With Black Friday behind us and only 3 weeks to go before Christmas, it’s time to focus our attention on the true spirit of the season – generosity. This Tuesday, December 2 join the rest of the world in celebrating the official start of the giving season – #GivingTuesday.
In 2012, 92nd Street Y partnered with the United Nations Foundation in the U.S. to launch #GivingTuesday, a day for individuals and organizations to band together and get creative in giving back. Last year, the first #GivingTuesday movement broke ground in Canada.
During the most wonderful time of the year, our thoughts automatically turn to holiday shopping, gift giving, entertaining, decorating and of course, spending quality time with loved ones. But for many in our city, the holidays are anything but wonderful. For the less fortunate, this time can be full of loneliness, depression and heartache.
I scoured the web and put together 6 easy ways you can spread a bit of peace, joy, hope and love in your community this season…
1. Serve up some warmth and love to the homeless
Winter in Toronto can be pretty harsh, especially for those men, women and children living on the streets. Spread a bit of holiday cheer by putting together blessing bags or care kits. Simply gather a group of friends, pool your money together, head to the mall, stock up and pack items in small backpacks or lunch bags. Walk around your city as a group and hand out the kits to the homeless.
The Yonge Street Mission’s Double Take Thrift Store provides affordable clothing and household items for the community and a way for clients to choose business attire for job interviews. You can support this initiative by donating gently used clothing, bed linen, housewares and furniture.
2. Feed a family in need
Many families in the city don’t have the luxury of a full table during the holiday season. The Stop Community Food Centre Gifts That Matter program allows you to make a $25 donation on behalf of those on your holiday gift list. Your donation is used to purchase a healthy food hamper for a family in need this holiday season.
3. Organize a food drive or donate to your local food bank
The Ontario Association of Food Banks just released its Hunger Report for 2014. This year, first-time users of food banks spiked by 20 per cent.
Food banks really feel the strain around the holidays. Host a food drive in your office, school, neighbourhood, church or community group and help keep the shelves at your local food bank stocked. Daily Bread Food Bank offers handy toolkits and guidelines for organizing your own food drive.
Feed the need in your community. Throw a few extra non-perishables in your cart when you do your weekly grocery shopping and drop them off at the food bank of your choice:
4. Donate items to a women’s shelter
North York Women’s Shelter, The Redwood and Red Door Family Shelter provide a safe haven for women and children who are survivors of violence and abuse. Consult each organization’s wishlist for high-priority items, collect donations from friends and co-workers, and drop off gifts this holiday season.
5. Support a toy drive
Churches, hospitals, charities and businesses hold toy drives and deliver the toys to needy families in time for Christmas morning.
SickKids accepts donations of unwrapped brand new toys, books, electronics, gift cards for teens and baby equipment. Imagine having to spend the holidays in the hospital? Your gifts help keep children entertained during their hospital stay.
Holiday toy drives in the city:
6. Volunteer with a charity you love
Chances are there’s a cause out there that’s dear to your heart; one you’ve always wanted to support. Over the holidays, charities and non-profits need all the help they can get, so why not give your time.
+ Yonge Street Mission provides free meals, clothing, healthcare, job training, education and addictions counseling to marginalized adults, homeless youth and isolated seniors.
- Lend a hand and your heart at the annual Christmas Food Market – sort food items, receive food shipments and assist visitors.
- Wrap, sort and deliver Christmas Cheer Boxes for seniors.
- Grab your friends or co-workers and work as a team to prepare and serve meals for the Mission’s Christmas Banquets.
+ Holiday Helpers has made it their mission to grant Christmas wishes. The volunteer-based charity provides Christmas packages to low income families with young children. Each family receives an artificial Christmas tree complete with lights and decorations, a gift certificate to a local grocery store, and personalized gifts from the family’s wish list.
- Got good managerial skills? Sign up for the role of Wrapping Floor Manager.
- Santa’s helpers and wrappers: Help set up the warehouse, wrap and label gifts, and sort Christmas decorations.
- Deliver Santa’s presents: If you drive a mid to large-sized vehicle, deliver presents from the wrapping location to families.
Remember, it’s not how much you choose to give that matters. What matters is that you give from the heart. No act of kindness is too small. Give whatever you are able to give – it could make a world of difference in someone’s life.
2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
What’s your favourite way to spread cheer during the holiday season?
(Image via 100 Layer Cake, modifications by me)