The Greatest Gift is Giving: Other Ways to Give Back

This week, we’ve collaborated with Operation: Social Santa to spread the word about the importance of giving during the holiday season, offer advice for starting a toy drive in your school or community, and celebrate the joy that comes from making sure children have something to be excited for.

We've interviewed the founder of Operation: Social Santa, Harrison Kratz, to talk to us about the importance of giving, and Makefield Elementary principal Donna Mccormick-Miller, to learn how to get students excited. Today, we talk about other ways to give back.

Toy donations help both parents and children alike, as they raise childrens’ spirits and alleviate stress for families struggling to make ends meet. Especially at this time of the year, donating toys is an important and worthwhile way to contribute positively to social good.

But there are also many other ways to give back to those in need--each as meaningful as the next. As long as you’re giving, and instilling the importance of giving in your students, that’s what matters. Here are just a few ways you can make a difference in somebody’s life this holiday season:

Donate Clothing

During the holidays it becomes even more important to donate clothing as the weather becomes harsher and colder. Not every person can afford a new coat to get them through the winter months, and there are many who are in need of the basics as well: warm socks, scarves, gloves, or hats. The homeless are especially impacted by the cold, as are the sick and the elderly.

Donate clothes to your church, the Salvation Army, or local clothing drive. Teachers can talk to their principals about what their school can do to collect warm clothes for the underprivileged.

Through the network of parents, families, community members, and staff, schools that organize drives are often able to raise a lot. In smaller communities, especially, schools may very well be the largest source of donations for people who need warm clothes.

Donate Food

For people and families who are going hungry, the need for food is absolutely critical, and as with the need for clothing, that necessity is exacerbated during the winter. Food drives can either be held to benefit the local community or national groups dedicated to fighting hunger. The most common items donated are canned goods and non-perishable items, as they can be stored for longer periods of time.

Feeding America is the nation’s largest organization for combating hunger, and has an array of resources for getting involved, including a helpful Food Bank Locator to find a place in your community. Schools Fight Hunger is an excellent resource to get classrooms active, and they offer a free toolkit to help teachers start a drive in their school.

Donate Time

Perhaps one of the most personal and heartfelt contributions you can make--not only for the holidays, but for every day--is your time. Spending time with those who are less fortunate than you is an excellent way to help them feel special and to let them know there are people who care.
While those in need would benefit greatly from food, clothing, toys, and other material necessities, there’s something to be said for the benefits of human contact and personal interaction. It’s good for their morale, and it’s good for yours.

One of Operation: Social Santa’s key values is the importance of following up--of actually interacting with the people you help and seeing the impact you have. Is there a better way to do this than volunteering?

This season, consider donating some of your time to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, feeding the hungry and being a comforting presence. You can spend time at a nursing home or assisted living facility, keeping people company by reading to them, playing games, or just talking. Hospital volunteers are especially needed during the holidays to help cheer up the patients.

There are opportunities all around you for volunteering your time to help the less fortunate. If you’re not sure where to look, local community groups, churches, synagogues, and other religious institutions organize service projects. You can also go directly to your local hospital, homeless shelter, food pantry, or soup kitchen to see what help they need. The Internet has some great tools for finding volunteer opportunities, including and the government’s Corporation for National & Community Service.

For teachers looking for ways to engage their students with community service, talk to your principal to see if there are any projects they can get involved in. As such an important part of the community, schools are well connected and a great source of information.

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