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Giving Back to the World: 6 Simple Ways to Make a Small Difference.

 

The holidays have arrived, and your life may become more hectic as you rush to find the perfect gifts, prep for visitors, and tie up loose ends at work so you can take a holiday vacation.

In the midst of this chaos, you may forget the true meaning of the season: gratitude, helping others and ultimately giving back. You should give back to the world all year round, not just during the holidays. Either way though, here are a few ways you can start doing that.

Donate Food

One of the simplest things you can do during the holiday season is provide goods to a local food drive. Especially if your time is restricted, this option is an excellent way to give back to your community. The need for food is a constant in any community, but you should keep certain things in mind when you choose what to donate.

Foods like canned goods, cereals and boxed rice or pasta make for good nonperishable options, but you also want to choose healthier options, if available.

Think of filling foods like brown rice, whole-grain pasta or quinoa, which keep for a long time and have high nutritional value. When you purchase canned fruit, soups or vegetables, go for the low-sodium and low-sugar options. Instead of donating bags of potato chips or other junk food, consider mixed nuts, granola bars or popcorn.

Adopt a Family

Many local churches and organizations are in search of companies, firms or individuals to adopt a family or families during the holiday season. These less fortunate families often cannot afford to give their children or themselves a holiday celebration. This opportunity is as meaningful as it sounds, because you will get to shop for these families and gift them with the necessities and items on their wish list.

Not only will you provide for a family in need, you will make their holidays memorable.

Volunteer at a Nursing Home

The holidays can be a lonely time for nursing home residents without nearby friends or family members, especially since there’s currently a shortage of caregivers for senior citizens. People now live longer lives, and the 65+ population is estimated to grow from around 13 percent in 2010 to 18 percent by 2030.

There’s also a decrease in the number of family members who can provide the necessary care for their parents, and not everyone can afford long-term care services.

Visit an assisted living center, and show its residents they are not alone during the holidays. They will appreciate quality time together, whether you play their favorite board or card game, watch a movie, or just stop by with a care package or baked goods.

There are many organizations with volunteer opportunities specifically geared toward those who do not have the option of professional long-term care. You can even offer your time as unskilled in-home care help for senior citizens who want to stay in the comfort of their own homes.

Help out at a Soup Kitchen

Soup kitchens hire volunteers to serve meals during the holidays, though these opportunities may fill up quickly if you don’t jump on them. Holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas usually call for extra hands, so it’s always a good idea to reach out to local soup kitchens ahead of time. If openings for serving food aren’t available, you can also help unload and restock the kitchen with donated items.

Another option is to reach out to your local domestic violence shelters to assist with their needs.

Assist Your Local Animal Shelter and Promote Animal Adoption

Animal shelters are an outstanding volunteer opportunity any time of year, but especially during the holidays. Lots of families give the gift of pets to their children, but many often overlook animal adoption as an option. An estimated 6.5 million dogs and cats enter U.S. animal shelters annually, and many of them end up euthanized because no one wants to adopt them.

Animal shelters have many jobs available for volunteers. You can clean kennels and feed, walk and bathe occupants. If you’re interested in a more hands-off approach, donate new or gently used toys, blankets, or food and treats.

You can even put one of your hobbies to good use if you offer your services at no charge. Animal shelters need photographs of animals available for adoption to put on social media and other websites, so if you enjoy photography, reach out to help.

Hand out Care Packages to Homeless People

The winter months can be especially harsh for the homeless who have nowhere to go if shelters are full. Add the holidays into the mix, and the season becomes even more difficult for them.

Put together thoughtful care packages that include necessities like water, protein bars, gloves, hand warmers, blankets, soap, shampoo — there are many useful options for those who are trying to survive. Keep these little care packages in your car, so when you stop at a red light and see someone asking for money, you can offer them this instead.

It’s important to remember to give back, and to have empathy and compassion for those who are less fortunate than yourself. After all, holidays should highlight gratitude, love and unity above all else. This list offers an array of options for everyone to give back before the end of the year. Remember, it’s the thought that counts, and no good deed is too small.

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Kate Harveston
Kate Harveston is a freelance writer and blogger. Her work focuses on equality and social justice issues. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found curled up in her hammock with a book or exploring the city for trendy coffee shops. If you would like to follow her writing, you can visit her blog, Only Slightly Biased.