Giving back to your community as a family

by Melissa Jaramillo

Helping CommunityAre you tired of all the commercialism surrounding the holidays?

At times, it feels that the whole "spirit" of the season is lost amid the materialistic wish lists packed with things that aren't really even wanted and all too often, quickly forgotten.

Giving and receiving gifts isn't wrong, but you desire a more balanced approach. This year, pull your crew together and build a new holiday tradition -- giving back to your community as a family!

Select a project from the choices below or use them as inspiration to create your own.

Giving back to your community

Go global

Drop a note to neighbors, classmates, and work chums letting them know that you're gathering new or gently used shoes (no high heels please). Donate them to the Soles for Souls or other charitable organization.

Serve as a host for a refugee family or international orphans until they find placement.

As your kids grow older, work together to save money. Skip eating out, drop loose change in a jar, ask for monetary gifts for birthdays from family or friends, and host fundraising events. Put the savings towards a life-changing 'vacation' abroad. There are many organizations such as Global Volunteers that need help overseas.

Pick a cause and connect with an organization to see how you can serve without leaving home., Peace Corps, or can present you with ideas.

Think nationally

Those serving our country overseas far away from home find the holidays depressing. Why not work together on a unique care package to ship via Give2TheTroops.

Spend the day getting a package together to send via Give2TheTroops. In addition to welcome snacks and treats, include postcards or make a scrapbook about your area for a bit of home.

Make sure you mail your package out soon as it must be received by December 1. You can also extend that giving spirit by committing to create a monthly care package to send to those deployed!

Think locally and state-wide

Connect with specific organizations in your area like "HandsOn Network" or Volunteer Match. You'll find plenty of projects desperately needing volunteer man-hours.

Volunteer at a local food bank or pick a favorite charity. Help pack or deliver gift baskets. Serve together at a soup kitchen. Help sort donated clothing for an organization.

Your neighborhood

Do you have an elderly neighbor who needs work done outside their home? Ask if you can come over for a day -- rake leaves, clear gutters, sweep off porch or "winterize" doors and windows.

The younger kids can help pick up or can spend time with the neighbor learning carols, hearing a story or sharing a snack.

Help your little ones focus on others throughout the month of December. On Thanksgiving or soon after, brainstorm together for ideas on random acts of kindness that you could perform as a family. Put them in a box and draw one out each day. Whatever you select, you'll feel good knowing that you worked together and made a difference!

Do you have a favorite project that you take on as a family to help others? Please share!

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.