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Ways to spread holiday cheer by giving back.

The spirit of the holidays is giving – to our loved ones, our friends and our coworkers. And one of the best ways to spread holiday cheer is to give back to our neighbors and communities. There are many ways to help others, according to Rick Skinner, the vice president of the volunteer center for United Way of Greater St. Louis. He shared some ideas for spreading holiday cheer by giving this season.

“There are plenty of innovative ways to spread cheer during the holidays,” says Rick. “Think about what you’re passionate about, explore what’s available in your community and ask yourself how you might be able to help others.”

Volunteer for a cause you care about.
Organizations in your community and region may need volunteers’ help during the holidays, and “Volunteering is a great way to make a difference in a short amount of time,” says Rick. The United Way in St. Louis maintains a resource for searching for places to volunteer during the holidays. See if the United Way in your area has a similar resource.

You can also search for volunteer opportunities through websites like All for Good and Points of Light.

Volunteer as a family.
Consider looking for opportunities to volunteer with your child or children. Think about their interests as you’re researching organizations where you might volunteer. When you narrow the list, contact each organization to see if they allow children to volunteer. They may have an age limit or require a guardian to fill out a permission form.

“Educate your child on the group’s cause and make sure everyone in the family is excited,” says Rick. “Volunteering is a great way to introduce children to the value of community service.” And, once you commit, make sure to follow through, as the organization is counting on you.

Help at a local care center.
There may be ways to help right in your own neighborhood. For instance, a local youth center, senior center or other community center may need help with their holiday activities. They may welcome your help with wrapping presents for children or singing carols for senior citizens.

Bring a warm meal to a neighbor.
Do you know of a neighbor who’s homebound this holiday season? You can help them by bringing them a warm meal or shoveling their walk when it snows. Showing you care with a thoughtful gesture will brighten their holidays.

Send a heartfelt holiday card.
Creating a handmade card is one of the best ways to spread holiday cheer. Rick suggests delivering cards to neighbors or a local care center. You can also send cards to soldiers overseas or children in the hospital or with chronic illnesses. The website Doing Good Together provides instructions for making and sending cards to organizations that will distribute the cards accordingly.

Support an organization’s fundraising.
Many groups spread awareness and raise funds during this time of year. They may need help staffing a fundraising event, like a holiday tree lot. If you know of an annual event you’d like to help with, reach out to the organization to inquire about volunteering. And, as always, a donation is likely appreciated.

Organize a collection drive.
As a family, within your community or with coworkers, you can organize a collection drive for a charity. Identify an organization that may be in need of items. For instance, nurseries may welcome diapers and toys; animal shelters are often in need of towels; and a food bank will likely accept shelf-stable food.

Before setting up your collection drive, Rick recommends contacting the organization to learn their mission, who they’re helping, and whether they have an items wishlist. That way you can ensure you’re gathering items that will be of use. “You can also better understand the impact your work is having,” Rick says.

If you’re thinking of organizing something through work, reach out to your human resources department first to see what policies may be in place. Agencies like the United Way or other volunteer centers often work with companies to help organize collections. Rick makes the point that leading a collection drive at work is a great way to gain experience and boost camaraderie.

At Commerce, we often organize volunteer outings for team members at local organizations, including St. Louis Area Foodbank in St. Louis and Harvesters in Kansas City. “Volunteering with the foodbank has always been rewarding,” says Shannon O’Heron, Inclusion, Diversity & Talent Development Consultant. “This year, giving back with my team members was an even greater experience. The foodbank not only makes this team experience possible, but also provides education around how the work impacts the community.”

However you choose to give back, your work will help spread holiday cheer to the people you help and the others you enlist in your cause. Why not keep the holiday spirit alive throughout the year? See if you can continue to volunteer and help others in your community throughout the year.

Also See
Making holiday dreams come true with Crosslines.
Charitable donations: Steps to consider before you give.