This season of thanksgiving gives us a dedicated time to reflect on our blessings, and give back to those in need. Red kettles and bell ringers greet you at every store and year-end solicitations start filling your inbox and mail box. But instead of giving them your loose change, here are a few ways you can be the change:
Gift the gift of time. Find an organization and mission that speaks to your heart and use your talents contribute to their cause. Cook and serve meals, teach a computer class, mentor at-risk youth, or help rebuild neighborhoods. And don’t forget to log your mileage when driving to and from volunteering, which you can deduct on your taxes if you itemize.
Collect travel toiletries to give to a shelter or your local Ronald McDonald House for use by families away from home and in the hospital with a sick or injured child. I never use hotel lotion, but it’s one of the items most coveted by those who are homeless and spend all four seasons out in the elements. Shampoo, soap, conditioner, combs, cotton swabs and toothpaste are also appreciated.
Use coupons combined with sales to pay pennies for non-perishables and hygiene products to donate to food banks. Look for deals on diapers, baby food and formula, items which are less frequently donated but are always needed.
Give blood or donate plasma. Before I started working in health care, I thought blood transfusions were just for blood loss due to injuries or surgical procedures, but cancer patients, those with severe infections and other life-threatening ailments may also need their blood supply replenished. And consider joining the national bone marrow registry.
If you can’t sell it on eBay or Craig’s List, donate it. No matter the condition, there’s never a need to send your old outfits, books and home goods to the landfill. Donated paperbacks that won’t sell or clothes no longer wearable are frequently sold to textile recyclers and eventually be resurrected as industrial products or trendy new apparel with hipster appeal. Not only are you helping others and saving the planet, but you can also include in-kind donations among your charitable deductions when you itemize on your tax return.
Ebates and Mr. Rebates only offer cash back on Amazon purchases from select departments. If your purchase isn’t one of those rotating departments, consider logging-on via AmazonSmile. By using this portal, Amazon will donate 0.5% of the sale price to your charity of choice. You can log-into AmazonSmile using your Prime membership, and don’t forget to use the MileagePlus X app to earn United miles by first buying an Amazon gift card before checking out.
There are lots of ways you can make a difference in the lives of others besides making a financial contribution. This holiday season and all year long, do what you can to make the world a little better and a little brighter for those less fortunate.