Gifts That Keep You Giving

This holiday season, forget the mall! Instead, give something really valuable: your time. Many charities large and small, are always looking for eager volunteers, especially around the holidays.

gift givingThis year, why not skip hosting your usual holiday party and host a help-a-thon instead where your guests find volunteer opportunities and commit to volunteering in the upcoming year. Use a not-for-profit website like Volunteer Match to help you, your family or group find volunteer opportunities close to home.

You’ll be helping others, and maybe yourself, too. Helping those who are truly in need can put your own struggles in perspective. There are opportunities to volunteer for people of every age and ability. Find a cause you‘re interested in, and experience the joy of helping others. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Happy Tails
If you think furry friends are the cat’s meow, then volunteer at your local animal shelter or animal rescue organization. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) offers tips for helping animals in your own community. You don’t need any special training or experience to walk dogs, organize events, foster abused or frightened animals, or help shelter cats purr by socializing with them. Find a shelter near you.

Hair Today, Donated Tomorrow
If you’re short on time but not on hair, you can give some of it to those in need. Locks of Love provides hairpieces made from donated hair to children and teens who have lost their hair from a disease or condition.

You can get the ponytailed people in your life (anyone who has at least 10 inches of hair to donate) to share a precious gift. Consider a post-donation short, new do for the holidays. Before and after photos might even make a nice holiday card photo. Even if you don’t make the cut, Locks of Love offers other ways to get involved in the cause. Learn more about Locks of Love.

Impact Big Time
For over a century, Big Brothers Big Sisters has helped change lives by bringing caring role models into the lives of children. In all 50 states and throughout the world, volunteers and children ages 6 to 18 are carefully matched one-on-one. Volunteers mentor children who need their time, experience and perspective, including those living in single parent homes, growing up in poverty, coping with parental incarceration or who have parents on active military duty.

Share your time and perspective and help to better the life of a child. It only takes a few hours a couple of times a month to make a difference. Currently the organization has more boys than girls who are waiting to be matched with a mentor. So male mentors, especially men of color, are needed now. Learn more about becoming a Big Brother or a Big Sister.

So tell us, how do YOU plan to give back this holiday season?

Sources:American Psychological Association; Big Brothers Big Sisters ,October 2012; The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals