It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but while most of us are blessed enough to be worrying about whether we’ll cook turkey or ham for dinner and what to buy our parents, many are worried about where their next meal will come from or where they will sleep tonight. Conservatives are notoriously charitable, so why not dedicate at least twelve days in December to giving back? Whether you want to assign these ideas to individual day to just make a point to complete some of these tasks throughout the month, consider them your commitment to giving back during the most wonderful time of the year.

1) Donate 10 non-perishable food items to a local food bank or shelter

Everyone needs to eat, and the big meals expected during the holiday season, and when it’s cold, can really put a strain on families struggling to put food on the table. Without a doubt, your own pantry is overflowing with food you don’t need or want or you have enough money to make some quick purchases. People think about donating soup and canned vegetables, but I encourage you to think outside the box with these donations. What would you want this holiday season? I recommend donating pasta and pasta sauce, canned vegetables for popular side dishes, cake mixes, et cetera.

2) Send 5 holiday cards to children in hospitals, adults in nursing homes, or soldiers overseas

It doesn’t take much time to write a nice message and slap a stamp on a card. There are great resources out there to connect you with national organizations spearheading these campaigns, but I recommend connecting with your local hospitals, nursing homes, and veterans groups (perhaps even through your school) to send these cards out. Plan ahead to do this and make sure they’re in the mail with enough time to spare!

3) Give your TIME

Time is sometimes the most valuable thing you can give. Make time this month to go out and give your time in a meaningful way. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, help box toys at Operation Christmas child, sing at a charity concert, do something that requires you to put some time aside to think about giving back and not just about writing a check.

4) Donate a monetary amount equivalent to your age to a charity in your area

I think donating your age is something we can all do without breaking the bank. Also, there are a lot of great national charities out there, but I encourage you to look close to home. Talk to your friends about the nonprofits they volunteer with. Take a look around at what groups are doing good work in your immediate community and help them continue that good work. For me, I might donate to the community food bank, the adult literacy lab, or the bread truck that helps serve breakfast to people experiencing homelessness.

5) Go to a local park and pick up trash

Hear me out here. I know it’s cold, I know it can seem gross, but it does so much for the community, even if you don’t realize it. Throw on some gloves, grab a trash bag, and commit to cleaning up an entire trash bag of trash or even a set number of items. I started doing this after I noticed a lot of alcoholic beverage containers near a park by my house, and I didn’t want the kids nearby to have to deal with that. Of course, be safe, don’t pick up broken glass if you can help it, and make sure you wash your hands afterwards.

6) Donate something (time, money, items) to a local animal shelter or rescue group

Can you imagine being alone in a shelter on Christmas? That’s the unfortunate reality for a lot of animals. Animal shelters and rescue groups are almost always underfunded. First off, don’t be that person that gifts someone a pet they won’t take care of for the rest of it’s life. Secondly, make a donation to a local shelter or rescue group. Monetary donations are always accepted, but you can also donate your time. If you’re going to donate items, check with them about their needs. Many shelters request blankets and towels, cleaning supplies, and of course pet food.

7) Spend some time educating yourself on the issues affecting your community

Whenever I move, I always take time to acquaint myself with the new area and learn it’s strengths and weaknesses. This holiday season, do that, even if you’re not new to the area. What are the rates of homelessness in your area and what are the shelter and re-homing options? Is there a children’s hospital nearby that has families traveling from near and far? Is your animal shelter funded privately or by the local government? Understanding the issues, and the existing solutions, for many problems in your community will help you be a more effective problem solver and giver in the future.

8) Donate 5 books to a church, prison, shelter, or other organization that isn’t a public library

I, for one, know I have a lot of books piling up that I’ve already read and won’t read again, so why not donate them to someone who will read them? Public libraries don’t really have the space to accept a lot of donations and your books will likely be resold during their sales. Consider donating to another group like a church, a shelter, or a prison. Always check on their donation policies, but think of the good use your old books will be put too!

9) Visit a nursing home or relatives who don’t get out much

It sucks being alone during the holidays, so why not pay a visit to someone who might be? Lots of nursing homes have Christmas programs you can attend or you can make those connections through your church. If you’re not into strangers, try and visit a family member or family friend who is home-bound. You don’t need to do much, just talk and have a cup of coffee or tea and let them know you were thinking about them this time of the year.

10) Make a social media post about a charity you personally love and encourage others to donate

Sure, you’re doing great things, but why not remind your friends and family to give back too? This doesn’t have to be a post bragging about how much you’ve been giving back, but instead should highlight a group you are passionate about supporting and explain to people how they can support them as well.

11) Buy new socks and donate them to a local homeless shelter

Socks are the most requested item at homeless shelters. Individuals experiencing homelessness are on their feet a lot, and socks are crucial to preventing foot injury. There are a lot of sock companies, like Bombas, that donate socks when you purchase from them, but you can also go into your nearest store, purchase, and donate them. I recommend purchasing larger sizes and ones that go higher up on the ankle as opposed to those no-show socks we often wear.

12) Pay for the person behind you at a restaurant or coffee shop

Who doesn’t love paying it forward? This is a simple way to make someone’s day and you may start a chain reaction! Pay for the person behind you in the take out line or for another table at a restaurant and don’t make a big deal out of it. It’s just a nice thing to do, no need to make a scene. Tis the season.

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member