December 21, 2017

The Shoebox Project and Other Ways to Give Back This Holiday


Picture a fire burning merrily, stockings hung on the mantle, piles of presents under the tree, hot cocoa, Christmas carols and joyful spirits. Along with chestnuts roasting on that open fire, far too many families and individuals are unable to participate in the warmth, excitement and love that come during the holiday season. Charities are forced to put their collections into overdrive to meet the increasing need that grows from year-to-year.
The holidays are truly when charities put their hearts into collecting for those less fortunate. With a long list of not-for-profit organizations doing their very best to increase donations of money, food and other necessities from prior years, many people feel overwhelmed at the sheer need charities have to meet their obligations.

"I would love to help, but I can't afford to."

The fact is, not everyone is able to help financially. Along with phone calls asking for money, direct mail urging you to send in "whatever you can afford" and those who come door-to-door, every shopping mall and almost every individual store has some type of donation program going on.
Unfortunately, many people really want to help, but they don't have much to give and may find that the little bit they could do is not worthy. Let's clear this up right now EVERY little bit helps. If we all can give just a little, that ends up equaling an awful lot.
So, even if you don't have unlimited funds in your bank account, here are some great ways to do your part that will allow you to feel good doing something for others, and will not break the bank!

1. Fill a shoebox
The Shoebox Project is an initiative which collects items for homeless women or those at risk across the United States and Canada. The project aims to fill shoeboxes with items and gifts that would make the recipient feel special and cared for. Charities ask that you fill a shoeboxes with items that total a minimum value of $50. After you wrap your box, you can let your artistic side take over if you would like to do some additional decorating.
Stumped for wonderful gifts to put inside? Recipients appreciate gift cards from places like McDonald's, Starbucks, local pharmacies or supermarkets. Warm items like socks, hats, scarves and gloves, along with nut-free chocolates and candy, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss make great shoe box additions.
High-quality shampoos and soaps, skin care products, makeup, combs and brushes, stationary items, pens, notebooks, coloring books, colored pencils, bus passes or subway tokens are some other ideas. To really make your box feel special, take the time to write a personal message of greeting and support.
Unsure where to take your shoebox? Visit their website to find a drop-off location near you.

2. Donate new or gently worn clothing
Almost everyone who goes through their closet will find stuff they haven't worn in years. Most of the time, these items get pushed to the back where we don't even notice them.
Make this a family affair and have everyone search through their closets and drawers. There are clothing drives set up in many cities, and local shelters also take donations. If the items still have years of wear left in them, they could make a real difference for someone who can't afford to buy new clothing.
If you don't feel comfortable giving away stuff that has already been worn, consider purchasing quality, staple items at inexpensive prices, such as wholesale tshirts, socks and underwear to donate instead.

3. The scent of holiday baking
If you love to bake, there are plenty of people who will not have the opportunity to indulge in homemade treats. Gather up some supplies from your baking cupboard and spend the day in the kitchen.
Whether it is as simple as cookies, or as complicated as chocolates, shelters, soup kitchens and even nursing homes would be delighted to receive your hard work. Make them a little merrier by decorating them in holiday shapes and colors, divide them into festive containers or bags and set off on a "cookie Santa" delivery mission.

4. Pay it forward
Have you ever pulled up to the drive-thru window, only to be told that the person ahead of you also paid for your order? This pay it forward activity goes on all year round, but during the holidays, it could really make someone's day and give them a brighter outlook and hope for the future.

5. Something for the kids
Whether they want to admit it or not, our children get tired of playing with certain toys as new ones draw their attention. Teaching your children about the importance of helping others during the holidays can start by having them go through their toys and stuffed animals they don't use or simply don't want anymore. Discard any broken items and bring your child with you to deliver them to a shelter or used toy drop-off location to get them feeling good as well.

6. Sleeping quarters
Shelters are notoriously overrun, and they often don't have enough of everything to go around. Some of those items always needed are linens, blankets and towels. We buy new bedding sets to replace those that no longer match our d├ęcor. Instead of putting them in the garbage or cutting them up for rags, make sure all your unneeded items are freshly laundered for dropping off at a local shelter.

7. The holiday spirit
Imagine what a night of caroling could do if just a smile can make someone’s day. From nursing homes to shelters, take a group along and spend a couple of hours bringing the music of the season to those who may not otherwise hear it. You don't have to be superstar quality; you just need enthusiasm.
For people with limited options for going places, this is a touching gift they will find enjoyable and remember for years to come. Bring along some freshly baked cookies, apple cider and hot chocolate (if permitted to do so).

8. Volunteer
Always short on funds, shelters are also short on volunteers to get things done. Pick an activity you will enjoy and give the gift of time, whether it is helping to hang some decorations or spending some time behind the serving line.
Does the shelter have young children? Offer to host a movie night, craft hour or story time to give them their own special holiday treat.

Final thoughts
The holidays are about giving not receiving. Finding little ways to make a difference is something everyone can do. From kids to adults, take a good look around your community to see what they really need, and then come up with simple ideas to spread holiday cheer to those who need it the most. 


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