Whenever the holidays roll around, I get this overwhelming urge to give back. I am a strong believer in supporting charities, standing up for great causes, and giving back to my community year-round. But there’s something about these winter months that makes me want to give a little more…

Lending a helping hand not only aids others in need, it’s also very rewarding. To inspire you to give back this season, I’ve put together 5 charitable ways you can contribute to your community. Take a peek below and discover how you can make a difference during the holidays…

  1. Make cards for hospitalized kids. This act of kindness takes almost no time at all, and it will instantly brighten a child’s day. Get together with your friends and personalize greeting cards with watercolors, glitter, stickers, and stamps. Make sure to write a sweet message inside too. I have no doubt that any local hospital (and their patients!) will be over-the-moon with excitement when you show up to with your cheerful letters. One of my favorite organizations that facilitates this is Cards for Hospitalized Kids.
  2. Adopt a family. Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to be Santa? The Salvation Army must have had this question in mind when they started their Adopt-A-Family program. They match an impoverished family with a group of people who plan to provide an entire Christmas for their “adopted family.” You can sign up with your family or a group of friends to shop for your adopted family’s presents on their Christmas list and deliver them on Christmas morning. Go to Salvation Army to learn more.
  3. Donate a Christmas tree to our troops. I can’t imagine being away from home during the holidays. So I was pretty moved when I came across the website Christmas Spirit Foundation and read about their program called Trees for Troops. It allows Americans to donate Christmas trees to a group of U.S. troops who are overseas during the holidays. The process is pretty simple: Just go to one of the tree lots that are participating all over the country to purchase a tree. They will place it in a FedEx truck that’s already on the lot, so you will literally be able to see your tree waiting to get shipped off to American soldiers. To make donating even easier, just plan on buying your own Christmas tree at one of the lots that participates in this program so you can buy another one for our troops while you’re there. Head on over to Trees for Troops to learn more.
  4. Serve at a soup kitchen. In my opinion, the most valuable ways to give back involve interacting with the people you’re helping. Volunteering at a local soup kitchen during the holidays is a great way to have a hands-on experience with community service. The way it works is you arrive at the kitchen with a group of volunteers in the late afternoon to prepare a giant meal for the homeless that evening. When it’s dinnertime, a long line of hungry men and women will come through and you will serve them a hot meal—most likely the first one they’ve had in days or maybe even weeks. I guarantee you will have a newfound appreciation for the food on your own table. Search for a soup kitchen near you by checking out DoSomething.org.
  5. Donate your closet clutter. I saved the easiest for last… This twofer will inspire you to clean out your closet and give to someone in need over the holidays. Assess what you have in terms of clothes and shoes, and figure out what you absolutely don’t need anymore (for my course in closet cleaning the charitable way, click here). Separate the things that are still gently used and in good condition—this will be your donate pile. Make sure you’re giving away items that you would want to receive (no undergarments or tattered clothes ladies). Then, just place the things you’re going to donate in a box or a bag and contact Goodwill—they will even come pick it up for you! Chances are you have nicer things than someone who is less fortunate could ever dream of owning. Your closet clutter will make their holiday season truly special. To learn more check out Goodwill.org.

Another great idea is to participate in Toys For Tots. Click here for more info!

I hope these ideas inspire you to give back this season and spread the holiday cheer far and wide.

How will you give back during the holidays? What’s your favorite type of community service?

Share your stories, tips, and holiday plans in the comments below so your fellow LaurenConrad.com members can read them too.

Happy holidays!

XO Lauren