This time of year is a good time to give back to your community and I’m not talking about giving away money or expensive gifts. Buying gifts for your loved ones and donating to charities is GREAT and both are important in their own way but I think that to often we get caught up in the consumer marketing of the holidays and forget that we are capable of giving gifts that are truly priceless. I’ve decided to make a little guide that includes some different ways to give back to your community.
Gifts from your Body:
- Bone Marrow Donation – Bone marrow and plasma can save a life and in cases where it can’t save a life, it can at least give a sick adult or child more precious time with their loved ones. To join a bone marrow registry is easy, you can sign up online at Be The Match and they will send you a kit in the mail for you to swab your cheek, the postage is free. They then put you in the registry and contact you if you’re ever a match for someone. Chances are slim that you’ll be matched and it may take years but it is an important way to give back without even leaving your home.
- Donating Blood – Donating blood is a great way for a healthy person to save lives without spending a dime. The Red Cross does blood drives throughout the year and you can go on their website to find a donation site near you. If you really want to do something special you can talk to the administration at your work place or school to see about hosting a blood drive for the holidays and get your coworkers or classmates involved in donating blood as well.
- Donating Breastmilk – If you’re currently breastfeeding your own child you should consider donating pumped breastmilk to either an organized milk bank like The National Milk Bank or a peer-to-peer milksharing group like Human Milk for Human Babies. Breastmilk is a magic food for babies especially preemies, sick babies, or babies with food allergies.
- Becoming an Organ Donor – No one wants to think about the worst happening and yet good things can come out of tragedy when you are an organ donor. You can sign up to be an organ and tissue donor in the event of your death by going to organdonor.gov or at your local DMV office.
- Becoming a Surrogate Mother – One incredible way to give the gift of life is by being a surrogate mother so that someone can become a parent that otherwise would not be able to. There are several agencies out there that you can do this through such as; Resolve, Circle Surrogacy, and Growing Families.
- Donating Eggs or Sperm – It may not be entirely appropriate for holiday dinner discussion but to the person who’s receiving it, you’re helping them have the best gift of all…a baby! There are so many different organizations both on a local and nationwide scale that process these kinds of donations and I haven’t personally done it myself so I’m not sure which organizations are the best to go through. But I’m sure a little research could turn up quite a lot of results if this is something you’re interested in doing.
- Donating Hair – If you have long hair you can cut it off and donate it to Locks of Love so that a financially disadvantaged child with an illness that causes them to have hair loss can have a beautiful head of hair for the holidays. Think of the difference that could make in a young person’s self-esteem! Meanwhile your hair can always grow back.
Donate Your Time: there’s that old adage that time is money and I think that some times donating your time can be even more valuable than donating your money. If you have children, doing volunteer work together is a seriously meaningful holiday tradition that it’s never too late to start. Maybe you can do the same volunteer work each year or maybe a different family member gets to pick where you volunteer each year. Either way I have some ideas for ways to volunteer, of course this is not an all-inclusive list so don’t stop here! There are websites like volunteermatch and volunteeryourtime that can help you find volunteer opportunities near you.
- Donate Food – You may not have the funds to donate food itself but you can always volunteer to help your local food pantry package and pass out food. Sometimes food giveaways are publicized and they could use help passing out flyers. Reach out to programs like Food Link or local churches that have food pantries. Some churches and community centers have free breakfasts or dinners open to the public and they can always use help with cooking, cleaning, and serving food.
- Get Crafty – If you have the knack for crafty there are so many things that you can make to help others. You can knit/crochet hats, socks, scarves, for those in need. You can check with local agencies to have them help you find people who could use that kind of stuff. Or you can DIY it and go on local Facebook yard sale groups or Craigslist and make postings for the stuff you’ve made and want to give away for free. If you’re really into animal welfare you can check out this article that gives ideas for making stuff for injured or sheltered animals: http://mentalfloss.com/article/29549/12-ways-you-can-support-charities-without-donating-money
- Donate Your Old Stuff – Right before the holidays is a good time to go through your home and donate anything that you don’t truly need anymore; clothes, shoes, toys, household supplies, etc. Things don’t have to be in perfect condition to give away to someone in need. There are many thrift stores and community centers you can donate to. Or again you can go on Facebook groups and Craigslist to find people who would be grateful for the free hand-me-downs.
- Prevent Drunk Driving – For some people the holiday season can get out of hand and that’s why there are so many drunk driving incidents around the time of year. There are organizations dedicated to giving free rides home to intoxicated people to help prevent drunk driving accidents. The availability of organizations like this vary depending on where you live but you can do a little research and volunteer to help give rides to people who need them. Some places to start looking are http://www.soberrides.org/ http://duijusticelink.aaa.com/for-the-public/aaas-role/public-education/sober-ride http://www.drinkinganddriving.org/designated-driver-services/
- Become a Foster Parent(to Pets) – If your kid has asked you for a puppy or kitten or rabbit for Christmas, maybe you don’t have to say no. Instead you can become a foster family for animals that need a temporary home. Pet rescue organizations that are no-kill often depend on foster families. Do a google search for pet rescues in your area.
- Raise a Guide Dog – If you love puppies you can help raise guide dogs for a short time before they move onto their more formal training. Children age 9 and up can become puppy raisers. Check out; http://www.guidedogs.com/
There are so many ways to give gifts that are truly priceless and to teach our children to be kind and caring towards their community. I hope this guide serves as a starting point for those needing inspiration. Do you have ideas that I didn’t include here? I’d love to hear them!