How to "pay it forward" this holiday season
The holidays remind of us of how wonderful it is to be surrounded by loved ones, enjoying one another's company, and eating great meals. It’s about creating lifetime memories. It also reminds of how blessed we are and not to take things for granted. Unfortunately, we live in a world where there are those who are less fortunate than us and don’t have the luxury of being able share the same memories with families around the holidays.
Did you know that “On a single night in January 2015, 564,708 people were experiencing homelessness — meaning they were sleeping outside or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program.” The study was conducted by endhomelessness.org. There are several indicators that have led to the increase of homelessness across America “Many poor people are at risk of homelessness. Ultimately, this is because it is hard for them to afford housing. Unemployment, housing cost burden, and living doubled up are indications of this struggle to afford housing.”
“Paying it forward” is one of the most self-less acts of kindness known to man. It brings about a sense of gratitude to both the giver and the receiver of the act. As a business owner, we can always find ways to give back to the communities in which we are a part of, especially during the holiday season. It’s not too early to plan ahead for the holidays. In fact, the earlier the better.
Here are 10 ways you can give back this holiday season
As children, we can all remember being excited waking up on Christmas morning to a beautifully decorated Christmas tree with gifts underneath. Imagine the number of children across the nation who won’t be able to share that same excitement as you did growing up. Well you can certainly make a child’s dream come true by participating in a toy drive! You can donate to national organizations like Toys for Tots and Marine for Tots or, you can organize your own toy drive and donate them to a shelter, inner city school or even a church. Do you love to throw parties? Host a party holiday party/toy drive drive and ask party guests to bring unwrapped gifts.
According to Outnumber Hunger.com “More than 12 million families in America* struggle with hunger”. From the Salvation Army to the Red Cross, many organizations feed of upwards to 20,000 families per week. Collecting can food and nonperishables at your place of business is one way you can help feed families this holiday season. Most national organizations will place a bin at your company to collect the canned goods. After you’ve filled your bin, you can schedule to have them picked up.
Do you have any clothes that you no longer wear? What about the clothes hanging in your closet with the tags still on them that you have no intention on wearing? Now is no better time than to clean out your closet! Give back this holiday season by donating any gently used, CLEAN clothes. The items can be donated either to your local shelter, church or you can hand out the clothes yourself. If you're donating to a homeless shelter make sure that the items are dark clothing as the light clothing gets dirty easily. The most requested items are socks, and anything with long sleeves.
Adopt a Classroom
How would you like to make a child’s Christmas spectacular this season? Adopt a classroom! Find a school nearest to you and ask the school if you can gift items to a classroom this holiday season. Have the children provide a wish list. Plan a day prior to their winter break to gift the children their items. Want to add some holiday fun?! Hire a Santa Clause to help pass the gifts out to the children. Bring holiday treats, (make sure you check with the teacher regarding the children’s dietary restrictions), play some Christmas music and enjoy your time with the kids! There’s no better feeling than putting a smile on a child’s face!
Adopt a family
Some families struggle daily to make ends meet. Others have suffered devastating losses and will not be able to enjoy the holiday season with their loved ones. This holiday season, "adopt" a family in need. How do I choose a family? Either partner with an organization that works with assisting families, ask friends and family if they know of anyone you can help this holiday season or reach out to your following on social media and ask how you can help a family in need.
No time for charity events? Don’t want to collect food nor clothing for the homeless? No problem! Donations are always accepted by most organizations. Did you know that "approximately $4 billion is raised through workplace giving annually – much of which is unrestricted, sustainable support that enables charities to deliver vital services throughout the nation. Workplace giving is one of the most cost-effective ways to support charities."
Volunteer at a homeless shelter
Every holiday season homeless shelters need volunteers to prepare and hand out meals. Donate your time and your bomb cooking skills to a homeless shelter kitchen near you! Whip out that famous “Peach Cobbler” recipe!
Prepare a holiday meal for a Women’s Shelter
Domestic Violence is more prevalent in our society than I think we’d like to admit. According to domestic shelters.org “90-95: Percentage of domestic violence victims who are women”. Many women enter the shelters in an attempt to flee their abusers. One way to bring some cheer to the women and children who live in a shelter is prepare a good home cooked meal. Don’t know how to cook? Hire a personal chef or a catering company.
Warm clothing and blanket drive
Last year my friends, family and I organized a "Warm Blanket Drive" for the homeless men, women and children who live out on the streets in Oakland, CA. Prior to organizing the Warm Blanket drive, I remember being in a “funk” for months. I had been in a horrible mood about a number of things and then one day it hit me like a ton of bricks. “You’re complaining about XYZ when people have no place sleep, food to eat, clean clothes to wear! Be thankful for what you do have rather than what you don’t have”.
At that point I decided to focus on helping someone other than myself. I asked my friends and family if they’d like to participate in a “Warm Blanket Drive”. Without hesitation they showed up in droves baring tons of clothes! On the day of the drive many people showed thanks for what we had given them even though it may have been just a blanket or a coat. Those items meant more to them than my little “breakdown” I had a few months prior to the drive. It totally put things into perspective for me.
How can I start my own “Warm Blanket Drive”?
First plan ahead. Notify your friends and family in advance that you’re planning a clothing drive.
Set a date for when the drive will begin along with the collection period. Collect your items over the course of either 7 days up to 3 weeks (prior to the holiday season as people tend to get busy around this time)
Find a drop off point along with bins to store items, sort the items, bag them if you can and give them out on the scheduled day.
Christmas for Veterans
I know every American is grateful and thankful for all of the men and women who serve in our Military but the truth of the matter is,” the national estimate of veteran homelessness in the United States (Data collected during the annual Point-in-Time Count conducted in January 2014) shows there were 49,933 homeless veterans in America in 2014”. That number is alarming for reasons I wish to not go into (because I’d totally rant for one too many paragraphs) however, we can make a difference, at least this holiday season. Contact your local Veterans office or any organizations that assists Veterans and find out if you can either gift the Vet any wish list item they may have or provide a nice meal for the family. There’s no limit to how you can bless a Veteran this holiday from fundraising a Christmas fund for a family to throwing an all-out Christmas Bash for the children of Vets!
How will you give back this holiday season?
Shavaughn Baker, CEO & Founder
The Corporate Concierge Group