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This holiday season, be intentional about supporting people and causes you believe in. Each of us can make a difference where we are. Whatever you decide to do, or however you give to others, your donation of time and/or money will likely have a positive ripple effect.

Others may be inspired by your efforts to give and whether you see an immediate impact or not, there is no doubt your generosity will make a difference.

Here are seven ways to give back to your community this holiday season:

Buy a few extra cans of food and toiletries

Nonperishable drives are happening just about everywhere you look during the holiday season. The next time you’re ordering groceries online or shopping in the store, add a few cans of soup, tuna, or peanut butter to your cart. Depending where you shop or what is organized in your area, you might even be able to donate those items right at the grocery store through neighborhood food drives.

And while food is usually on the forefront of everyone’s mind, soup kitchens and homeless shelters are often in need of toiletries too, such as shampoo, soap, feminine hygiene products, and toilet paper. Reach out to your local shelters and food banks to find out what they are most in need of.

Donate blood

By donating blood or platelets, you could be helping individuals who are undergoing surgeries or cancer treatment, or saving the life of someone in a vehicle accident. Giving blood is usually only about a one-hour time commitment. Find your local donation centers and blood drives online.

Collect items for an animal shelter

Call or email your local animal shelters to see what items they are in need of. Shop for some yourself or organize a collection in your workplace, church, or neighborhood. While there are typically age restrictions around volunteering at shelters, donating tangibles is a great way for children who love animals to spread holiday cheer. Items needed may include pet food, toys, cat litter, or new or used rugs, blankets, towels, and other items used for bedding.

Shop for Toys for Tots

The annual Marine Corps League’s Toys for Tots drive is an easy way to give toys, games, and books to children wherever you live. Donations can be made at in-person drop sites, or you may donate online. Find out about how to donate online or locate your local campaign by clicking here. Local Toys for Tots campaigns begin in October and continue through December, with distribution to children taking place in mid to late December.

Support your community library

If you or your family regularly use the library, take time this holiday season to give back. Or, if you haven’t been a library user since your childhood, maybe now is the time to get a library card and see how you can support this incredible community resource. Most branches are happy to have an extra set of hands to shelve books or run programs, so if you can commit to regular days and hours, go for it. If you can’t commit to regular hours but have a special skill (computer programming, creative writing, yoga, etc.), talk to your local librarian to see if they might be interested in hosting you for a one-time lecture or class for library patrons. And if you really want to support the library, join the Friends of the Library program to help with fundraising efforts year-round.

Help to serve a holiday meal

Plan ahead this holiday season to help prepare, set up, serve, or clean-up for one of the special holiday meals being served in your area at a shelter, church, or senior center.

Send Holiday Cards

Visiting residents in retirement homes who may be lonely isn’t so simple in a post-pandemic world, but sending snail mail is still a convenient way to put a smile on someone’s face. Send thoughtful cards or drawings created by your children to area nursing home residents is a great way to spread holiday cheer. You can also send holidays cards and care packages to military members who might be away from their loved ones over the holidays. Search online to find one of the many organizations who send cards to active-duty members of the military.

While it can be fun to get caught up in the excitement of the holidays, remember that the gift of your time and talents can be one of the best things to give. Find your own unique way to make a difference and let others know you care. We’re confident you’ll be glad you did.