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As you continue to receive presents and spend time with your loved ones this time of year, translate some of that energy and spirit to those in need. There’s so many ways to use your privileges to give back, and this month is especially important to help your community feel like they belong.

Join me in doing anything from one to all of the following things from this list this season.

Carol at a Nursing Home

Elf said it best: “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” No matter how off key you’ll be, the residents at a nursing home will always have a smile on their face having the company during the holiday season. It can definitely get lonely for them, so gather a group of your friends to sing all the holiday hits with. Warm up your voices then you’re sure to warm their hearts.

Host A Family Drive

Swap your family’s annual white elephant exchange with a drive for items that won’t be tossed as soon as you get home. Whether you want to focus on clothes, food, house supplies, or anything in between, ask each family member to bring something to then be donated to a local shelter or organization.

Decorate Cookies at Ronald McDonald House

The Ronald McDonald House is home to families who’s children need to stay in the care of a hospital. They likely can’t leave to take part in traditional holiday activities, so take them back to their own kitchen of endless sugar and sprinkles by bringing them a cookie decorating kit. They’ll get a sense of childhood back as well as the taste of oven-baked goodies.

Donate Your Leftovers

Instead of stuffing your fridge to the brim with all the food your family doesn’t eat, pack it up and take it to a local homeless shelter. Even if it’s just half of a dish, the contents add up. Just be mindful of the certain regulations each place has on food donations. Some have restrictions on things like ingredients, amount and type of container it’s in. 

Shop for a Family

There are many organizations across the country that organize events in which the public can show up to shop for families that can’t afford to buy gifts themselves. What makes the experience so special is that you pick off of a list each family member specifically wrote about what they like. It feels as though you really know the child or parent and create an important connection with them through what you pick out based on their interests. Toys for Tots is one of the most popular ones, run by the Marine Corps Reserve. Meijer also donates thousands of dollars and hosts police officers to do the same thing. Find an organization close to you and do what you do best: shop!

Donate Excess Christmas Gifts

We all have those relatives that don’t know you that well and get you something you don’t really need (usually fuzzy socks). If you get multiple of one item or just something you can live without, donate it to someone or somewhere that could use it. Shelters always have a list posted of products they are in need of, so check if any of your gifts make the cut.

Donate Old Clothes

It’s that time of year when you’re going to receive a whole new wardrobe. And if you’re anything like me, you also stocked up during Black Friday. In order to make room for the new, go through your closet and pick out anything that’s old or you haven’t worn in the last year. Those clothes can go to great use to someone who won’t be receiving presents or need items to stay warm. They will be grateful for your hammy downs which will feel good as new on them.

Serve at a Homeless Shelter

Take time out of your schedule to volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Bringing new people in to serve to the homeless gives them fresh faces to interact with. They also love talking to you. Sitting down and hearing their stories will teach you so much to put a new perspective on life.

Ally Stegman

Columbia Chicago '21

aspiring magazine writer with a passion for pop culture and fashion
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