Surrounded by family you’d rather avoid, enduring the stresses of crowded shopping and desperately wishing for a time machine so you can get everything done before the holidays can morph the jolliest person into a downright Scrooge. Keeping in mind that it is the season of giving and selflessness and acting upon these motives can help stave off any potential negativity you may feel from all the holiday stress. Countless charities and organizations easily allow the manifestation of the holiday spirit in your life.
Volunteering not only benefits the recipients of charitable deeds, but the person contributing their time as well. According to World Volunteer Web, volunteering can provide you with new experiences, help develop new skills and hobbies, boost your career opportunities, and make you feel like a more quintessential part of your community. Nonprofit Quarterly noted in a 2013 survey of 3,351 adults conducted by Harris Interactive, volunteers say they feel better physically, mentally and emotionally as opposed to non-volunteers.
Some of the recipients most in need of kindness this time of year are the millions of children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts. Whether in the form of purchasing a small toy or clothing for a family in need or helping out at a gift distribution center, any assistance is sure to be appreciated. It doesn’t take much to truly have an impact on a child waiting for Santa this year. Use an online search engine to find local organizations collecting toys or needing volunteers to help collect or distribute toys. Often times these organizations set up boxes for donations in coffee shops or grocery stores. One thing to keep in mind is that older kids need gifts too- the majority of donated toys tend to be for young children.
Children are not the only ones in need of charitable help this season. On the other end of the age spectrum, nursing home and assisted living residents can feel especially lonely during the holidays if they do not have families. Paying a visit to them and simply spending an hour or two visiting can rapidly spread cheer. Not sure what to say to an elderly resident during your visit? Check out this website with tips on interacting with those living in nursing homes or assisted care facilities.
Those without homes and families often feel even more alone and in need around the holidays. Donating clothing and volunteering at homeless shelters and soup kitchens are just a few of the many ways you can get involved with bettering the lives of those without a roof over their heads. Visit justgive.org to peruse their comprehensive list of ways to assist the homeless during the holidays and all year. Just a few creative ideas on the webpage are to educate others about the often-misunderstood issue of homelessness, spend time with lonely children in shelters and assist the homeless with applying for aid or for jobs.
The troops stationed overseas often feel isolation and loneliness especially when spending holidays away from their families. Sending care packages and cards to those protecting our country letting them know how much they are appreciated can, even if just slightly, brighten the season for them. There is no shortage of links containing information about how to send a care package, letter, or otherwise add a dose of cheer to the life of a soldier at military.com.
Even acts that may feel small like going caroling with friends or baking cookies for a lonely neighbor spread holiday cheer and have a positive affect on their recipient. Consider putting any special skills you possess to use. If you are an avid knitter, whip up some scarves for those lacking basic clothing to keep warm. Chefs can flex their culinary muscles and bake holiday goodies for friends or meals for the hungry.
There are lots of great resources to help you find holiday volunteer opportunities nearby. At VolunteerMatch.org, you can browse over a thousand holiday-oriented charitable projects and events. Craigslist is another great place to search for ways to get involved. The Internet isn’t the only place to find advertisements seeking help- peruse bulletin boards in coffee shops and at grocery stores and check out your local newspaper for even more ideas on how to contribute your time to a charitable cause this season.
Marisa graduated in 2011 with a BA in Spanish Language and Literature from CU and then moved to Los Angeles to pursue further education in Journalism and Media Studies at UCLA. She loves to travel, cooking, seeing movies and of course, writing!