In conjunction with my Adventures in Volunteering series , I wanted to write a blog on donating.
Volunteering doesn’t always have to be giving of our time. It can also consist of giving needed items or cash donations. Many of us don’t have the time to volunteer, and giving monetarily can go a long way depending on the charity.
My husband and I donate to a different organization every Christmas.
My favorite experience was the Christmas my mother asked my best friend and her husband to find a family in need that we could bless for the holiday. Through their contacts working in community outreach, they found a single mother with five children who were having a rough year.
This specific year, my husband and I both received career promotions and my mother’s cancer was in remission. Thankful for the buoyant time in our lives, we really wanted to give back. My mother was giddy with excitement when we received the children’s lists to Santa and list of needs from their mother.
This would also be my mother’s last Christmas.
We took the lists of needs and wants and shopped for a couple of weeks. Then my mother and I hunkered down in elf mode and wrapped presents for hours while watching Christmas movies. Next, our contact arranged the date and time to meet at the family’s home. The mother agreed to take the kids out for dinner, and allowed us to come into her house to drop off the gifts.
Little did they know, we were distant relatives to Buddy the Elf.
With the help of my best friend and her husband, the five of us had an hour to leave their house dripping in the holiday spirit. We hung snowflakes and strung garland. We set up a tree and decorated it with lights. We set out boxes of ornaments so the family could decorate the tree together. Outside, we dangled lights in the bushes and in the tree out front. Then we assembled all the gifts around the twinkling evergreen. Having elf in our DNA made it easy for my mother and I to get carried away.
The hour had past and the family arrived. And we were still there . . .
It was an awkward moment at first. But the kids broke the ice when they saw how festive their home was. They squealed at the brightly covered packages under the tree, each searching for their names, and even quarreled over who got to put the star on the tree. They wasted no time grabbing ornaments. They reached up high searching for the perfect branch. The youngest child was only about three. He stared, seemingly amazed by all the colors and lights. Then he started to wiggle and dance around the tree.
The plan was to be gone by the time the family returned. But selfishly- I’m glad we weren’t.
We give of ourselves to help others in need. However, when you see a child’s face light up from something you created, or receive a hug from a stranger who is thankful for your kindness- the good deed is really a gift to yourself. It made us feel light and happy. We were on a giving-high. Christmas could have ended right there, because that was all the present we needed.
“Only by giving are you able to receive more than you have.”~ Jim Rohn
This year I piggybacked on my rehab team’s idea of making Christmas care packages for the homebound elderly in our area. It was organized through our county’s Department On Aging. They gave us a list of general needs: soap, toothpaste, non-perishable food, blankets, batteries etc . . . They asked for milk-crate sized boxes wrapped in Christmas paper to place all the items collected. Bobby and I made our own box, and for work I was responsible for bringing twelve lotions.
After our quarterly meeting, our team gathered together with each of our twelve items, then assembled and wrapped boxes. The boxes were then delivered to the Department On Aging’s office. Last year, 500 boxes were donated from the community, which is wonderful—until you realize in our county alone, we have several thousand elderly in need.
I have to admit, most Christmases I donate to children, animals or our soldiers. And though they are all worthy and in need of our help- I have forgotten our geriatric population. The elderly, who are homebound, living on next to nothing, and many without family. This was a shocking realization for me. Seventy-five percent of my job revolves around the elderly. I work with them everyday, yet when I donate or volunteer, it usually doesn’t involve them.
The one exception is Olive. Olive was a former geriatric patient of mine, when I worked in a nursing home. She was a sassy American old gal, who loved all things British. We were two peas in a pod. That was until my mother learned of Olive and came to meet her- then I was kicked out of the pod. My mother and my mother –in- law Joy, would take her for lunch, bring her goodies and even threw her and her nursing home friends and full on, authentic British tea. We adopted Olive that Christmas.
There are many avenues you can chose to donate to, versus volunteer your time. I’m going to list six different types of charities to give you all ideas. Obviously, there are a gazillion charities out there, some you must be leery of- so do your homework. But don’t let the shady organizations scare you from not donating at all. You best bet is to look inside your own community. Ask around.
There is always someone within arms reach who could use a hand.
Provide Self Sufficiency to Communities around the world: Oxfam America Unwrapped, Heifer International, Hope International
Animals and Environment: World Wildlife Fund, Green Peace, The Nature Conservancy
Disaster Relief: American Red Cross, Mercy Corps, CARE, Doctors Without Borders
For our Soldiers: Wounded Warrior Project, Project Healing Waters, Homes for our Troops, Operation Homefront
For our Elderly: Second Wind Dreams, Meals on Wheels, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, The Pets for the elderly Foundation
Children’s Charities: Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Canines for Disabled Kids, Children’s Defense Fund, KaBOOM!, Toys for Tots, UNICEF, Pencils of Promise
When in doubt check out places like- www.charitynavigator.org or http://www.give.org to ensure the charity is reputable.
We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we GIVE.”
~ Winston Churchill
PS: Shout out to my awesome rehab teammates for their giving hearts and helping me get our assembly pictures! Thanks Kelsea and Catherine XOXO