Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Giving Back Without Going Broke

The Music of Life: Giving Back Without Going Broke

I love the Christmas season and I always try to give back to my community during this time. I usually participate in things like angel trees or Operation Christmas Child, but this year I want to try and give back and spend little to no money doing it. So here are some ideas of ways to do it. (Some ideas from familyeducation.com, but mostly, these are mine.)

Donate handmade goods to a charity
There are so many charities that take handmade goods - if you are a crocheter or knitter, check out Seaman's Church Institute, Halos of Hope or Purple Stitch Project, to name a few. You could make stuffed animals or baby hats for a local hospital. You could make a blanket (easy fleece, or hand crocheted), scarves, hats and so much more. Warm clothing drives are common in cold areas. You could also read a children's book on tape to donate to a children's hospital. (This is also a great way to get children to practice reading aloud!)

Donate Your Time
There are many places that I am sure would love volunteers, not just during this time of year, but any time. Soup kitchens, homeless shelters or distribution centers, Christmas plays, crisis pregnancy centers and so much more. Take this time to find a place where you can give back.

Go Caroling
I must warn you, if you carol outside, you will most likely get sick. But it might be worth it to spread some cheer. I went caroling with a group (like, we're all musicians and had a tuning pipe) one year and we definitely got a request to go sing for some guy's birthday. Plus it's fun to get hot cocoa and wander around downtown where all the lights are while being happy and singing Christmas carols. Another (warmer) option is to go to a local senior center and spread your Christmas cheer by singing there.

Make Cookies
For me, this would cost too much money. But for some of y'all, I'm sure you have every cookie ingredient already in your pantry. My family has a neighbor that always passes out cookies this time of year - as a child, we always looked forward to getting her tin. What a cute way to spread some Christmas cheer.

Donate Used Goods to Charity
Many charities are looking for old coats this time of year (which works well with children's coats since they outgrow them so fast). They may also be collecting warm clothing, gently used toys and many other household items. You can also donate to a local non-profit secondhand store to help them raise money for goods. Plus, you get rid of stuff you don't need.

Give Spare Change to Salvation Army
So this costs a little bit, but I'm sure if you search those couch cushions and your glove box, I'm sure you could find something to drop in those red bins. Every little bit helps.

Decorate!
This is more of a way to spread general Christmas cheer - by putting Christmas lights up outside or even just putting a wreath on your door, you are helping to make the season just a little bit more jolly.

Get Rid of Those Old Cans of Food
How on earth did you end up with pickled beets? Canned sweet potatoes? Whatever it is, take some time to pull all the unused (and possibly unusual) cans out of your pantry and give them to someone who could use them. Find a local food bank or food donation center and give them away.

Be Cheery
Smile at people - you'd be surprised how many people (regardless of how grumpy they look) will smile back. Without even saying a word, you just made someone smile! Wishing "Merry Christmas" never hurts either. (Fallacious reasoning, I know. Just go with it.)

Make Christmas Cards
Take some time to make Christmas cards for children at a local hospital, senior centers or soldiers abroad. No matter how simple they may be, you can still bring a smile to someone's face.

Make a Gingerbread House
Okay, so this one costs money too. But, it is so much fun! Back in high school one of the clubs I participated in made gingerbread houses for a local senior home. We had a ton of fun making them, and the seniors just loved having home-made decorations adorn their tables.

Have any more suggestions? Leave me a comment!

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