The holidays are a time to relax, spend time with family and friends, give thanks, share gratitude, and celebrate. But one of my favorite parts of the holidays is that it a time to give back. I used to go to a school where we were always told to give our “time, talent, and treasure,” and that has stuck with me into my adult life. I want to talk a bit about some of my past volunteer experiences, how I plan to give back this year, and some of the ideas of what you can do.
Time & Talent: When I was twelve, at the same school as previously mentioned, I had the opportunity to volunteer at Give Kids the World, a storybook village that works with wish granting organizations to grant the wishes of children with life threatening illnesses. I have been an (inconsistent) volunteer with them for ten years, and in high school, I spent most of my free time volunteering with the kids. As an organization that needs volunteers every day, the holidays are when they are especially in need of volunteers. For two years, I volunteered with them on Christmas eve and Christmas day. My family doesn’t celebrate the holidays, so being out and giving back on these days was a really wonderful experience. If you know of a charity that doesn’t close for the holidays, call them and see if they need an extra hand. The holidays may also be a time where charities are inundated with volunteers, so throughout this season, give the time you can. You don’t know how much your talents can affect someone’s life.
Treasure: This year, I found myself incredibly busy, and as much as I want to give more of my time, I simply can’t. I still wanted to do something around the holidays, so in February of this year, I started collecting discount toys for Christmas. At bookstores and toy stores, through coupons and discounts, I managed to gather seven toys for kids in need during the holidays. New toys are a luxury for some kids, and there are tons of local organizations running toy drives, so whether you donate one toy or twenty, you’ll be doing something amazing for a kid in your area.
What can you do?
There are so many organizations that need help around the holidays, and it can be overwhelming to try and figure out what to do. Here are some ideas that make a big impact.
Small charities have a harder time gaining traction due to lack of funds for advertising. A monetary or physical donation can sometimes mean the world. Domestic violence shelters can always use menstrual products and other hygiene items. Same goes for homeless shelter. A quick search online can help you find organizations in your area that are in need of items. I’ll list a couple of my favorite charities, but note that these are all Florida based:
Grace Marketplace -Homelessness services and housing in Gainesville Florida
Peaceful Paths -Domestic Violence services in Gainesville Florida
The Zebra Coalition -A homelessness services organization in Orlando Florida
You may be asking yourself right now, “what if I have no time, and no money?” Well my friends, now is the time to take an hour and clean out your pantry and closet. Go through and find closed, still good dry foods that you may not be eating or didn’t like, and donate them to a local food bank. If you are a student, your university may have a food pantry for students in need, and that would be a great place to give to. Grab those clothes out of your closet that you haven’t worn in years, and donate them to a local shelter. There are also specific organizations that you can donate business and professional dress items to that will help people who might need those sorts of clothes for job interviews. Drop these items off, and know that you are making a difference in someone’s life this holiday season.
I hope this was helpful and gave you some ideas as to how to give back this season. I am sure there are some opportunities I have missed, and I’d love to hear some of the volunteer things you have done around the holidays in the comments!
Mehek Naresh is an Indian American lesbian, living and working in Florida after recently graduating with a Bachelors in Political Science. Her hobbies seeking out small talk with cashiers, reading, and spending more time staring at tumblr than she’d care to admit.