The following ways to give back can provide a discussion starter for your family. While these focus on charitable giving, families give traditional gifts too. Talk about how to make gift giving at birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays most meaningful to your family by engaging children’s hearts and minds in the creative and caring process of thinking and doing for someone else.
PLEDGE TO VOLUNTEER
Start locally. Volunteer as a family. There are many community organizations that need your time and support. There are more people in need than ever before. Did you know, for example, that nearly one in every six seniors in America faces the threat of hunger? Discover how you and your children can help with this issue and other needs in your neighborhood through the power of gift giving.
SPONSOR AN IMPOVERISHED FAMILY
The Family-to-Family project helps American families share their bounties with others who are impoverished. They will link your family with a family struggling to put food on the table. Once a month, they’ll ask you to either shop, pack and send a box of groceries to them, or make a donation that allows them to do it for you. The best way is to get kids involved in the shopping, in the process of giving! Encourage children to reflect on what others would want, how they can empathize with families different from their own.
SEND A PACKAGE TO AN AMERICAN SOLDIER
The nonprofit organization AnySoldier.com invites you and your children to help make the holidays more special for American soldiers stationed in harm’s way. You can choose to support any of the Armed Services, decide what you want to send, and get children involved in gift giving by making cards and selecting gifts. Plan ahead so a soldier in Iraq, Afghanistan, or another place of global conflict can receive your family’s heartfelt gratitude for the job they do.
VISIT A NURSING HOME OR HOSPITAL
Bring the spirit of the holidays to those who otherwise might not have a celebration. The Holiday Project is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to pass along from generation to generation the responsibility of making a difference in the world by experiencing the difference we make in each other’s lives. The project connects volunteers with thousands of people spending Christmas, Chanukah, and other holidays confined to hospitals, nursing homes, and other institutions. Start one of these gift-giving projects in your community or join one already operating.
SERVE A MEAL TO THE HOMELESS
The National Coalition for the Homeless is a national network of people committed to ending homelessness. They work to meet the immediate needs of people who are homeless by providing education, advocacy, and grassroots organizing. Check their directories of national and local organizations where your family can help during the holidays or throughout the year.
DONATE TO A FOOD BANK
Right now, the programs that put food on the table for America’s vulnerable children, seniors, and working families are on the chopping block. Your help is desperately needed to fill food banks and pantries throughout the country. Feeding America, a nonprofit network of member food banks, can help your family find convenient ways to become gift givers.