Holiday season tends to be a busy and stressful time. It’s also a time when we’re inspired to give back. With that in mind here’s how you can make a real difference with simple good deeds for the holiday season…
- Think of the amazing people in your life. Take an hour to write those people a letter telling them why they’re awesome. Wouldn’t you love to get a letter like that?
- If you’re buying gifts on Amazon, use the Amazon Smile URL and a percentage of your purchase price will go to the charity of your choice at no extra cost to you.
- When you buy gifts from one of 1,700 participating online retailers, you can use iGive to have that retailer donate money to your favorite charity (again, at no cost to you). This includes major retailers like Target, Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, and others.
- Get ready for the new, by getting rid of the old . . . Use those boxes piling up from your online gift buying to pack up clothes, household items, games or other items you no longer need, and Givebackbox.com will provide a prepaid shipping label so you can have the items shipped to a nonprofit at no charge. This can be done from any state in the US. If you choose the charity to which you’d like to send your items you pay for shipping. If you send it to Give Back Box and let them distribute to nonprofits, the shipping is free.
Other organizations that will pick up donations from your house:
- The Salvation Army also accepts the same items as Big Brothers Big Sisters, and they will pick them up from your house (pickup is only in certain geographies, so check their zip code search feature). Donations to the Salvation Army support their adult rehabilitation centers.
- The Military Order of the Purple Heart will pickup clothes, small appliances, electronics, toys and much more to benefit veterans. Here’s a list of what they will pick up. They operate in NJ, DE, PA, MD, CT, VA and NY.
- You can donate all sorts of items you no longer use to various nonprofits. Here is a list of where to donate clothes, furniture, old phones, inkjet cartridges, children’s clothes and books, appliances, electronics, cars, eyeglasses and more.
- Participate in a holiday program to buy gifts for kids who might not otherwise get gifts. Here’s an uplifting story about how one present from a holiday gift program – a small guitar – inspired Jimmy Barber to grow up to help thousands of kids.
The post office, Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program, Toys for Tots and One Simple Wish all provide opportunities to give holiday gifts to kids in needs. Here are details about where you can find opportunities.
- One Simple Wish has a list of wishes from foster youth. The wishes are compiled by social workers and other professionals who work with children.
- Call your local Salvation Army to see if they have an Angel Tree Program. You can use the site’s zip code search to find your location, but you will need to call (scroll to find the zip code tool). Some locations will allow businesses to take an entire tree for their lobby.
- Operation Santa. This U.S. Postal Service site allows you to provide gifts to kids who write letters to Santa. You can participate in the digital program where you sign up online to provide gifts, and drop off your gift at a participating post office.
- You can bring new unwrapped gifts to your local Toys for Tots drop off center. Toys for Tots is run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and distributes toys across the U.S.
- Other great places to contact are your local children’s hospital and your local homeless shelter.
- Adopt military families. Military families often have a very tight budget, and could use some help over the holidays. It’s also a chance to show America’s gratitude by providing some gifts for military kids and parents.
“We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for going out of your way to help our family during Christmas. It isn’t easy needing help. But it was amazing to tell my wife ‘Look at the Goodwill of the American People.’ My girls were very happy and excited. We can’t say enough to express our gratitude. It was probably the best Christmas in many years. We really were blown away by the blessings! God Bless you.” – Mark and Family
- Send cards to lonely seniors. When he was 13-years-old Jacob Cramer started Love for the Elderly, which distributes letters to American seniors via senior centers and nonprofit organizations. This page explains how you can send a postal letter. Letters have come in from all over including Cleveland, Asia and Scotland.
- You can also send mail to Cards for Hospitalized Kids, which delivers the cards to children in US hospitals. These are great activities for individuals, families and classrooms.
- Donate a small sum of money to a charity you love. Don’t think a small donation can make a huge difference? Read this inspirational story about a donation of $15 a month that had an incredible ripple effect, changing the lives of over 300 families.
- Donate a larger amount that can change a life. (I know these amounts aren’t small, but how awesome that a few hundred dollars can completely change a life.)
- Miracle Feet funds surgeries to cure Clubfoot. 1 in every 750 kids worldwide is born with club foot – a deformity that left untreated leads to inability to walk. Over 1 million kids have untreated clubfoot. In many countries, disability leads to neglect, abuse and inability to have a decent life. Those countries are often the ones that don’t have the resources for treatment. $500 will treat one child’s clubfoot, and change that child’s life forever.
- Himalayan Cataract Project (HCP) cures blindness by providing a 10-minutes surgery that fixes cataracts. HCP has taken a procedure that costs $3,000 in the US and has brought that cost down to under $200 in developing nations. So far, HCP has helped restore sight to about 500,000 people in Nepal, Tibet, Pakistan, India, Bhutan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, and North Korea. HCP let me know that it costs $25 for the materials for each surgery. If we look at all of their nonprofit’s costs it comes out to about $200 per person cured of blindness. Keep in mind that those costs include training eye surgeons around the world who go on to help thousands of additional patients. So, the cost to cure blindness in one person is actually much less than $200, but I thought it was reasonable to include the organization’s costs beyond the materials used in surgery. In any event it is a bargain for curing blindness and a great investment!
- Write a quick thank you note to the people who serve you every day – mail carrier, trash collectors, etc. This is an especially good activity for our kids to remind them of people they might take for granted.
- “Can I pick something up for you?” Everyone is so stressed over the holidays. If you’re going to the store already, call a neighbor you think could use a break and ask if she’d like you to pick something up for her while you’re at the store.
- Help a teacher get the supplies needed for class. DonorsChoose.org let’s you support schools and teachers in your community so students can get the tools, supplies and experiences they need for a great education. You scroll through the requests of different teachers and choose the one you’d like to support. Here’s an opportunity where a small donation will make a big difference.
- Provide a small gift and note to a neighbor or friend. A woman on our street gives our son a holiday basket every year. It probably costs $5, but it makes our son (and us) ecstatic.
- Collect change in a jar all year (or at this point for the month of December). At the end of the month, give the jar anonymously to someone who could benefit from the money. This tradition is called a Christmas Jar and is from a fantastic book, Christmas Jars.
- Support an entrepreneur through a loan via Kiva. The loan will support an entrepreneur in poverty. 97% of the loans are repaid and your contribution can be as little as $25.
- Global Giving is a platform that allows you to make a small donation to a global nonprofit you choose. It’s fun to scroll through the nonprofits and decide where you’d like to make an impact.
- When you see people doing something right, tell them. It’s always a great time to give out compliments, but since the holidays can be stressful – your compliments might be even more appreciated than usual. If you have something nice to say, then say it!
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In addition to the good deeds listed above, here are 103 Random Acts of Kindness you can perform.
What good deeds would you add? Feel free to add them in the comments below.
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