5 Effortless and Economical Ways to Make a Difference During the Holidays

Family Matters on 11.25.12
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Photo Credit: Monica's Dad/ Creative Commons

The holidays are known as the season of giving. Retailers are swamped with customers trying to find a great gift for everyone on their list. It's also the perfect time to remember those who we haven't personally met, but are often in the greatest need of a new warm coat or a much desired toy.

Without adding another task to your to-do list, your family can make a huge difference without making it a big deal. There are numerous ways to help those in need without breaking the budget or spending too much time buying extra gifts.

1. Be a coordinator. A family in my neighborhood decided to host a holiday donation drive to support local foster children. They sent out a wish list to the entire neighborhood requesting donations and will deliver everything donated to the charity. Coordinating a wish list can also be done through a school group or in the workplace in place of a personal gift exchange.

2. Clean out the toy box. Chances are you have lightly used toys, books, and clothing that are ready to be passed on to someone who will get more use out of them. Purging before the holidays can help make space for the new items that will be arriving in your home. It's a simple way to involve kids -- let them decide what toys they are ready to pass on to those who can’t afford to buy them.

3. Get crafty. Scarves, hats, and mittens are easy do-it-yourself projects for teens and crafty adults. New warm clothes are always desired by charitable organizations. Instead of a cookie swap, you can host a quilt or blanket making party.

4. Regift without the guilt. Giving away a gift you received yourself is always somewhat controversial. However, if you know you won't wear the snowman patterned sweater your Great-Aunt gave you this year and your son received duplicates of the same game it can be argued that it's ethical to donate it to charity. It's certainly better than clogging up your storage space or trying to pass it off as a gift to one of your friends.

5. Collect non-perishable food. The number of people in line to get groceries at our local food bank always shocks me. Hosting a holiday party this year? In lieu of hostess gifts or a bottle on wine, ask guests to bring a few cans of non-perishable food items that you can donate to the local food bank.

What ways does your family choose to give back to those les fotunate during the holidays?

Not to sure where you can make a difference? 
Check your local resources or visit one of the following sites who accept donations during the holidays.

Toys for Tots: New, unwrapped toys are collected nationwide for children in need.
Warm Coat Warm Heart Drive: Gently used coats and jackets can be donated locally nationwide for those without the ability to buy their own warm clothing.
Cell Phones for Soldiers: Looking to recycle old cell phones?  Support our service men and women by providing the chance for them to stay in touch with their families.
Foster Care to Success: Collects handmade, red-hued scarves to distribute on Valentine's Day to college bound foster children.
Make a Wish Organization 
Isn't it awful when you get two iPads as gifts? Not to worry you can donate new electronic equipment to the Make a Wish Foundation. Your unused MP3 player, gaming device, or computer will be given to a terminally ill child to enjoy.
Coalition for the Homeless: Toys go directly to children who are living in shelters.

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