5 Festive and Fun Ways to Give Back This Holiday Season

The holidays are known as the season of giving, and while you may have already gotten gifts for all of your family and friends, why not go the extra mile by giving to those in need as well? Studies have shown that giving--rather than receiving presents--not only makes you happier, but healthier too, and it's the perfect way to end the year in the best way.

Depending on the charity, you can choose to help someone in your area or anywhere in the world, from little kids, to single parents who otherwise would not have the resources to have the holiday that they deserve. Whether you can only donate a few dollars--or are feeling very generous with your money saved from your summer internship--there are many ways that you can help families in need this season. Trying to find the right present to give can be hard and stressful so we've gathered a list here of the most festive ways to give back this season through charitable organizations that will not only get you into the holiday spirirt, but will help to give children and families the best holiday possible.

1. Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child gives you the opportunity to fill a shoebox with toys and small goodies to ship to children in need overseas. You can put anything in the box you think a young child might enjoy this holiday season, and you can even include a personal note for the child and a picture of yourself. You can either make a box on your own, or if you don't want to get the gifts yourself, with a recommended donation of $25, you can "build" a unique shoebox online that will be delivered. If you don't want to do it alone, you can have your own gift-wrapping party. Just invite your friends, have them all bring a shoebox and a few small gifts, and make an event out of putting the presents together. It's a great way to have fun with friends while helping out children across the world.

2. Be an Elf 

Ever wanted to be one of Santa's elves? Well now you can, by taking part in Be An Elf! This charity letss you read letters that needy children have written to Santa Clause, and then by acting as one of his "elves" you can write a letter back and send the child the gift that they requested. It's easy to get involved, just go to a local post office that is participating in the program and request a child's letter to adopt. When you're ready to deliver the gift, just head back to the post office from which you received the letter and they will send it to the child in need. You may read and adopt as many letter as you would like, or if there are no participating post offices near you, you can donate money to the organization to help give gifts to other children in need across the country.

3. Toys for Tots

Toys for Tots is an organization that aims to spread hope and joy to children who are less fortunate during the holiday season by giving them new and unwrapped toys. Although it is a national organization, when you go to donate, you can can choose to send your donation to any local city in America--even your own home town. To make it even more personal, you can even host your own Toys For Tots event in your home or at a local warehouse. The more toys the merrier! 

 

4. The Holiday Project

Bored during the holiday season, and don't have any money to spare? Well then get involved with The Holiday Project. What is unique about this organization is that it does not involve a donation of money but rather a donation of your time. This organization gathers groups of volunteers to go and visit those who are in hopsitals or nursing homes during the holidays to spread cheer to them when they can't be home. Each year, millions of people are confined to staying in institutions during the holiday season, and this can make for a lonely holiday rather than one that's full of joy. By just giving a few hours of your time, you can brighten many people's holidays who would otherwise be spending it alone. The project is conducted at local nursing homes and hospital facilities, so you are able to make an impact on those closest to you. If you can't donate your time, then you can sign up to have your school become paired to a long-term care facility, or start a small team in your area. You never know who you may end up meeting, and even just an hour out of your day can make a huge difference in someone's holiday.

5. Salvation Army

Everyone is familiar with the sound of the Salvation Army bell ringing outside of grocery stores and on street corners. As one of the largest and most well-recognizeable charitable organizations, this group helps millions of needy people each year from children to the elderly. This organization takes most any kind of donation, from new or used articles of clothing, to furniture, toys, games, or even cars. There are many salvation army stores all across the nation, so you don't have to look for a bell-ringer to make your contribution. Just go to your local store or online to help feed and give back to millions of people this holiday season. But if you see a bell-ringer, don't hesitate to donate a dollar or two.

Happy Holidays and happy giving collegiettes!