Charitable donations almost always increase during the holiday season. While it helps to donate money to your favorite charities, there’s a way you can give back that is equally helpful and fulfilling to those around you—volunteering your time and talents.

Giving back to your community 

Whether you live in a small town, large city, or somewhere in between, every community depends partly on volunteers to keep everyone happy, safe, and healthy.

Food banks experience an influx of donations around the holidays, but they almost always struggle to find enough volunteers to stock shelves and help their patrons shop. Sign up to volunteer your time in these areas. If you know someone in need, be sure to tell them about the food pantry and offer to go with them for support—it can be hard for people facing food insecurity to enter a food pantry, especially around the holidays.

If you’re planning to donate, keep these items in mind:

– Peanut butter and beans are popular donations, but nonperishable canned meats like tuna and Spam are other great sources of protein.

– Jars of pasta sauce complete donated boxes of pasta.

– Be sure to donate powdered milk for every box of cereal you donate.

– Donating spices and cooking essentials, such as olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic salt, can help people improve the taste of their food.

– Personal-hygiene items aren’t usually covered by food stamps, so donating deodorant, menstruation products, toothpaste, and soap can help someone look and feel their best.

Senior-living facilities
Before gathering with your loved ones, help brighten the holidays for someone else’s loved one in a senior-living center. Unfortunately, many older people living there get few or no visitors, which can be tough on their mental and emotional health. Offer to sing carols, watch a holiday film, or play a board game with someone. And stop by occasionally after the holidays to remind them you care about their well-being year-round. If you don’t have a senior-living facility close by, consider helping an elderly neighbor put up their holiday decorations or offer to drive them to go shopping for their loved ones. Driving, picking up heavy objects, and wrapping gifts for them can be a tremendous help.

Animal shelters 
Kittens and puppies have always been popular holiday gifts, but that leaves shelters full of adult animals in need of love. Additionally, the winter can be taxing on rescue animals who were alone on the streets. You can provide a warm hug and a friendly face to the animals who are awaiting adoption. Ask your animal shelter what food, toys, and bedding it needs, and spread the word to your fellow animal lovers. Monetary donations are helpful, but directly donating needed goods saves staff the time and hassle of trips away from the shelter.

Giving back to coworkers

Working during the holidays can elicit many mixed emotions for some people. Stress and exhaustion can complicate how productive someone may be at their job. Here’s how you can lend your coworkers a hand.


Cover a shift or take a task

Time is one of the best gifts you can give someone who is stretched thin. If you know that a coworker needs time to shop for their children or a day to visit family, offer to swap or take their shift. Observe your coworkers so you can recognize when they seem distracted. Additionally, make it a point to help those who have covered your shifts in the past.


Many companies experience a surge in orders and projects at this time of year. If you can, take a task off a teammate’s hands. No matter how small or large, your kind gesture will let them focus on more time-sensitive work.


Bring or send them food

Placing a tray of cookies in the office break room or offering to pick up lunches for your coworkers can brighten their day when they’re stressed. If you work virtually, use a food-delivery service to surprise them with their favorite meal. Then take a virtual lunch hour together! Working remotely can get lonely, especially during the holidays when office parties would typically occur, but spending time together on a video call just talking about non-work-related topics can lift people’s spirits.

Giving back to loved ones 

Don’t forget to give back to those closest to you this season by lending a hand or planning an activity they love. Loved ones can be the last people to ask for help or voice that they want to spend time with you because everyday life gets in the way. 


Offer help 

Pay attention to when a family member or friend talks about a project, task, or problem they have. Offer to help them finish it, or simply lend an ear and offer advice if they want it. Your skills and insights may be invaluable to them, so don’t be afraid to speak to them when you see them struggling. If you can’t offer advice or help, bring them a home-cooked meal so they can maximize their time and relax during dinner.


Plan an activity

Experiences, laughter, memories, and joy are what make the holidays special. Dedicate time this season to planning an activity you and your loved one can do together, such as a holiday baking night or a day trip to a favorite place.


No matter how small or large the gesture, giving back to loved ones and your community will boost the holiday spirit and help those in need.