It’s that time of year again. The holidays are the time for fuzzy socks, catching every movie on ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas, and Peppermint Mochas (thanks, Starbucks). In the midst of all the excitement, we tend to forget what this season is really about. It’s the season of love; with love comes giving. It’s important that we give a very special gift this season. This gift is very unique, it is one that cannot be found on any department store shelf, rack, or display. Better yet, it’s free. It’s the gift of service. Our generation teaches us to express our love by giving material items as gifts. No material gift could ever top the rewarding feeling of giving ourselves and our service this holiday season. We can offer our help this December, get involved in our communities, and spread the Christmas cheer.

The holidays are always so busy, it’s inevitable. Everyone is frantically running those “last minute” errands, shopping for friends, and traveling to see family. Thankfully, engaging in a service project doesn’t necessarily need to take up much of your time. A lot of people want to get involved with their communities during the holiday season, but sometimes it can be overwhelming when it comes to finding a place to start. So why not be the leader who sets up a project and makes a difference? You’ll find that a lot of service projects are actually very fun and quite rewarding.

No, seriously – you can bake cookies for a cause. Get the girls together for a night of baking and assign everyone different ingredients to bring. It might get a little messy, but it’s definitely one of the tastier ideas. Bring some cookies to a local police or fire station, as a sign of appreciation. They’ll love it.

If cooking isn’t quite your thing, don’t worry. You could always do something a little crafty. Who doesn’t love crafts? Set up a wrapping station with a group of friends. Talk to your local mall and ask if you can set up a gift-wrapping table in a popular spot. Charge shoppers a dollar to have an item wrapped, and donate all the proceeds to a charity of choice or a family in need. It’s easy, and malls are the busiest place during the holidays. You’ll get tons of people to come to your stand. You can make it fun, and decorate your table with Christmas lights. Oh, and don’t forget the boombox. You’ll definitely need Michael Bublé’s White Christmas to jam out to while getting your wrap on. Mmmm.

Adopting a family during the holidays is always a great thing to do. There are local organizations or groups that can help get you started! Adopting a family is where you sponsor a local family to shop for over the holiday season. You’ll receive a list with the family members, and their area of interests so you know what to keep in mind while shopping. Their ages, gender, and sizes should be included as well. This is fun to do with a group; you can even organize a special shopping trip with your friends or family to pick out gifts for the family you’re sponsoring.

If you’re in a club or athletic group, you could go all out and host a Toy Drive! Toy Drives are usually very successful and are a good way to get your entire community involved. I’m the VP of my school’s Future Health Professionals Club, and I organized one to benefit Friends of Kids with Cancer. We accepted new or gently used toys, books, and games as donations, and collected 500 donations in one day!. We took gift card and cash donations as well. We gave all of our donations to Friends of Kids, who gave them to children patients with cancer at a local hospital. They were very appreciative and it warmed our hearts to see so much happiness come out of a project! You’ll want to pick a date, a drop-off location, and hang up flyers around your community to get the word out. It doesn’t hurt to make an event on Facebook too; social media is definitely an effective way to spread awareness

Let’s not forget the smaller things, either. If you’re really busy for the holidays, there’s still ways to spread the love. Offer to shovel snow from your neighbor’s sidewalk, or help an elderly person put up Christmas lights. If you happen to find yourself doing some winter cleaning, you could donate old gloves, coats, shoes, and hats to shelters for the cold weather season. These simple gestures can make anyone’s day, and they’ll really appreciate it.

I wish you the best of luck in making a difference this holiday season. Happy Holidays!

Savannah, an FFL Contributor