December Is the Month for Giving
It’s the most wonderful time of the year… December! Even growing up how I did, going through foster care, and as a young adult without family to enjoy the holidays with… I have ALWAYS loved the holiday season. To me, it really is a time when things are brighter. Since having a family of my own, I’ve tried to incorporate a giving attitude, all the time, but especially around the holidays. After doing the #30daysofgratitude challenge in November… I thought, why not do a 31 Days of Giving challenge during the month of December.
The goal of all people should be to live life with generosity in their hearts and to love thy neighbor… all year, but I find those ideas really come alive during the month of December. People give more, they understand more, their hearts are bigger and fuller… and while there are many implications of people finding true joy while celebrating with Christ, even if indirectly, I will digress and simply say that we should all do our part, in whatever way we can!
I have created both a calendar and checklist of ideas to give back during the month of December, and you can download them here. I created a calendar because of how handy the calendar was during November. It was really easy to just look at the prompt and think about the small (or sometimes big) things to be grateful for, but with the giving challenge, as some require action and schedules are different, I also created a checklist for people to create their own #31daysofgiving schedule.
During the month of November, I updated a single blog post daily with the things I was grateful for, you can see that here, but for this challenge I will attempt to work ahead some (yes, I am behind as today is December 1st) to help give ideas and links. So, bookmark this page and head over to Facebook and Instagram for updates… I’d love to have you join me on this 31 Days of Giving challenge, so download the calendar and checklist… and share this page with others so we can start a chain reaction of giving!
Have a great December and I hope to see you on my journey of #31daysofgiving!
BEM and Fam 🙂
Day 22: Leave a Small Token of Appreciation for Your Mail Carrier
This one is easy, though many may overlook the mail carrier… it is someone that many people see every day. I know that there are some people that are on a first name basis with their mail carrier, I am not one of those people… yet. Over the summer though, our mail carrier got a bit acquainted with my son who broke his leg and ended up spending a lot of time on the front porch. He was often outside when the mail was dropped off and our mail carrier started asking my son how he was doing. Anyway, now when we see her, we all wave and chat for a second.
Placing a $5 coffee card or even just a quick note in an envelope for your mail carrier might seem like a small gesture but it can be something that completely brightens their day, and a great time to do that is at Christmas!
Day 21: Find Ways to Get Involved in Your Community
This is both an easy and vague way to give back, but it is needed. All communities have needs and areas in which they can expand and grow, however, finding these areas can be hard. In my community we have many places to help out. There are local charities that help pass out food, a center for recovering addicts, and a youth center, which is a place that teens can go after school for games and homework help. If your community has places like this, call and see if you can get involved. Maybe you have ideas that can help expand their vision or if you are good at IT or PR, your skills could be helpful.
I volunteered for my community’s Main Street Organization, which helped bring in grants to the community. My part there was to organize events for the community and increase community spirit. We held a summer event that allowed local eateries and artisans to come and share local goods, and of course there was lots of stuff for the kids… one year we even brought in a circus… it was fun! We also held a Fall Festival with pumpkin decorating contests, costume contests, and treats for all… and of course a Christmas event with Santa, reindeer, ice carving, and more! I volunteered for 3 years just prior to covid, and it was amazing, but it was time consuming, however, getting involved is about how YOU can best help YOUR community. So, whether it is making phone calls, helping design a website, stuffing envelopes, tutoring local kids, or anything in between… it will make a difference.
Call your local chamber, churches, shelters, or mayor’s office to find ways you can get involved.
Day 20: Donate Blood and/or Become an Organ Donor
This is an amazing way to give back but is a big decision, and I am not here to sway you in either way. I personally have Lupus and there are some issues that surround those with Lupus and blood and organ donation, however, I also have a friend that is currently on a transplant list… and so I know the need is great for organ donors and according to the Red Cross, there is a critical blood shortage.
If you think you would like to be an organ donor, visit here to be connected with your state’s (US) registration site. If donating blood is something you would like to consider, visit the Red Cross to get more information.
Day 19: Take cookies to the Local Fire and/or Police Station
My family does this every year. We make a couple dozen cookies for each place, put them into a container, and simply walk in and say Merry Christmas. We include an ingredient list but if making cookies makes you uncomfortable or you simply don’t have the time, buy some treats. Regardless of what you bring, it will be appreciated.
Day 18: Volunteer at a Local Animal Shelter
Animal shelters are always in need of volunteers, though sometimes there is an age requirement, so call your local shelter. Volunteering isn’t always the fun stuff so keep in mind that it could mean a day of cleaning, but animal shelters need this to keep animals safe and healthy. If your shelter doesn’t need volunteers, has a waiting period, or age requirement (and your kiddos are too young), there are other ways to help and here are just a few examples…
- bring in old but good blankets and towels
- buying cleaning supplies
- pay for the donation of an animal
- becoming an animal foster parent
However you can help, your local shelter will appreciate it and it can be a valuable lesson to little ones. My children learned a LOT during our time at our local shelter and with the foster cats we had.
Day 17: Have a Family Night with Friends
Having a family night with your own family might be hard, so this one might seem crazy, especially at this time of year. Getting together with friends is easy when we’re younger but once family life and responsibilities hit, it seems like a distant memory. This has been true for our family and many of our friends too but having a small event can be a great way of giving back because you are not only treating your friends to some fun, but you are also showing them how much they mean to you.
Maybe planning something like this for December is just too much, no worries, use this time to plan something for January. Maybe having it at night is out of the question, instead have a brunch or pancake breakfast. My family and I usually get together with another family on New Year’s Eve. It isn’t anything to write home about, just some time for adults to chat, kids to run around, and an excuse to eat some more cookies! Remember, don’t make it stressful and who knows… maybe you’ll start a tradition!
Day 16: Give Back to Those That Go the Extra Mile
Giving back is often done in general but it is ok to give back to those that we feel simply deserve it. December is a great time to show extra appreciation to those we are often in contact with, who go above and beyond. Perhaps there is someone at your bank or a local pharmacist that is always especially kind, takes the time to explain things, or who in general takes interest in you, that you would like to give back to. Taking in a card with a $5 coffee gift card to this person will bring a smile to their face. If you have many people like this in your life and a $5 coffee card for each of them is just too expensive… no problem, bake some cookies and take it to them or simply give them a card with a sentiment written inside.
Day 15: Share Information About Charities or Causes Online
Giving back doesn’t always mean making or buying… you can give back by sharing information. If you have a cause or charity that you support, give back by sharing it on social media and letting others know why it is important to you. This allows these charities or causes to get known and even the chance to get donated to.
I would recommend sharing causes that are non-political in nature and to always share why the cause and/or charity hits close to home… along with a link to learn more.
Day 14: Write Letters to Active Military Officers or for Your Local Heroes
Every year there are those that are on active duty and are unable to be home for Christmas. You and your family can brighten their season by sending letters and packages to those on active duty. There are many places to send cards and gifts to, though they usually have deadlines in early December. To still give back, your family can make a donation to help cover the cost of shipping because most of the organizations are non-profit, they still pay shipping costs. Visit Holiday Cards 4 Our Military for a better idea on what to send to those that are active, how to send cards, and where to send them to.
Another way to give back to those that have served, is to make cards for those in your community that have been in the military. You can call your local Legion or V.F.W. and see about dropping cards to them, that they can pass out to members of your community that have served. This is a great way to give back locally and has less of a deadline.
Remember, keep the cards kind, non-political, and thankful. My family has done this in the past, making a couple cards per kiddo… and it is a great reminder of what others go through for each of us.
Day 13: Donate Books to a Little Library
This one is special to me because my family has put up a Little Library in our yard and it has become a special place for people to come and get books. We stock it but are always surprised when we see that someone else has filled it with books. Sometimes these books are new and sometimes they are gently used, but both are appreciated. If you don’t know if you have a little library in your area, you can visit here and type in your area code. Once you’ve figured your closest library, assuming there is one close, you can simply head over and put your books in.
If you don’t have one close to you, there are many other places that would love to have your used books or a donation of new ones. Shelters come to mind but maybe your local police station would be interested in having children’s books on hand and a senior center might appreciate both children’s and adult books.
For more information on Little Libraries, head to their website.
Day 12: Volunteer at a Senior Center or Nursing Home
This might be more difficult in the midst of covid, and it has limited us 2 years now, however, before covid, my family and I volunteered weekly at a local senior center. We volunteered to play piano for a half hour during Christmas time one year and decided to continue volunteering year-round. Christmas is a great time to volunteer because sadly, many residents don’t have family that come visit them, yet are very aware of what time of year it is.
To get involved, call your local senior center and ask when they have times available for you to come in or if there is a specific need. It could be that they don’t need volunteers but are looking for help with something specific. One year our local center was full on volunteers at Christmas but needed help funding the patient’s holiday party. My family and I bought a bunch of ice cream and other things for the party, allowing us to still help.
Both last year and this year, our family made cards for those at our local senior center because of covid. This might be a better option for you. We simply have to drop them off and the staff with pass them out for us. If you aren’t sure where to start with the cards… take a look at some of our homemade cards.
While Christmas is an important time to volunteer at a senior center, consider trying to get involved year-round. If you are unsure how you can help, below are some things that might be needed…
- reading to the patients
- doing the patient’s nails
- playing the piano
- bringing snacks
- hosting a game time
One last note… it isn’t always easy to volunteer at a senior center and it might be downright uncomfortable at first, however, it is one of the most selfless things a person can do and will be greatly appreciated.
Day 11: Make Cookies for your Neighbors
Baking cookies for your neighbors is a fairly easy way to give back and it can be done anonymously or as a gift. You obviously don’t have to bake dozens for each neighbor, a simple half dozen will be appreciated. The cookies can be simple sugar cookies or something elaborate, but whatever you decide to do, make sure to include an ingredients list with the cookies.
We do this every year as a family. The kids and I make dozens of cookies, place them in treat bags, then include the bag with an ingredient list into a slightly bigger paper bag, and either staple it shut or close it with a sticker. My husband and I then walk them around the block, as they try to leave the cookies as anonymously as possible on our neighbor’s porches, though motion lights and smart doorbells often give them away. Giving this way has become a lot of fun and has is now a family tradition. It has also created some friendly encounters with our neighbors, which is great!
Just remember 2 things… keep it simple, don’t feel the need to impress your neighbors… and make some extra cookies for your family, because they always sneak a few!
Day 10: Donate Gently Used Items
Many families find themselves in the situation of having too much stuff. Give back to others by finding items in the house that aren’t used as much as they should be and donate them to a local shelter. Many homeless shelters and crisis centers are often in need and are happy to take gently loved items. To make an impact, turn this into a family night where everyone finds items to donate. This will help children understand the value of the things they have.
Once you have some items, call local shelters and centers in your area to make sure that the items meet the requirements that they have. If they do not, that is ok, there are other places to donate to, like youth centers, libraries, YMCAs, group homes, foster homes, and churches, though there are probably plenty more… so call around.
A quick side note, remember the items should be gently used or like new condition. Getting a used item is fine, I buy used items a lot, however, giving things that are broken or in disrepair is not giving. That doesn’t mean those things should head to the garbage, they surely have a use being upcycled in some way, they just aren’t meant for this type of giving.
Day 9: Double a Recipe and Give Half to a Neighbor
Many people already double recipes when they cook for meal prepping, so that aspect of the idea won’t seem strange, though for some, it might seem odd to give the double portion to a neighbor. For this, neighbor can be an actual neighbor, a co-worker, a friend, a church goer… anyone that might need a little uplifting or assistance.
Perhaps you know someone that is taking care of a sick relative or someone who isn’t especially mobile or maybe even just someone that has been feeling down, perhaps because of the holidays… they might really benefit from having a helping hand.
Simply make your favorite casserole, double the recipe, and take it to the recipient. For even more impact, head to your local secondhand store and purchase an extra casserole dish. This way your recipient can keep the dish without having the stress of returning it.
Make sure to include an ingredients list and heating instructions.
Day 8: Take Some Treats to Your Co-Workers
This is a fairly easy way to give and one that you might already practice. On the way to work, you might stop for a doughnut and grab a dozen for the office, however, if you have not done this, now is your chance. This small gesture, even if done just rarely, can really lift the spirits and show your co-workers that you appreciate them… even if… well, you don’t. Please understand, I don’t say that to be funny, many people LOVE their co-workers and others simply don’t, but… whatever issue we may have with them, if we reflect, we will usually see it is small in comparison with what is truly important in life.
I am a stay-at-home mom, I homeschool my kids and teach other learners online during the day, and I don’t have co-workers, but my hubby does. Every once in a while, I will send with him cookies, fudge, or some random treat for his co-workers. It is a small gesture but is always well received. If you feel comfortable making treats… great and if not… that is ok too! Grabbing a dozen doughnuts or a box of doughnut holes is sufficient. Remember, it is the thought that counts!
Day 7: Organize a Giving Party
Giving Parties are designed to celebrate and give to others, usually a charity, at the same time. The premise is to plan a party or get together, but instead of gifts or food, ask those participating to donate money or something specific for a charity. This can be done anytime of the year and would be a great idea for birthday parties, super bowl parties, or for something like a Christmas open house, in your home. If you are reading this during December, it might be too late to plan this for Christmas, however, that doesn’t mean you can’t get the ball rolling for next Christmas or for another time of the year.
To organize a party, you will need a charity to donate to and a party theme. If you are wanting to do this for Christmas, set a date for an open house and invite people to come to your home between certain hours for snacks and drinks, however, ask them to bring an unwrapped gift for Toys for Tots or a small monetary amount for a specific charity. Make sure you let it be known that 100% of the money will go to the charity. Of course, this is just one example, though the possibilities are many!
However you plan it, knowing that you and your guests are getting together for a cause, having fun and catching up… all while giving back… it will make your season brighter!
Day 6: Donate a Toy to Charity
When we do this, it is usually to Toys for Tots, which is a pretty widely recognized charity in the US. Toys for Tots is unique because while it has a big national presence, there are local chapters helping local people, so many of the toys donated to an area, actually stay in that area. Toys for Tots is also convenient, as you will see many boxes in local stores like Walmart or Walgreens. This allows you to walk in, buy a toy, and donate it on your way out.
There are other charities to donate toys to. Many places have things like “Angel Trees”, a tree with names of children and gift suggestions. Often time, trees like this have siblings as well and can be a great idea for a family to do together.
Wherever you decide to donate, keep some guidelines in mind…
Types of Toys to Donate
preferably around the $10 or above price range
books are also needed (children receive 2 toys each and 3 books count as ONE gift!)
homemade toys are also accepted
What Not to Donate
toys that look like realistic weapons
toys with candy or food
toys with chemicals (i.e., experimental labs, acid, crystal projects, etc.)
Day 5: Help a Neighbor
This is a bit vague I suppose but you would be surprised how many neighbors need help from time to time. I remember a time (a couple of years actually) when my husband’s job had him gone for work M-F and I was home with 3 kids in diapers… I needed lots of help, but I had no one to ask and no one noticed. Helping each other should be at the core of who we all are, but it’s hard. We are all tired, however, if there is ever a time to give a bit more… it is during the holidays.
You would be surprised how many of the elderly would like to decorate but can’t, and sadly many of their children and grandchildren live elsewhere. If you have an elderly neighbor or even a neighbor that maybe recently has a broken leg, don’t be scared to knock on the door and ask if they’d like you to put up a string of outdoor lights for them, or better yet… grab a wreath and bring it to hang on their door. If you don’t have a neighbor in need, how about your own grandparents?
People are often scared of offending others… and maybe your kindness will be shot down… that is OK! You did what was right, you created a spark of kindness, and we can’t let others stop us from doing what is right. If we all looked after each other a bit, the world would be a much better place, and not just at Christmas.
Day 4: Start a Holiday Tag Game in Your Community
This is a super fun way to give back and can really be done anytime of the year, however, it is usually played around holidays, and especially Christmas. Essentially, the game is played like this… person A gets a set of “tag pages” and either makes or buys some cookies. Then, person A, drops off the tag pages, with the treats, to person B. This can be done anonymously or in person, face to face. Next, person B copies the tag pages, then, hangs 1 of the tag pages in their door to announce that they’ve been “tagged”. The other tag page (the instruction page) can be discarded.
Person B then takes their copied tag pages, bakes or buys some cookies, and then takes both the pages and treats to person C, who does the same to a new person… who keeps the tag game going. There is no limit of people each person along the way can tag, so you see how this can spread quickly.
Often the tag games will be themed and have catchy titles and/or sayings. For instance, around Christmas, you might see “You’ve Been Mugged” or “You’ve Been Elfed”. At Thanksgiving, you might see “You’ve Been Gobbled”. The mugged, elfed, and gobbled implying that the recipient has been “tagged”.
My family and I have had a lot of fun doing this, so much that I made some of these tag games for my Etsy shop, which you can check out here.
Day 3: Make Christmas Cards
Many people send Christmas cards so this might not be seen as a “new” act of giving, but it is. When sending a card, you are sending a thought to someone, not to mention cards are not free. Making Christmas cards is taking the thought a step further. By making cards, you can make something personal to the recipient, also it shows that you took even more time to create something special for them. Making homemade Christmas cards can also be something to do as a family, and with supplies, it is very easy. If you aren’t sure where to begin, check out these simple homemade Christmas cards we made.
Remember, sending mail domestically usually takes 3-7 days, however, holidays can add time. I would take the safe route and give 2 weeks.
Day 2: Donate Food to a Food Bank
Grocery stores will bag up food, staple them shut, pace a price tag on it ($3, $5, $10, remember that giving doesn’t have to break the bank), and set them out for shoppers to purchase, at least our local Kroger has done this. Then, they take the food to the local food bank. This is easy… and there is absolutely nothing wrong with giving back… being easy. So, if your local grocery store does this, great, but if not maybe suggest it. Otherwise, you can buy some food and take it to a food bank yourself or even better yet, buy a bag of food for a needy or elderly neighbor. It doesn’t have to seem like charity or a handout. You can simply buy some extra staples, maybe something fun, throw them in a bag or box, knock on the door, and say, “There were some great deals and I thought of you”!
If you don’t have a food bank near you, you can always donate cash online. Often food banks can do more with cash than we can, meaning that they can make the dollars stretch, so $2 would buy more food than the $2 of food you would bring. Not far from me, there is an organization simply called Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, where 94% of contributions go to feeding those in need and where $1 can provide 3 meals. Donating just a few dollars to them would be very helpful and a great opportunity to teach children. Having each of your kids give a couple dollars of their own money to provide for others… is a great teaching moment.
Another great idea would be to host a canned food drive at your church or with some sort of league. Regardless if hosting a food drive or donating food, remember to only donate non-perishable items. The following items are always needed…
- Canned Chicken and Tuna
- Peanut Butter
- Grape Jelly
- Low Sodium Canned Vegetables including Whole Kernel Corn, Green Beans, Mixed Vegetables, Diced Tomatoes
- Low Sugar/Light Syrup Canned Fruit including Apple Sauce, Fruit Cocktail, Peaches, Pears
- Canned Soups, Stews, Ravioli, Chili and Chowders
- Boxed Meals – Macaroni and Cheese, Lasagna, Cheeseburger and Tuna Helpers
- Shelf Stable Low Fat and Powdered Milk
- Canned Beans – Red, Kidney, Black, Northern
- Boxed Breakfast Cereals
- Healthy Snacks including Microwavable Popcorn, Granola Bars, Peanuts, Pretzels, Low Fat Pudding Packs
- Starches including Rice, Spaghetti, Macaroni, Egg Noodles
- Baking Products including Cooking Oil, Sugar, Flour, Salt
- Condiments including Ketchup, Mustard, Vinegar
Day 1: Register to be a bell ringer for The Salvation Army
This is an easy thing to do as it doesn’t cost any money but does require a bit of planning and a couple hours. You can check your area for times and places to ring the bell. My kids and I have done this many times at local stores and we ALWAYS have fun. We wear a Christmas sweater and play Christmas music in the background. It isn’t always easy to see the Scrooges’ and Grinchy people, but it is a great way to give back and to teach children about volunteering! Side note here… if you see a bell ringer, they are volunteering and are not personally vested if you donate… they just want to give back and spread cheer… so SMILE AND BE KIND TO THEM!
If time is an issue, you can also donate to The Salvation Army directly on their website or you can be a virtual bell ringer. I signed the kids and I up to ring the bell next week and became a virtual bell ringer… if you would like to donate to my fundraiser you can do that here (I don’t get anything from it except satisfaction of knowing my posts might matter a little).
Also, for those not sure about this charity or any, you can check into many charities with Charity Navigator, however, as The Salvation Army has religious exception, it is not evaluated by them, though many, many charities are… it is a great place to start if you are curious about a charity, however, I did do a bit of digging and found that the CEO of The Salvation Army makes $126,920 a year, which is much lower than the CEO of the United Way ($1,236,611) or the Red Cross ($1,037,000).