’Tis the Season of Giving

by Katie F. Boltuch, Contributing writer
Photo by Syda Productions/Shutterstock.com
Photo by Syda Productions/Shutterstock.com

More than anything, the holiday season is known for kindness and giving. Showing one another how much we care often results in the form of gifts. And while it’s wonderful to give to those we know and love, there are millions of people who do not share the same advantages or luxuries. Many are separated from their loved ones, and some don’t even get to experience the same kind of thoughtfulness.

It’s been said that no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted. If you’re looking to spread joy or for some good karma, there are plenty of ways to give back to your community and the world at large this holiday season.

AmazonSmile. If you’re not one for crowds and prefer to do all of your holiday shopping online, visit www.smile.amazon.com. With every purchase made, Amazon donates a portion of the total cost to the charity of your choosing. There are close to one million charities to pick from. You still receive all of the same discounts as you would on the original Amazon site, but by using AmazonSmile, you are not only giving to people you know but also to those you don’t.

eBay for Charity. It’s never a bad time to clean out the closet to make room for new things. It is, after all, gift-giving season. If you have a bit of extra time on your hands and get around to removing the items you no longer use, consider selling your items on eBay. The site will donate anywhere from 10 to 100 percent your choice on percentage of the sale price to the charity of your choice. Visit http://charity.ebay.com to get the ball rolling. The process is simple: Create an account if you don’t already have one, select a charity, decide how much you’re going to donate and then list your item. It’s a win-win-win situation!

Heifer International. In lieu of gifts, many people will ask that a donation or a purchase be made on their behalf to a charity. There are plenty of options out there, but one to consider is Heifer International. This nonprofit organization aims to end world hunger and poverty. By visiting www.heifer.org and selecting their “Gift Catalog,” donors can purchase gifts for different holidays, including Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. There are also sections to donate to animals, women empowerment, basic needs and sustainable farming.

Adopt a family. Living overseas naturally takes us out of our home-town environment. If you’re familiar with The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign, then you know it’s an easy way to support those in need. But just because you’re living in Europe doesn’t mean you can’t help other families during the holidays.

The Salvation Army also has a program where people can adopt a family to help out with a few extra items they might not be able to afford during the holidays. Families create a wish list, and people who adopt the family receive the list early in the holiday season. Germany’s Salvation Army branch is located in Cologne. Visit their website at www.heilsarmee.de to see options to volunteer or donate this holiday season.

Locally, many Family Readiness Groups and spouses groups are doing “Angel Trees” and accepting donations for families who might need a little extra help this holiday season.

Make your groceries pull double duty. Buy groceries that give back. Not only can you collect Box Tops for Education, which can give back 10 cents to the school of your choice, but consider purchasing items in which all profits and royalties from those products go to charitable causes. Company’s such as Newman’s Own donate all of their profits to charity. Tom’s of Maine, Stonyfield and Ben & Jerry’s all donate up to 10 percent of their profits to local charities.

Don’t forget to contact your local commissary to find out how you can contribute to their annual Feds Feed Families campaign. Last year, Defense Commissary Agency employees and patrons donated over a million pounds of food and personal hygiene items for local food banks and pantries. Efforts are still needed and appreciated for families in need.

Small gestures. If you’re looking for smaller-scale activities, there are plenty of ways to earn those good karma points and spread holiday cheer!

  • Call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Catch up. Make each other laugh.
  • Pay for someone’s coffee, lunch, gas, etc. If they catch you in the act, simply ask that they “pay-it-forward.”
  • Give an unexpected generous tip to your server.
  • Bake some holiday cookies or goodies for your office or your neighbors. Not a baker? Just buy some cookies and decorate them nicely on a tray. They’ll never know the difference.
  • Smile at strangers. You’d be surprised how far a simple smile will go to make someone’s day.
  • Pay someone a genuine compliment.
  • Donate blood.
  • Donate to local food drives or clothing bins.
  • Shovel your neighbor’s driveway when it snows.
  • Work with your local units to donate time for gift-wrapping or a cookie drive.