Having children makes us all remember the magic of this time of year. The sparkle in their eyes as you unpack the decorations. The inevitable laughter from watching their favorite holiday movie — for the hundredth time. The palpable warmth that comes from snuggling beside each other as you sip hot chocolate (even if you wore shorts just yesterday). The pure joy of watching your child open the gift he or she so desperately wanted.
For some families, however, the holiday season is not as joyous. Parents are dealing with job loss, illness and difficult circumstances. Some have lost their homes. Children’s tummies are rumbling. The simple joys of the holidays are suddenly not so simple.
That’s why we here at LiveMom started the Season of Giving, a time each year when we can recognize that there is more to this time of year than the perfect centerpiece, the over-the-top meal and the mountain of wrapping paper when the presents are opened. It’s a time when we demonstrate our commitment to building a stronger village. It’s a time to show our children that we can all make a difference in our community, and that giving is something we can do all year long. And, perhaps most importantly, that there can be joy in the giving as well as the receiving.
It seems fitting that we begin our Season of Giving series on #Giving Tuesday, which is a campaign to create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. The initiative celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations. The organizers hope to harness the power of social media to engage new donors. The website also lists some great ideas for families to keep the spirit of giving going all year long.
If you need more time to get your act together, there are many worthy organizations dedicated to making Austin and the world a better place. Today, we will highlight three ways to give: stuff, time and money.
One of the “first world problems” many families face this time of year is purging to make room for the new things that will arrive during the holiday season. Encourage everyone in the family to take a hard look at overstuffed drawers, the bottom of closets and brimming toy bins and part with what you can. The younger your children are, the harder this might be (forgotten toys appear awfully like new toys). If you are really unsure about giving away something that is your child’s, you can always put it in the garage for a week and see if it is truly forgotten. If you prefer to involve your children in the sorting, you can either ask your kids to let go a specific number of items or put out a box/bag and ask that it be filled.
Many items will likely not be “gently” used, as many charities request. For these, you can drop off at a Goodwill location, many of which have a drive-thru option (check the list first, just in case).
You can keep the items that are in good shape in your trunk, with a list of drop off locations in the front seat in case you have a few spare minutes while you are running errands. Check to see if you might have any of this “stuff”:
- If a trip to the Zoo is in order before or during the winter school break, you can see if you have anything from the Austin Zoo’s wishlist you can bring along (Extra dog food left over after your pup passed away? Is your house overrun with stuffed animals?)
- If you are now a stay-at-home mom, you can give another woman a chance for a new career by donating professional clothing and accessories to Dress for Success.
- If you have spare books, you can take them to Recycled Reads, which benefits the Austin Public Library.
- The clients of Any Baby Can can benefit from your gently used baby items, such as safety gates, infant to school aged clothing and nursing pillows.
If you would like to make a difference in the lives of a child or family, you can check out GivingCity’s list of Adopt-a-Family Toy and Food Drives. Many of these drives culminate soon, so the organizations have ample time to deliver the gifts to recipient families.
If the holidays have you feeling a little stressed financially, you can still give back by volunteering. VolunteerMatch is a great place to start if you are looking for ways to give your time and Little Helping Hands offers family service opportunities. Just a few of the organizations that need volunteers this time of year include: Meals on Wheels, Capital Area Food Bank, Mobile Leaves & Fishes, Keep Austin Beautiful and Austin Pets Alive. If you’d like to take on a project, children 12 and under can assemble hygiene kits and other items for Caritas and you can browse the project ideas on Big Hearted Families. For more on Big Hearted Families, you can read our recent post on raising kids who care.
If you are constantly purging unneeded items and short on time, nonprofits welcome your monetary donations. Charities can often purchase what they need at a discount, so your dollars go further. Having funds on hand also means that charities are able to respond faster and more effectively to emerging needs in the community. In addition, some charities announce matching gifts during the holiday season, which multiply your contribution.
One place to look for Austin-based charities is I Live Here, I Give Here. Guidestar and Charity Navigator are two places to gather financial information about nonprofit organizations, if you’d like to do further research. If you think your children are ready to help make decisions about your financial giving, you may want to read our article on involving your kids in charitable giving.
What are your favorite locally-based charities? Do you have a tradition of giving in place already? If not, what are you planning for your family this year?
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.livemom.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Nicole-Basham-Sara-Marzani-Photography-livemom.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]A native Austinite and soccer-playing mom, Nicole uses her 6-year-old son as an excuse to rediscover her hometown through his eyes. In Thoreau’s words, her mission is to “suck out all the marrow of life”, or in her son’s words, to cultivate in him a love of “advenchers”.[/author_info] [/author]