For as far back as I can remember, my family has made giving back part of our holiday tradition, even if all we could afford to give some years was our time. My parents didn’t just tell me that it was important to give to those less fortunate, they showed me. My entire family volunteered to ring the bell for the Salvation Army each Christmas; we painted our elderly neighbor’s house; I helped deliver Meals on Wheels with my grandma; I served meals at the soup kitchen downtown and visited the nursing home to sing (yes, sing, this probably wasn’t so charitable) Christmas carols to the residents.
Having a daughter of my own now, I want to provide for her in every way that I can so that she never wants for anything. But I also want her to learn compassion for others and the importance of giving back. I want her to understand just how fortunate she is and fully appreciate everything that she has. The holidays are a perfect time to teach our children about empathy and charity. Here are some great organizations that can help you get started:
Toys for Tots The Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation has been collecting and delivering toys to needy children since 1947. Take your little one shopping so he can pick out a toy for another child who isn’t as fortunate, and take the opportunity to explain why it’s important and what that toy might mean to that other little boy or girl. Visit www.toysfortots.org to find a drop-off location near you.
Share Our Strength® Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is working to end childhood hunger in America. Each dollar you donate provides up to 10 meals for a hungry child, and your donation will be matched dollar for dollar through December 31st! Visit www.shareourstrength.org to learn how you can double your gift.
SHARE (Self-Help and Resource Exchange) The SHARE Food Network helps families make the most of their food budget by putting together nutritious groceries at an affordable price. You can get involved by donating your time as a volunteer or purchasing healthy food for a family in need. My neighborhood actually has a SHARE program where we can purchase a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal for a family in need in our area. It’s great to know that our donation is going to help another Burke Centre family. If you’re in the Washington, D.C. area, visit www.sharedc.org for details. Otherwise, you can Google SHARE in your area to find a network near you.
The Salvation Army Donating to The Salvation Army can be as simple as dropping your change into one of the thousands of red kettles nationwide, volunteering your time as a bell ringer, or selecting a child in need from the Angel Giving Tree. I always loved selecting angels from the tree, shopping for the things on their wish list, and imagining the looks on their faces when they opened their gifts! Allowing your child to select an angel their same age and gender can help them learn empathy, since they can more closely relate to their angel. Visit www.salvationarmyusa.org for more information.
If you’re still looking for some other way to give back, try www.volunteermatch.org. This web site provides resources to help match volunteers with civic opportunities in their area.