As we gather together with family and friends this holiday season to give thanks, share memories and create priceless memories, it is also a great reminder of how much we have.
And the perfect opportunity to give back.
Whether you are looking to give back to an organization that has helped you or make a difference to someone who may have less than you, now is the time of the year to take a step back and reflect on the ways you can share your good fortune with others. Take a look around you at the organizations that are near and dear to your heart and help out.
According to the American Red Cross, the need for blood is constant. Every two seconds, someone in the United States need blood, and more than 44,000 blood donations are needed every day. Less than 38 percent of the United States population is eligible to give blood.
If you fall within the population that is eligible, what a wonderful gift that is. The donation itself usually takes less than 15 minutes, and the entire process is about an hour and 15 minutes. You are truly giving the gift of life if you donate blood.
Local libraries often have giving trees set up during the holidays. Monetary donations are used to purchase items on the library’s wish list. This helps supplement budgets often cut in the face of tough economic times. If you love to read, giving books is a wonderful way to share your love of reading with others. That one purchase may be opening up new possibilities to an endless number of people. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Contact Hennepin County Libraries to see if they have a giving tree or wish list. Most libraries accept donations throughout the year. Check with your school library as well for another avenue of giving. And remember, libraries often offer other ways to volunteer.
Many organizations have toy drives during the holidays to gather gifts for children who would otherwise not receive toys this year. Toys for Tots is one of those organization. You can find a local drop point here. The Salvation Army often has Angel Trees during the holiday season. Operation Christmas Child allows the whole family to participate. Get the children in on the shopping as you select gifts to pack a shoebox for a child in another country. Find out more at Samaritan’s Purse.
National Collection Week is this week, Nov. 12-19. As you look around, you may find many groups doing similar good deeds, adopting local families and gathering gifts at local retailers.
Local food banks are always in need of money and food donations, but during the holidays, many local food banks provide special holiday baskets for qualifying families.
Bloomington's VEAP, which serves thousands of local families, is always accepting food donations.
You can find other food shelves near you at FoodPantries.org. Feeding America distributes money and food nationwide through member food banks. Often, local food pantries and soup kitchens are looking for volunteers to help serve food or restock shelves.
Many of the organizations listed above also accept monetary donations. The American Red Cross is a leader in helping those in need, whether during times of natural disasters or during other challenging times. If you respect a local organization at work in your communities, find out how you can give by contacting them.
Volunteer at a local homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Become a Big Brother or Big Sister. Offer your expertise as a 4-H leader or project leader. Deliver Meals on Wheels to people in need. Help out a neighbor in need by raking leaves. Look for opportunities at your local church. Ring a bell for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Drive.
Often what organizations need most are volunteers, someone to help with their efforts. Whether you have just an hour or can give a more permanent commitment, nonprofit organizations thrive on volunteers. You don’t have to spend money to help someone in need. Just being there is often enough.
How have you given back during the holiday season? If you know of other organizations who are looking for more help during the holidays, tell us in the comment section below.