Wednesday, December 14, 2016

12 Ways To Give Back This Holiday Season

Whew, once again I find myself completely terrified of the news, and feeling pretty hopeless on how to help. I guess that's a hard thing about the way our media works. Between violent crises in Aleppo, and the Philippines, wildfires in Tennessee, the oil spill right from the Standing Rock (related) pipeline... and all of the usual hurts of the world it's hard to know how to help. I know that many folks have felt very nervous about how things will go within the US post-election as well... 

KC and I decided to when we got married to give back every Christmas in some way or another. This year we've been feeling the need to do more, to find a way to "give back" in meaningful ways as much as we can through the end of the year. In order to keep it measurable, we decided to do one thing per-week between Thanksgiving and the end of the year. 

If you are also feeling helpless, but like you want to try to do something, perhaps there is an idea in this post for you. I tried to give a big variety, many of which we have done so far during this time period! A lot of these would make great family or group/party activities! I'd love to hear your ideas as well, so leave them in the comments!

1) Give Holiday Meals to local families in need.

Our local food pantry does an awesome job raising funds throughout the year. They hold a Food Truck Festival in May that I have yet to miss... but this Thanksgiving they also had a promotion going with local grocery stores and online where you could donate $15 for a Thanksgiving for a family of 4! That's an incredible gift for just $15. I noticed that they are doing it again for Christmas, if you live near us, you can donate here! If you live elsewhere, check with your local food pantries to see if they are doing something similar! If not, I am sure they have other ways you can help out this holiday season!

2) Donate to Water Preservers at Standing Rock

If you haven't been reading the news related to Standing Rock, here is a good intro article for you. Basically, Bismark, ND rejected a pipeline being built near them for fear of a spill contaminating their drinking water, and so the oil company has decided to build it across Native American sacred burial lands, also crossing a river used by natives for drinking water (twice). The Sioux tribe, and many others have been protesting (peacefully!) for months, and many members of the military, etc. have come out to act as human shields. There have been some pretty awful attacks on the folks there to get them to leave. But they haven't. If you've been following the news, you'll know that they have temporarily stopped the pipeline, and say they are not going to build there. However, there is not any way to ensure that, and when the administration changes, it seems very unlikely that the progress there will be kept. We heard that a friend of a friend was headed up there, so we purchased a Menard's giftcard (for shelter building supplies), some hot hands, and threw in some wool socks, old thermal shirts, kleenex, chapstick, etc. If you don't know someone who is headed that direction, you can donate directly to the Sioux tribe, here. It makes me sick that after months of protest, the pipeline DID spill, and though it is not right at Standing Rock, it's still hurting the surrounding areas. There is so much reason for this cause!

3) Donate to Syrian Rescue Workers 

The situation in Syria is absolutely terrifying. Donate directly to the "White Helmets" Rescue Worker fund. These folks are right in the action saving lives and protecting people every day. You can pick your own amount or donate a designated amount via card or paypal. Donate here.

4) Send a Water Filter to Flint, Michigan

If you've heard about the water crisis in Flint, you'll know that it's absolutely appalling. As it turns out, even more places in the US are coming forward and saying, that their drinking water is of the same quality. That's terrible, and while we wait for the local governments to improve the water quality ... we can give them filters. I am so glad that a friend posted this (via a group in our city who is headed up there) ... because holy cow is it easy, and DIRECTLY helps a person or family in need. All for just $15 + shipping. Order this shower filter, and ship it to: 

C/O Glenda Gates
3502 Lapeer Rd
Flint, MI 48503

5) Switch Your Energy to Clean Energy

Wait, you can do this?! Yes indeed you can! Call or log on to your energy company's website and switch to wind or solar energy. If you don't know your options, contact your company's customer service folks! Often the price is the same, or very close... and it's investing in a cleaner future. These companies really need this support right now, we know that environmental causes are not part of the new administration's high priorities. 

6) Donate Your Time to An Organization You Care About

The thing is... there are so many great organizations out there, so many great causes... it's impossible to know about all of the issues, to donate to every one. If there is one that you care about specifically consider giving a monetary gift or your volunteered time! We all make goals from time to time, but it's pretty clear that the world could use more love! Donating your time would be a great way to help your community in a way that is meaningful to you! Pick a place and go for it!

Creative Ways to Donate!

When I worked at a preschool, I was amazed by the ways that people gave to our organization and how we gave to our organization. It was so incredible, tons of things I never would have thought of! 

7) Organize Birthday Party Kits

Our preschool families all fell into a low SES, and we knew that many of our families struggled to provide holiday meals, birthday parties, etc. etc. We received the loveliest gift of "birthday party kits" once, and I thought that it was the coolest idea! Each bag contained a cake mix, a container of frosting, plates, cups, napkins, etc. They varied there were some specifically for boys or girls, but they were all so thoughtful! I loved this idea, and it would be a great party to have and everyone could bring a kit. They could then be donated to a local school/preschool, food pantry, etc. What a great gift to give a family or child!

8) Make Homelessness Kits and Give Them Out

Have you seen these on pinterest?! So cool and creative. If you live in an area with homeless populations it would be great to make these out and hand them out to folks you see who might need them. Or you could drop off a batch at the local shelter for distribution.

9) Give A Meal Kit to A Neighbor or Friend

Often times when someone new moves to your area they might be given some food from their neighbors, when new moms come home from the hospital they are often given casseroles, but what about all the other situations? What about those new moms two months in? What about the family who is struggling through a tough season? Your lonely neighbor? A student who isn't able to go home for the holidays? Making a meal kit and dropping it for them is a great way to show that you care. Or, invite them over for a dinner! :) Ideas for Make Ahead Meal Kits: here, here, here & here.

10) Donate Your Bras to A Shelter

Did you know that bras are one of the most-needed items in shelters? If you have a pile that is still in wearing shape, but doesn't fit or you don't wear.... box them up and call shelters (domestic violence and homeless) to see if they are in need of bras. If not, you can always drop them by a Goodwill or Salvation Army. & bonus for you: your closet is that much cleaner!

11) Make a Free Little Library or Free Little Pantry

Holiday breaks or vacations are good times for projects. So are weekends! If you are looking for a family project consider building a free little library or donation station for your yard or local organization. We have Free Little Libraries all over our city, but these Little Blessing Boxes and Free Little Pantries are also SUCH a great idea! :) Read more about those here: Library & Pantry. These would be fabulous family projects, and a great time to teach your kids to give. :) 

12) Make a Care Package for a Friend or Family Member Far Away

Perhaps you know a student who is out of state, someone who just moved far away, someone in the military or working overseas... it can often be lonely and a little bit of snail mail could brighten their day. I know when I was a student (not that far from home!) I always appreciated little care packages from my grandma. Even if it's just a small note, a gift card, a book, a whole box of groceries... it would be so appreciated. Again, spreading the spirit of giving. My cousin, who is in the Navy made this great list of ideas for military care package items!

So there you have it, 12 ways to give back this holiday season.

Looking for more ways to spread love and giving? Check out 12 Small Things You Can Do To Make The World A Better Place.

Do you or your family give back during the holidays or throughout the year?

If so, how? I would love to hear!

What are your ideas? Have you ever tried any of these?

Does anyone have a goal to give back more in 2017?

Happy Giving!


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