Ways To Volunteer Or Give (That Aren’t Money)

‘Tis the season of giving…money, usually.  And so it’s time for my annual how-to-give-without-necessarily-using-money post.

I will make the firm point here that there is nothing wrong with giving money where it is needed.  The truth of the matter is that churches and charitable organizations need cold hard cash to run.  And the other truth of the matter is that sometimes these places need money more than they need anything else.  It’s a great time of year for believers to open the coffers and start writing checks.

But it’s also true that this form of giving is so highlighted that it can feel overwhelming to people with little in the way of cash, or to people who want to give a little something more.  In light of that, I wanted to offer a few different options for you to consider as you move through the holiday season: things that will light up your heart and someone else’s, too.

Give crafts!  Are you a dedicated knitter?  (I am!) Many charitable and non-profit organizations (some knitting-centric) accept knitted hats, scarves, and gloves for those in need.  Check out Warm Up America, which is currently looking for – among other things – afghans for Hurricane Harvey victims and tiny hats for tiny premature infants in East Africa.  If you’re an animal person, knit blankets for cats and dogs in shelters with the Snuggles ProjectAnd if you’re not a knitter, why not make a bunch of Christmas decorations for local seniors or special needs folk in assisted living facilities?  You can even make something nice for your neighbors.  The sky’s the limit.

Give food!  Some local communities and churches have baking initiatives: our church has a pie-baking cooperative that bakes and sells Christmas and Thanksgiving pies, then uses the proceeds to fund ministry to the needy.  Another church nearby does similar work, but with Christmas candy.  Think beyond the regular canned-food drives: who can you think of who might benefit from a special holiday treat?   Tip: be mindful of food allergies, and if you don’t know, ask!

Give time!  Local libraries and literacy groups rely on people to come in and read stories to avid listeners.  Come read a holiday story!  Work a few hours at your local food pantry or any interesting charity that captures your eye.  Or think outside the box: in my subdivision, a man (who posts on the forum board to get the info of interested families) dresses up as Santa and visits excited little children.  Spend a few hours doing a nice something for someone else.

Give service!  Offer to decorate a local senior’s house for Christmas.  Rake leaves for someone struggling.  Bake a meal for someone overwhelmed with life and work.  Be the grunt who shuffles around folding chairs for a church event.  Wash dishes for your mother.  Take on a spouse’s hated chore.  Do work with great joy.

Doing any of these things is a great way to get into the spirit of the season – and to cultivate a habit that might well stretch into the rest of the year.  It’s also a good way to separate yourself from the tendency to turn into a check-writing automaton!  Go and bless others with good work and love.

If you have additional suggestions, leave ’em in the comments!


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