While a charitable heart is in style year-round, I usually find myself with an especially strong urge to give back during the holiday season. Maybe it’s the family get togethers and festivities that remind me just how lucky I am. And at the end of the year, I always reflect upon how I’d like to improve next year. So when the holidays come around, I’m eager to help in every way I can.
If you feel a similar pang this season, here are 10 ways you can help those in need…
1. Host a Pajama Party
With its freezing temperatures, winter is a dangerous season for the homeless—and specifically homeless children—since they need warm clothes for both night and day. Enter Pajama Program, a charity that delivers warm sleepwear to children in need. You can help by throwing a PJ party! Ask each guest to bring a new pair, which you can give to one of the 79 chapters nationwide.
2. Support Soldiers’ Secret Santa
Soldiers’ Secret Santa is an organization that provides holiday gifts for soldiers’ children by gathering donations. The holidays can be especially hard for military children when a parent is deployed, and these gifts truly brighten up a hard time for struggling families.
3. Cleanse Your Closet
If your closet is feeling a little overstuffed, take a couple of hours to clean it out and make a donation pile. Focus on warm weather wear like sweaters and coats—then make the trek to a local homeless shelter or Salvation Army to donate your extra clothes to those that need them much more than you do.
4. Drop off Toys for Tots
Toys for Tots has collection centers across the country, where you can drop off new, unwrapped presents for children that may not have opened any holiday gifts otherwise. Like the pajama party concept, if you want to get your friends in on the effort, host a party and ask each guest to bring a toy.
5. Gift Donations
There are always some people on my shopping list that are impossible to shop for. If you have a couple of those on your list, consider making a donation in their name to their favorite charity instead of sending them a gift. Whether that’s medical research, animal welfare, or ending child hunger, there are plenty of worthwhile causes to choose from.
6. Mail Some Holiday Cheer to Our Heroes
Never underestimate the weight of a heartfelt card. So many incredible service men and women are deployed over the holidays, but you can brighten up their time away by sending a thoughtful card through the Red Cross’ Holiday Mail for Heroes program. Get your pals together for a card making party to make an occasion out of it!
7. Clean Out Your Pantry
If you’re like me, I know there are probably more than a few canned goods in your pantry just waiting to see the light of day. Why not do a thorough pantry clean out and run those unused goods over to your local food bank to help feed families in need this holiday season? Feeding America is a good resource to help a food bank close to you.
8. Help Senior Citizens Connect
40% of seniors don’t use the internet, leaving many feeling depressed or isolated from loved ones—especially during the holidays. Since I know most of you are tech savvy gurus, put your skills to good use by teaching tech basics to seniors, and helping them see their far-away family this holiday! Check out Grandparents Gone Wired to see how you can get involved.
9. Rescue a Furry Friend
I firmly believe there is no better gift to receive than the love of a furry friend. If you’re considering adding a new pet to your family, the holiday season is the perfect time to head to your local shelter and rescue a dog or cat in need. Check out the ASPCA’s Shelter Finder or PetFinder to get your search started. Enjoy all of those holiday snuggles and kisses from your new best friend!
10. Perform Small Acts of Kindness
Generosity and kindness don’t always require grand gestures. This season, look for a few small opportunities to surprise and delight people in your community. Maybe that means baking holiday desserts for a family that’s going through a hard time, buying a cup of coffee for the person behind you at Starbucks, leaving a generous tip for a great waitress, or delivering a warm meal to the homeless men and women in your hometown. I guarantee when you look for it, small opportunities of kindness will present themselves to you.
Now, you don’t have to wait until the holiday season to give back. It’s important to volunteer on non-holidays too, because those are the times that shelters and non-profit organizations need your help the most. The girls here at LaurenConrad.com and I have started volunteering at a different charity each month, and it’s been a really fun way for us to give back to the community, spend time together and meet new people.
What are your favorite ways to give back during the holidays?
I’d love to hear below!