3 Ways the Family Can Give Back This Holiday Season

Amidst the fever of online shopping and racking our brains for the perfect Christmas gift is the little voice inside us whispering; “How can my family give back this holiday season?”  Many of us, myself included, struggle with wanting to do more for others over the holidays, but are not sure how to make a real impact on the causes that are important to us.

Traditional concepts of giving back over the holidays advise us to help deliver or serve meals to the unfortunate souls in our community. Although these opportunities can make us feel better, are they really the best way to help? A recently published online article shines a light on frustrations experienced by homeless shelter and soup kitchen staff over the holiday season.  The author, a former year round shelter worker, understood that “fair-weather volunteers” meant well, but most of the time, they were just doing busy work.  The real work for Thanksgiving and Christmas, the arduous preparatory tasks, happen well before the day of. She went on to explain that the real times of need are the other 362 days a year when shelters are full and insufficiently staffed. I am not advocating that volunteering over the holidays is unnecessary, I am merely suggesting that you do a little bit of homework on how you and your family can volunteer year round at service agencies or assist them with tasks leading up to “the big day” this season.

If you are looking for alternative ways to impart the spirit of the season to your family, here are some “out of the box” ideas:

Crowd-Funding can be the perfect holiday gift to someone in need. Crowd funding is a virtual method of philanthropy where individual donations are made to a start up business, non-profit organization or independent cause through online giving. Consider making a family donation to one of the many causes featured on humantribeproject.com, a crowd-funding site that specifically supports individuals with medical issues that they are unable to finance on their own. Recipients’ circumstances vary widely from needed repairs for a non-functioning wheelchair, to raising funds for cancer treatments.  Engage the entire family by asking them to help decide which cause to fund.

Animal Aid is not a common choice for holiday philanthropy, but is always a necessary support service in every community.  Many veterinary clinics and animal shelters are in need of year round “in-kind” donations. Things like gently used blankets and towels can help provide significant comfort to dogs when it’s needed most.

Another way to help our furry friends is by donating money to one of the various organizations that shelter, neuter/spay, vaccinate and find homes for abandoned or stray animals.  Rez Dog Rescue is one such organization that is having a big impact on the lives of many homeless dogs surviving on local reservations.  Rez Dog Rescue brings the dogs they rescue back to life and finds a “furever” family to adopt them. Visit the Rez Dog Rescue Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mtrezdogrescue or call Sheri at 406-208-3853 to see how you can help.

“Adopting” a family for the holiday is one of the more traditional ways your family can “pay it forward” each year. Several local human service organizations provide the opportunity for your family to donate gifts to those in need at Christmas time.  Family Support Network (FSN) is a great example of an organization that delivers a “normal” holiday for children who’ve been placed in foster care.  The program operates anonymously through FSN’s Family Development Specialists. The FSN case workers help families to create a wish list that includes practical items such as gloves or snow boots, as well as, fun gift ideas like toys or games for children.  Once you have chosen the size of the family you want to “adopt”, gather the whole family together to go shopping for the items on the wish list.  Let this be a way for you to lead by example while showing your children how to be kind to others and grateful for what they have in their own lives.  Go to www.familysupport.org or call 406-256-7783 to inquire about helping a family in need this season.

Regardless of how you and your family spend the holidays this year, teaching your children the importance of investing in others can set the stage for a life of gratitude and appreciation for the real gifts in life.

About Simply Ashley: 

Ashley is a Billings, MT native and graduate of MSU-B. After living and traveling abroad she returned to Montana to rediscover her roots. Over the years, Ashley has worked in fundraising for various local nonprofit organizations and as a freelance writer, compelled to be a voice of support for the community.