With all the past few years have thrown our way, there’s no better time to take advantage of holiday volunteer opportunities. As the year comes to an end, take a moment to reflect on the deeper meaning of the holiday season: spreading joy by giving.
From writing letters and sending care packages to donating items, money or your time, check out these holiday volunteer opportunities and giving ideas, and lend a hand to someone who needs it this holiday season.
Donate Clothes to Local Drives
As the weather grows colder, many charities and volunteer groups host clothing and blanket drives for homeless shelters and families in need.
You can provide warmth to the less fortunate by donating blankets, coats and other seasonal clothing to local drives or organizations like New York Cares and One Warm Coat. Beginning on Dec. 1, AAA Northeast will be collecting new and gently used clothing at AAA branches. Members can drop donations off in bins located near branch entryways.
Send Care Packages
If you have friends or family members you haven’t seen in a while, consider reaching out by sending them a care package.
Whether it’s a holiday care package filled with seasonal goodies or a box of items the recipient can use to treat themselves, simply showing you care can go a long way. Include a handwritten note and a few of their favorite snacks to make it even more personal. Keep the whole thing a secret, and your loved one will enjoy a pleasant surprise.
Donate Toys to Kids in Need
Organizations like Cradles to Crayons, which accepts clothing, shoes and books as well as toys, and Toys For Tots – now featuring a new Virtual Toy Box that lets you donate from home – are both great options for bringing joy to children in need.
If you’d prefer donating to places closer to home, reach out to local daycare centers or children’s homes and shelters, where new and gently used toys will be greatly appreciated. Also consider hospitals, where toys can go to ailing children, their siblings or help keep kids entertained in waiting rooms. These toys should be new due to hospitals’ hygiene policies. Contact the hospital for more specific requirements.
Thank Mail and Delivery Personnel
The holiday season is always busy for delivery drivers and mail delivery personnel, and this year will be especially hectic with so many people still opting to shop online and send gifts rather than doing it in person.
Take a moment to leave a small gift or card for your mail person, UPS and/or Fed Ex driver(s). Saying thank you to these essential workers is thoughtful anytime, but especially during their busiest season.
Donate Food to Local Drives
The COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in food insecurity in the U.S. Donating food to a local pantry or food bank can make a difference this holiday season. Canned foods like fruit, vegetables, beans and soups along with dry goods like pasta and rice are all great things to donate.
Reach Out to Military Personnel
Send holiday cards, care packages and other thoughtful gifts to military personnel and veterans this season.
Formerly known as Holiday Mail for Heroes, the American Red Cross’s Holidays for Heroes campaign aims to “thank and recognize members of the military and veterans living in our communities.” Contact your local Red Cross office for more information on volunteering and making a donation.
If you know a local veteran, show your appreciation with a good deed. Help them put up their outdoor holiday decorations, clear snow from their driveway or cook them a homemade meal. Remember to also keep them, yourself and your community safe by continuing to follow CDC guidelines.
Care for Animals
Don’t forget to spread some holiday cheer to animals as well. You can donate treats, toys, food and other pet supplies to your local pet shelter. Consider volunteering at an animal shelter or – if you have the time, space and energy – try fostering or choose to adopt a pet.
Tips for Charitable Holiday Giving
Also, don’t forget that any donations you make can count as charitable deductions during tax time.
“To qualify for a tax deduction in the current calendar year, donors also must make their yearly giving decisions by Dec. 31,” according to Charity Navigator. “As a result, a tremendous amount of charitable giving occurs between #GivingTuesday, which is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and the end of the year.”
Holiday Volunteer Opportunities
Still taking extra precautions? You can make a difference even while social distancing. Learn more about virtual volunteer opportunities and other good deeds you can do from home.
Discover how AAA Northeast spreads joy throughout the year by visiting the AAA in the Community page.
What kinds of charitable holiday giving will you be doing this year? Tell us in the comments.