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Holiday Giving—How to Give to People in Need

Woman Holding Wrapped Gift

The holiday season is heralded as a time of joy … and a time to buy. For those who have the means, it’s exciting to think about the new things you may get and the gifts you can give. For those who can’t afford holiday costs, it can be a time of anxiety and loneliness. For those who don’t have family or are going through their first holiday season without a loved one, it can be devastating.

When my grandmother passed, my sister and I discovered a closet full of mouthwash, a drawer full of pantyhose, a closet full of muumuus, a laundry room full of laundry detergent, and a pantry full of canned goods. My grandmother wasn’t a hoarder; she just never got used to shopping for one after my grandfather passed. We couldn’t throw away the bounty, so we decided to give it away to various nonprofits instead. The looks on the faces of the people to whom we donated those things are memories that will always fill my eyes with happy tears.

This experience taught me a valuable lesson: Nearly everything you own can find a new home and add joy to someone’s life. Though I still buy gifts for family and friends, I also try to make time for giving items that are still in good condition but which I no longer need or want.

This holiday season, don’t just think about giving gifts to people you know and love. Think also about the people you don’t know—people who have needs you may not know about, children you may not have met but who would love to read the books your children have outgrown, people who could use the things around your house that are just gathering dust.

Where can you take them? Here is a short list:

  • Call your local community action agency. These action agencies are vital links between your community’s needs and the resources that will fill those gaps. It’s a good bet that they’ll have a home for the things you want to pass forward.
  • Helping a military family is a great way to say “thank you” for the sacrifices made by our servicemen and women. Get in touch with your local VFW, or the State of Vermont Office of Veterans Affairs, to see what veterans and families need this holiday season.
  • Churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship typically organize donation drives during the holiday season. Some even have year-round stores or “supply areas” where people can get things they need for low-to-no cost.
  • Good quality, professional clothes can be a career game changer. Check out local organizations that work with people in recovery, or entering the job market, and pass these clothes on to people who will feel like a million bucks walking into the room polished and ready to bring their best selves.
  • Connect with coworkers and neighbors. See what they’re looking for, what they need, and see if you have those things to give. There is no shame in sharing.

My grandmother gave me so many gifts, the most cherished of which are mementos. Don’t feel bad about keeping the physical things that keep your loved one in your mind. But pass the rest forward, and know your gifts making another’s life better.

This can be done any time of year. The holiday season is a good opportunity to remind yourself of the difference you can make with a single donation on any given day, simply by asking: “What do you need?” Or better yet, “How can I help?”

Whenever I go back to Grandma’s town, I go to the area where we gave away her muumuus and play “spot the muumuu.” Whenever I see a person wearing one, it’s like having her back. And it reminds me that we can all make an impact just by passing things forward.

No matter the time of year, there is always need … and there’s always gratitude. Acts of kindness are needed year-round. May everyone have a peaceful season, one which brings joy and feelings of being loved.

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