This time of year can be wonderful and magical for kids and adults alike, but I often worry about my kids turning into little “gimme” trolls when the holidays come around. To help the whole family focus a little less on getting and a little more on giving this holiday season, take a look at these local opportunities. They are easy to incorporate into hectic schedules and perfect for teaching kids the joy of giving in a meaningful way. If you’d rather donate your time as a family, check out my post about volunteering with kids during the holidays.
1. While you’re at the grocery store picking up food for your holiday meals, consider getting a little extra to donate to the Greater Boston Food Bank. You can also request a tour of the food bank to see hunger-relief efforts in action.
2. Fill a basket and fulfill the wishes of someone with a life-threatening illness as a Basket Maker for the Community Servings Holiday Basket Program.
3. Visit Mahoney’s Garden Center in person or online to donate trees for Trees to Troops, an organization that sends trees to members of the armed forces and their families. With your donation, a Mahoney’s tree and card with your message is shipped to a military base. For every tree donated, Mahoney’s also makes a donation to the ChristmasSPIRIT Foundation.
4. Donate to the Globe Santa, a program of the Boston Globe. 100 percent of funds go toward gifts for local children in need.
5. Take your kids clothes shopping for a Cradles to Crayons Give Back With An Outfit Pack. They’ll be thrilled because they can pick out cute clothes, but they don’t have to try anything on. The Outfit Packs are part of a package Cradles to Crayons puts together for children that may also include books, toys, shoes, and cold weather essentials like a warm coat, boots, pants, a hat, and gloves.
6. It has become a holiday tradition for my kids to each choose something to donate to The Home for Little Wanderers Big Wishes Gift Drive.
7. Donate toys to the Walker Wishes Toy Drive. (In case you're not already familiar with Walker, the school in Needham provides intensive services for hundreds of the most troubled children, youth, and families.) If you’re really inspired, organize your own toy collection for the Toy Drive. Donations are made by appointment.
8. Have fun and do good at the same time during the Annual Candyland Tournament to benefit Pitching in for Kids. Every kid is a winner at the tournament in Faneuil Hall.
9. Donate funds for the children served by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.
10. Pick up something from the wish list of Wayside Youth & Family Treatment in Framingham while you're out picking up gifts for your own family's wish list or become a Joy Maker to bring comfort and joy to adolescent youth this holiday season.
11. Participate in a turkey trot or holiday fun run to raise awareness and funds for a good cause.
12. Invite other families over to prepare "Kid's Bags" for kids served by Open Table.
13. Do good for the earth and for a child living in poverty at the same time by donating your child's used plastic toys (must be in good condition, with all parts, clean, and have working batteries) to the Second Chance Toys Drive. If you're really feeling ambitious, sign up to run your own collection for Second Chance Toys.
14. Warm up a local homeless veteran with a new, wrapped donation of a sweater, scarf, or pair of socks and gloves this winter as part of The American Red Cross of Massachusetts' Warmer Winters initiative (in lieu of Holiday Mail for Heroes).
15. Liberty Tree Mall’s Giving Garden (located in the Kohl's wing) includes several trees, each dedicated to support a local charitable organization. Liberty Tree Mall shoppers have the opportunity to spread holiday cheer to someone in need by purchasing an item listed on one of the ornaments.
16. Donate new, unwrapped children’s toys and books using the drop boxes in the Children’s Book Department & in the Palmer Street Entrance of The Harvard Coop.
17. Help promote literacy and support Boston families with newborns by giving to Family Nurturing Center's #BundleForBaby campaign.
Originally published Nov 2013; updated Nov 2014 & 2015