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12 Ways to Give Back This Holiday Season

Here are several ways to give the gift of time (and money) to a deserving cause during the holidays.

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Photo: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

The holiday season is upon us, and as you bake Christmas cookies and trim the tree, or decorate the house with your favorite menorah, it’s important to take some time to give back. While this busy month of the year is filled with plenty of parties, shopping and cheer, making time to do a good deed can greatly revitalize your spirit. From donating canned goods to putting together a care package for troops or helping the homeless, here are 12 ideas for volunteering during the holidays.

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Photo: Shutterstock/Evgeny Atamanenko

1. Bake cookies with your kids and then pass them out to your neighborhood for extra cheer.

It doesn’t matter if you make traditional Christmas cookies or do make-ahead cookies this holiday season. What matters is spending time with loved ones and spreading that holiday cheer by giving out sweet somethings as a sign of caring.

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2. Sign up for a holiday-themed 5K run where the money goes toward a good cause.

Whether it’s a Santa Claus dress-up theme or a midnight run on New Year’s Eve, running for charity is always a good—and healthy—idea.

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3. Take dog or cat food, pet toys and some blankets or towels to an animal shelter.

Don’t forget that critters need holiday love, too. A good way to show homeless cats and dogs some affection during the season is to donate what you can to the nearest no-kill shelter or animal organization. Why not bring a homemade healthy pet treat?

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4. Clear out the closets, cabinets and toy box—then donate what you’re no longer using.

Donating unused goods is another way to give back during the holidays. Go through your closets for old clothes and coats, riffle through the cabinets for canned goods you will probably never eat, and encourage your little ones to give away toys they have outgrown.

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5. Put together a care package for troops who are overseas during the holidays.

One of the most selfless things you can do during the month of December is to prepare care packages for members of the military who are unable to spend time with their families. We’re sure they’d love some homemade cookies. Learn how to ship them overseas in one piece.

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6. Get involved in helping the homeless by serving food at shelters, building homes or offering job training.

There are many ways to help the homeless during the holidays. If you haven’t tried serving food at a shelter, that’s a good way to start. Take it a step up by volunteering to build or repair homes or even offering your expertise to job train those looking to gain employment.

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7. Buy a bunch of toys at the dollar store, wrap them and donate them to a children’s hospital.

If you don’t have a child who can donate old toys, head to a nearby dollar store and buy a few nice trinkets. Then, wrap them and take them to a children’s hospital to brighten the days of sick little kids. Add a removable note on the outside to alert staff about what age level the gifts are appropriate for.

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Photo: Shutterstock/Anthony Berenyi

8. Host a holiday party but ask friends and family to bring canned goods instead of wine.

You’re already planning to host a holiday party, and you know that, typically, everyone brings a bottle of wine or an appetizer to share. This year, however, ask guests to bring canned goods that you will later donate to a homeless shelter.

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9. Contact the nearest Red Cross and go there as a family to donate blood and save a life.

Donating blood is important throughout the year, but it’s particularly important during the holiday season when there are more accidents on the road. This is a bighearted way to give back.

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10. Pack lunches for those who have to work on holidays, such as police, nurses and firefighters.

Another good deed you can do during this busy season is to pack little lunches or snacks for the people who have to work instead of spending time with family. Enclose a thank-you note, too, then head to the closest police station, firehouse or even hospital to drop off the goodies. Looking for something to make? Try these Granola-To-Go Bars.

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11. Contact municipal offices and volunteer to clean up a local park, beach or other public space.

Making your home a nicer place is important during the holidays. You can do the same with your community by volunteering to pick up trash and litter in your neighborhood.

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Photo: Shutterstock/Iakov Filimonov

12. Visit a nursing home and spend time with the elderly who no longer have family nearby.

Statistics show that many of those who live in nursing homes do not have family nearby to visit them during this time of year. Why not brighten up someone else’s day by volunteering at a nearby care facility and spending time with the elderly?

Irina Gonzalez
Irina Gonzalez is a freelance writer and editor, covering food, wellness, relationships, travel and Latinx culture. She's also an audiobook enthusiast and creator of the Self-Care For Writers newsletter. She lives in Florida with her husband and their attention-loving kitties and pup.