While many of us are busy prepping for holiday parties, gift giving, or maybe winter vacations in the last few months of the year, not all people are as fortunate to enjoy festivities. This time of year is a great opportunity to brighten the lives of others in your community. If you’re in the giving spirit and have the means to donate your time, extra or no longer used items from your home, food or gifts, here are some charitable ideas.
Volunteer Your Time
There are many local organizations that depend on people to volunteer their time. Food banks, shelters, and other nonprofit organizations that accept donations need volunteers to help intake, organize, and package donated items for distribution. Homeless shelters and animal shelters may also have opportunities to help do laundry, clean facilities, and serve meals.
Year-round, but especially during the holidays, companies and community members may host food drives where you can donate canned and nonperishable food. If you’d like to host your own food collection, you may find a list of food bank partners and pantries that accept direct drop-offs here.
Donate Clothing & Blankets
Go through your closet to pick out gently used clothing you can donate. Your clothing can be donated to an organization that directly distributes the clothing to people in need, such as Orange County Rescue Mission. Alternatively, clothing donations can be made to a locally-operated independent thrift store in an underserved area that resells clothing for only a few dollars. Higher-priced thrift stores, such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army, also resell donated clothing to support other programs. When donating to Goodwill, you support programs and services that help people access pathways to sustainable careers, such as career counseling, skills training, and résumé prep services. When donating to the Salvation Army, you’re supporting their shelters, substance abuse treatment centers, community centers, and churches.
Your old blankets and sheets can be donated to your local animal shelter, so the animals have something warm and soft to sleep on rather than a concrete or metal floor.
Donate Toys & Gifts
If you or your family has the means to support families who can’t afford gifts, children in foster care, low-income elderly or disabled adults, or children with an incarcerated parent, consider donating to a gift collection, or signing up to “adopt” a child or family for the holidays.
Every year in early December, Orange County’s Credit Union partners with CHOC (Children’s Hospital of Orange County) to host a CHOC Toy Drive for in-patients. Gift donors can drop off new and unwrapped toys at any branch through December 9, or shop our wish list online and have them delivered to our headquarters.
There are plenty of people who work through the holidays and don’t get to spend them with their loved ones. Consider making cards for service industry workers like police officers, firefighters, and nurses and doctors. You can even make cards for people of all ages who have to stay in the hospital during the holidays, and who might not have visitors. Don’t underestimate how much a thoughtful card with kind words might brighten someone’s day. Be careful to not include any personal information (as some places will then not accept them), then find some time to drop off the cards before or after your family gathering.
And if you’re overwhelmed during the holidays but still have a philanthropic itch, you can actually do these things all year long. Community is part of Orange County’s Credit Union’s core values, promoting and spreading the spirit of "people helping people." More about our community involvement and efforts can be found below.