With the busy holiday season already well underway, it’s worth taking a step back and thinking about ways you can give to your local community this year, too. Yesterday was Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving that follows the shopping frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So in the spirit of the holidays, take a look at giving opportunities near you and check out these six ways to connect with those in need in your city.
1. Sponsor a Holiday
While buying presents for your loved ones is a wonderful holiday tradition, one great way to give back is to sponsor a local child or family’s holiday this year. Organizations like Toys for Tots or Be an Elf have chapters in cities across the country, and some even provide you with a wish list or information about the child (such as their age and clothing size) so that you can personalize the gifts. Not sure if an organization like that exists in your city? Try reaching out to local schools or teachers to see if they know of families in need.
2. Take a Volunteer Day
Looking for ways to help but money’s a bit tight this year? Donating your time is just as valuable. There are numerous ways to get involved, from spending a day in a local soup kitchen to volunteering at a charity event. Check out Volunteer Match for a list of volunteer opportunities in your city. (New York even has its own website for holiday-specific volunteer options.) Don’t forget to see if your job offers paid volunteer hours—that way you don’t have to worry about missing a day of work. Better yet, organize a department or company-wide volunteer outing for an even bigger impact.
3. Clean Out Your Closet
As the weather starts to get colder in most parts of the country, this is a good time of year to go through your closet and set aside any coats and warm clothing you no longer use for those in need. Organizations like One Warm Coat have drop-off locations across the US and Canada, or you can hold a drive of your own. You can also donate many other items: clothing and shoes, canned foods from your kitchen for a local food pantry (just make sure nothing is damaged or expired), or books and toys.
4. Connect with Your Neighbors
Do you have a neighbor who always brings your packages up for you, or tends to the neighborhood garden? Now is the perfect time of the year to show your appreciation, whether it’s by baking them a treat with a nice note or organizing a shared gift with your other neighbors as a thank you for making your community a better place. And if you have a neighbor who is elderly or lives far away from family, go ahead and invite them over for dinner—it is the holidays, after all.
5. Help the Homeless
A recent national study found that one in 10 young adults experience some form of homelessness over the course of a year. In larger US cities in particular, homelessness has risen in the past few years. For those who want to support the homeless in their city, nonprofit organizations such as HandUp (now in San Francisco, Oregon, Detroit, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City) connect you directly with verified people in need. HandUp also suggests other ways to support the homeless, such as buying them a hot meal, purchasing homeless-run local newspapers, or just taking the time to stop and say hello.
6. The Gift of Giving
This year, instead of a Secret Santa or Yankee Swap, what if you and your friends hosted a fundraiser for a local charity, or clothing swap for your city’s Goodwill chapter? Or make a game of it by having each friend pick a local organization that they feel passionate about, determine how much to donate (say, $20 a person), and hold a board game or trivia tournament to determine which organization wins the grand prize. It will bring people together for an outcome that everyone can feel good about.
How do you connect with those in need in your city during the holiday season? Let us know in the comments below.