly sweater FUNdraiser
Who doesn’t love an ugly sweater party? A nonprofit group in Vancouver, BC, called Now That’s Ugly started the #GetUglyGrantWishes party - an ugly sweater event that raises funds for the Children’s Wish Foundation. The trend has caught on elsewhere, with companies and groups hosting parties that raise money for the foundation. Get the family, the office, or the friend group together to show off your ugly sweaters and raise money for a great cause! Find out more at Nowthatsugly.com.
A gift that gives and gives
Many charities allow donors to make a contribution in someone else’s name. World Vision offers specific items that you can buy for people in need at a variety of price points; for example, $20 can purchase emergency food for someone living through a natural disaster, and $100 can stock a medical clinic. When you purchase a donation gift, you receive a printable card stating exactly what was given, which you can fill out with the name of the gift recipient, to inform them that a donation was made in their name. Browse the gift-giving catalogue at WorldVision.ca.
Give a good night’s sleep
Sleeping Children Around the World is a charity that provides bed kits to children in developing countries. The bed kits cost $35 each, and they go beyond just nighttime needs. They include a mat and bedding, a mosquito net, a backpack, school supplies, clothes and shoes. And, as much as possible, the items are sourced locally inthe country where the bed kit will be used, to benefit that country’s economy. Learn more at SCAW.org.
A growing movement is to make a care package with basic necessities to give to a homeless person (sometimes called a “blessing bag”). These can include healthy, non-perishable snacks, a bottle of water, a pair of socks, deodorant, soap, hand wipes and other small comfort items. These gifts make a small difference by letting the recipient know that someone cares about them. You can keep the care package in your car for the next time you encounter someone in need of it. This article suggests some items you could put into a blessing bag.
Volunteer your time
There are many organizations working to improve the lives of people in our communities, and they could all use a hand. Food banks, shelters and children’s charities in particular get busier this time of year. Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community even if you’re strapped for cash, and it means a lot to the people who benefit from the help these organizations provide. If you’re in St. John’s, you can find places looking for volunteers at Volunteerstjohns.ca. Otherwise, search online or ask around for volunteer opportunities in your area.
Donate Your Secondhand Furniture
The holidays are often a time of out with the old, in with the new. If new furniture is on your Christmas list, you’ll need to make room for it. Often, furniture we’re done with ends up in landfills. But you can minimize waste and make a difference in someone’s life by donating your good-condition used furniture to organizations like Home Again Furniture Bank, who come to your house to pick up your furniture and bring it to someone in need. Having furniture makes a house feel more like a home, which is important for a person’s well-being. Find out how todonate at Homeagainfb.ca.
Meet a Need
The Gathering Place helps vulnerable people in our province with basic needs - food, clothing, medical treatment, socialization - all these things contribute to a healthy, happy life. They accept donations of clothing, kitchen items, hygiene products and bedding, as well as financial contributions. Or, you can help by volunteering your time and skills. They will find something for you to do! Learn more at kindnesswanted.ca.
Open your home for the holidays
Have you ever thought about fostering an animal? There are lots of animals in temporary shelters who have not found their “fur-ever” homes yet, but could use a space to spend the holidays. Organizations like the SPCA or Hoppy Homes small animal rescue are always looking for foster homes. Get in touch with your locals shelter and ask about taking in a friend over the holidays.
Support social enterprise
For those who don’t know what it means, a social enterprise is a business that exists to generate revenue for a nonprofit organization. This year, consider supporting a social enterprise when you do your holiday shopping. There are lots to choose from and the money you spend goes back to support worthy causes. Need clothes? Check out Neighbourhood, the thrift shop that supports Choices for Youth and employs at-risk youth. Looking for a holiday meal? The Hungry Heart Café is delicious and the profits support Stella’s Circle. Need some new-to-you chairs for your holiday gathering? The Restore is the social enterprise of Habitat for Humanity that offers gently used furnishings. These are St. John’s area examples; look for such enterprises near you.
Visit with a senior
Contact your local seniors home to ask if there are any residents who could use a bit of holiday cheer. Christmas can be a lonely time for some seniors, especially those who live away from their families or have no living relatives. Spend some time with someone to show you care, or donate a small gift like a pair of slippers or a new robe, to spread some love.
Thank a retail worker
This time of year is the busiest for those who work in shops, when they are spending extra time away from their families, working longer hours to make sure everybody can get their Christmas shopping done. And often, they bear the brunt of the stress that can go around during the holidays. So next time you’ve waited 20 minutes in line at a store, say “thank you” to the person you meet at the register. Another idea is to bring a bag of candy canes when you go out shopping, to give out to the people who help you. It can really make someone’s day when they get a visit from a “secret Santa.”
Make a party out of giving back
Organize adonation drive at work, or with friends and family. Pick a charity that needs specific things, such as clothing, food, gifts or pet supplies. Provide a list of most needed items to party goers, and have everyone bring a donation to the party. Then, you celebrate because you’ve all helped make a difference this holiday season.