By: NobleHour Special Contributor Dolly Duplantier
It’s that time of year. Seems like there are multiple parties every week between now and New Year’s Day. Cookie exchanges, office parties, tree trimming parties, ugly holiday sweater parties, neighborhood get-togethers, family events, New Year’s Eve and don’t forget Festivus for the Rest of Us! ‘Tis the season to be jolly and spread good cheer with friends and family, but how about your community? This year why not have a holiday party with a purpose – one that shares good will with all men, women and children?
Let’s face it. While we love getting gifts, we really don’t need one more candle, another box of candy, or a tin of popcorn. As the saying goes – it’s better to give than to receive. So in the spirit of the season, here are six simple ideas to truly enhance your holiday parties.
1. Provide New Pajamas and Books.
At your Secret Santa exchange, ask your guests to bring new pj’s and books instead. It's no secret that millions of children live in poverty and don’t know the comfort and security of a simple bedtime ritual. Many live in group homes or temporary shelters and have never even owned a pair of pajamas. The Pajama Program provides new pajamas and new books to children in need.
Contact the Pajama Program or a local chapter to determine their needs and where to send your donations. Want to do more? You can also volunteer to read to children at one of their reading centers or help sort donations.
2. Collect Cereal for Your Local Food Bank.
This is a great project for middle school, high school, and college students. Millions of people live in households without enough food to eat. Join DoSomething.Org's Super Cereal Challenge. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and everyone loves cereal, one of the most common items requested by food banks. Ask friends and family to bring extra boxes of cereal to your Holiday Brunch or cookie exchange. Find your local food bank or pantry through Feeding America, a nationwide network of 200 food banks that leads the fight against hunger in the United States.
3. Donate your old cell phone!
Chances are someone in your family or circle of friends will find a new cell phone under the tree this Christmas. You may even have a few old cell phones in your “junk” drawer. Now you can put them to good use. Instead of exchanging ornaments at your holiday party, tell your friends to bring their old cell phones!
Since 1995, HopeLine® from Verizon has refurbished phones and equipped them with minutes, texting capabilities, and a variety of services before giving them to survivors affiliated with participating domestic violence agencies. Phones can be from any provider. Drop off donated phones at local Verizon stores or ship with their postage paid shipping label.
4. Send greeting cards to military personnel.
Whether you’re in charge of the office party or planning the end of year club or team celebration, share your joy with others who need your support. Find all those holiday greeting cards you keep buying on sale and never send out, or create your own. Ask your guests to send Season’s Greetings to military personnel away from home and family or send cards to your local nursing home, children’s hospital, or shelter, etc.
Every year, Operation Gratitude sends over 100,000 care packages filled with treats and letters to deployed U.S. Service members, their family members, and wounded soldiers. See their website for specific details about what to write and where to send your cards.
A Million Thanks asks individuals and groups to write cards and letters of appreciation for the military. Review their guidelines and find a location near you to send your cards and letters to our troops. Contact your location via phone or email to be sure they can accept your cards and letters.
5. Donate Daily Essentials to the Homeless.
If you’re having a cookie exchange, ask your guests to also bring an extra pair of gloves, socks, a hat or some basic toiletries. When dividing the cookies, assemble extra bags for your local homeless shelter. Fill reusable grocery bags or old backpacks with items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, deodorant, and hand sanitizer, etc. This is a great way to use all those little hotel shampoo and body wash bottles! You can also find hand warmers in the dollar section of many stores. Don’t forget to add the cookies!
6. Bake a pie for a family in need.
This season brings a lot of celebrations filled with our favorite dishes, treats, and traditions. What are yours? If you’re getting together with family and friends to bake or cook your special recipes, have everyone bring duplicate non-perishable items for your holiday dinners and donate them to a local food bank.
Or, check with your local church to sponsor a family in need. Collect items they might need to brighten their holiday. You can also stop by your post office to pick up Letters to Santa. Help bring joy to children around the U.S.
Whether you're celebrating with family, friends or co-workers, give thanks for what is truly important. Remember to share your joy with your community and those in need. How do you celebrate this season of giving? Tell us what you do as a family, with friends and with your community.
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Since 2007, NobleHour has proven to be the volunteer management solution for organizations across the nation. With its robust online platform, NobleHour enhances community engagement with a variety of innovative and transformative tools for finding, tracking, and measuring volunteer, service‐learning, and community service initiatives. With offices in Lakeland, FL, and Portland, OR, the NobleHour team is dedicated to empowering good in communities across the country.
Dolly Duplantier is a freelance writer, editor, and social media specialist. She is the mother of three children, a college graduate, a college student, and one in high school. Writing about people and organizations who make a difference is one of the best aspects of her job!