New Ways To Give Back

By Sharon Naylor Toris

November 2, 2020 6 min read

Instead of channeling all your energy into parties and presents this year, why not explore new ways to volunteer in your community? This has been quite a year, and if your holidays can't be exactly what you'd like, then you can shine up these days with feel-good activities that could turn into new life-affirming traditions.

Finding the perfect way to give back is an important lesson in gratitude and giving for every member of your family. Making the switch from a receiving mindset to the benefits of giving to others, making someone smile or teaching skills is a powerful path to inner happiness. It's like a heartwarming holiday movie classic come true.

Connect with the perfect volunteer and charitable activities for you. Deborah Ann Davis, award-winning author of "How To Get Your Happy On," says, "Find something that you enjoy (a passion or hobby) and turn it into something you can do to benefit others, such as delivering meals to those in need, volunteering at an animal shelter or donating to your local hospital, elderly center, schools or homeless shelters."

Browse websites of volunteer groups you already know, such as Meals on Wheels or visit sites like VolunteerMatch.org that list local charitable opportunities you might not have heard of before, such as a group that reads books through Facetime, Zoom or other video conferencing software to hospitalized kids. Your love of bargain shopping could be a perfect skillset to a volunteer to make personal grooming kits for troops overseas.

Davis says: "Join a club, cause, campaign, or organization. Being part of a (giving group) works to promote a sense of community and purpose." Safe meetings and brainstorming can be done online, and bonds can be formed with like-minded others. Or, you might prefer solo charitable endeavors, such as gathering your families outgrown or lightly worn coats to boost a coat drive with a dropoff bin. Check the donations wishlist for a local charity, shelter or food pantry, and start gathering new packs of socks, canned goods, cereal packs and unexpected charitable needs. Every donations wishlist reminds you and your family members how lucky you are to have such extras in your home.

Additional volunteering opportunities conducted through reputable agencies and schools may include:

--Delivering meals to homebound and quarantining folks.

--Teaching languages, resume-writing and other skills through online video meetings.

--Working for local political campaigns throughout the year.

--Walking dogs at the local animal shelter and assisting with pet adoption needs during special events.

Look also for easy, inspiring donation opportunities, too. Lavender Life Company donates a plush bunny friend to a child in foster care when you purchase a bunny of your own. You may also donate both bunnies. 4Ocean mobilizes teams of workers to pull plastic trash from oceans around the world. At the time of this writing, your $20 purchase of a bracelet translates to a pound of plastic scooped out of the sea, and this group has removed over 10 million pounds of trash so far. The Arbor Day Foundation enables your donation to pay for trees planted in national forest and as replacements for trees burned in forest fires.

Liene Stevens, founder and CEO of wedding industry management consulting service Think Splendid, reminds us of ways to help professionals in the event industry, who may have been out of work or severely underbooked through 2020. "With all the talk about holiday prep and shopping starting earlier this year, here's how you can make a HUGE difference: buy from your local event companies. They have lost almost all business this year and many offer items/services that you may not be aware of." For instance, Stevens says: "Need a pie for Thanksgiving? Call a local wedding cake baker or catering company. A lot of them can ship, too. Want to add some visual cheer to your house? Your local florist can get you all the greenery for DIY garlands and wreaths or can make them for you. Your local wedding florist can get you pumpkins, too, and way cuter ones than you'll find at the grocery store."

"Use a wedding and event photographer for socially distant family photos and order your cards through a local stationery designer," says Stevens. "Want to get extra fancy because it's been a terrible year and pretty things cheer people up? Have a calligrapher address your holiday card envelopes."

The event industry is mostly made up of woman-owned small businesses, and this year has wrecked havoc. Bolstering these small business and professionals who have been impacted by COVID-19 shutdowns and limitations with be a great boon to your local economy.

Volunteering and giving through purchases is good for the soul. "Instead of worrying about the future, or obsessing over something in the past, focus on what you can do today," says Davis. And may the holidays bring joy and cheer to you and yours.

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