5 Ways to Give Back this Holiday Season


Toronto Christmas Market at sunset

When December rolls around, our attention turns to finding the perfect gift for our loved ones, decorating our homes, and planning holiday dinners and parties. It’s so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of activity so each year I take the time to slow down, step back from it all, give thanks, and show love to others.

While I believe in giving back year round, non-profit and community groups really feel the crunch around the holidays.

If you’re looking to brighten the lives of others this holiday season, here are 5 ways you can give back…

Donate to a cause that matters to you.

Non-profit and community organizations abound so do some research and choose one that speaks to you.

Here’s a list of causes I believe in:

Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund. Founded in 1906, this charity provides 45,000 underprivileged children with a gift at Christmastime. Children who receive gift boxes are referred by social and community service agencies and often come from low-income, single-parent families and new immigrant homes. All donations are used to purchase gift boxes filled with warm clothing, a toy, candy, and dental hygiene items.

Holiday Helpers Canada. This charity has made it their mission to grant Christmas wishes in the Greater Toronto Area. All donations help provide Christmas packages to low-income families with young children. Each package includes a decorated Christmas tree, a grocery store gift card for a Christmas dinner, and gifts for each family member from their wish lists. You can choose an option that fits your budget.

The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund. Now in its 105th year, the fund provides direct assistance to those struggling in New York and beyond. All money collected is distributed to individuals through the fund’s eight participating organizations. Here’s a list of the organizations. Also, the stories of those who benefited or may benefit from the fund are so incredibly moving.

Make blessing bags and hand them out to the homeless.

Canadian winters can be downright brutal even when you’re all bundled up. When the temperature drops and the wind chill reaches dangerous levels, people living on the street more often than not refuse to go to a shelter. A few years ago, the city was hit by an ice storm so a couple of friends and I decided to put together blessing bags for the homeless.

Gather your friends, pool your money together, visit your local Walmart and stock up on hats, gloves, socks, travel-sized toiletries, grocery store and coffee shop gift cards, and pack items in large freezer bags or backpacks. Write an encouraging note and slip it inside each bag. Hit the streets on Christmas Eve and hand them out to the homeless.

Donate urgent need items to a shelter of your choice.

Youth, homeless, and women’s shelters depend on the public for everything from winter gear to baby formula to personal hygiene items to bed sheets. If you live in the Toronto area, local shelters are accepting holiday gifts. Here’s a list of Toronto-based agencies and their holiday wish lists.

Volunteer as a food sorter at your local food bank.

According to the Daily Bread Food Bank’s 2016 Who’s Hungry report, “The average monthly income of people coming to food banks in Toronto is $750. After rent and utilities are paid, people are left with $7.09 per day on average to pay for other necessities.” As we move into the holiday season, food banks really feel the strain as the demand for food aid soars.

If you live in the Toronto area, Daily Bread Food Bank needs volunteers for its Holiday Drive Public Food Sorts. Grab your family, friends, and co-workers and spend a couple of hours sorting food. Online registration begins on December 6.

Give gifts that give back.

Davids Tea Me to We Tea Tin, $18. Davids Tea worked together with Me to We to create this fruity, all-natural tea blend. Each purchase provides three months of clean water to a child in Kenya.

Davids Tea Me to We Colour Changing Travel Mug, $35. A travel mug (that changes colour!) for the tea lover on your list. Davids Tea partnered with Me to We to create this beautiful leak-proof, double-walled travel mug. Each purchase provides six months of clean water to a child in Kenya.

The Little Market Cool & Calm Soaking Salt, $18. This soaking salt contains a blend of peppermint essential oil and pink Himalayan sea salt. Each batch is made with care by Bright Endeavors, a Chicago-based organization dedicated to helping young mothers get out of poverty through their paid transitional jobs program. Each purchase provides young women with coaching, guidance, and job training.

Paisley + Sparrow Chevron Necklace, $34. This gorgeous chevron necklace is the perfect gift for the fashionista on your list. Handcrafted by a survivor of modern day slavery, each purchase provides women who have survived sex trafficking with counseling, education, medical support, and employment.

Kiehl’s FAILE Collection for a Cause, $45. This gift set includes the brand’s Daily Reviving Concentrate, Limited Edition Ultra Facial Cream, and Limited Edition Creme de Corps. All profits go to Feeding America, the largest hunger relief organization in the United States. Each purchase provides 415 meals to those in need.

How are you giving back this holiday season? Feel free to share in the comments!

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