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Six ways to give back, help others at Christmas

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Christmas is a time to show others how much you care, but that isn’t limited to your family and friends.

There are people in your own community who are struggling right now. While you can’t possibly help all of them by yourself, you do have the power to make a difference for some of them.

From making donations and volunteering your time to getting your children involved, here are a few ways to consider giving back during the holidays... 

1. Your time

Christmas is a busy time of year, but it’s also a time to reflect on your blessings and find a way to help others. Without thousands of volunteers working across the Maritimes each December, there sadly wouldn’t be a Christmas for many families.

Think about your talents and how you might be able to lend a hand, even if it’s just one day for a couple of hours. Is there an organization in your community where you could help cook or deliver meals? What about collecting and sorting donations?

If you have skills in social media or marketing, consider offering to help a local charitable organization promote their cause. If you’re a social person who enjoys meeting new people, what about visiting residents of a long-term care facility? A little kindness could mean everything to someone who doesn’t get holiday visitors.

2. Your home

It isn’t just strangers you can help over the holidays. There may be a friend, neighbour or colleague who isn’t speaking up. Is there someone in your life who might be spending Christmas alone, and would love an invitation to have Christmas dinner with you and your family?

3. Food and personal care items

Ask your local food bank what kinds of donations they need at the moment. They could be overstocked on pasta and canned goods, but desperate for diapers, formula and peanut butter. Look through your cupboards to see what can be donated -- nothing expired, please -- and take a trip to the grocery store to buy the rest.

If you have children, encourage them to help you choose items to donate. Let them choose kid-friendly groceries like cereal and granola bars, and talk about how some children don’t have enough to eat at home.

4. Cash

Cash is always a welcome donation for charities, especially at this time of year. A cash donation to the local food bank means they can use the money to buy fresh fruits and veggies, milk, bread, or even a turkey for a needy family. Cash donations to children’s holiday charities will buy new toys for children who need them. Cash donations are also critical to keeping shelters running year-round.

5. Warm clothes

Whether we have snow or not at Christmas, it’s still the Maritimes and it’s likely going to be cold. No one should spend it shivering because they’re underdressed out in the elements.

See if your community is running a clothing drive, and consider donating unused winter jackets, snow pants, boots, mittens, gloves, hats or scarves you no longer need. Homeless shelters are often happy to accept these items, too.

6. Toys and gifts

Chances are, your local shopping mall is collecting donations of new toys and gifts for needy families in the area. Sometimes they’ll ask for general donations and pass them along to those who need them, and other times they’ll ask you to select a specific recipient (i.e., boy, age nine) and purchase an item with them in mind.

If you have children, bring them along to choose a toy for the child and talk about what they might enjoy opening on Christmas morning. It could result in an important conversation about gratitude and kindness.

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