Economic times are tough and donations to local food banks and shelters are down. Many people who made charitable contributions in the past are now struggling from paycheck to paycheck. A lot of individuals and families are, in fact, getting first-hand experience at what it’s like to be on the flip side of the situation, trying to manage after losing a home or job or both.
Sharing with Others during the Holiday Season
The holidays have always been viewed as a time to help a neighbor or stranger in need. The U.S. Post Office sponsors food drives where mail carriers collect non-perishable foods from neighborhood residents. Schools and churches collect food and clothing for those in need prior to the holidays. Clothing giveaways are becoming popular as many organizations answer the call of persons who have lost just about everything.
Every contribution helps when times are hard. Rather than contribute to child and teen obesity, many people are donating leftover Halloween candy (and candy tossed out at parades) to food banks and soup kitchens. Sharing with others certainly makes more sense than disposing of the candy, and the bite-size treats will brighten the holidays for those less fortunate.
Items to Donate to Shelters, Soup Kitchens, and Food Banks
The items listed below have been put into categories, but some agencies can use donations from more than one section. Women’s shelters and homeless shelters, for example, can use donations of bedding, toys for children, clothing, and food. Food banks and soup kitchens can use seasonal items to make a brighter Christmas or holiday for clients.
- Clothing such as shirts, pants, skirts, blouses, underwear (new), and shoes.
- Seasonal clothing such as coats, jackets, sweaters, woolen hats, scarves, gloves and winter footwear.
- Bedding items, especially blankets.
- Women & Children shelters need toys for kids, children’s clothing and diapers.
- Long-term shelters may be able to use donated furniture, electronics and appliances.
- Overnight shelters that serve meals and refuge shelters can use food donations.
- Some shelters can use services from qualified job coaches and counselors, or contacts for help agencies.
- Some shelters can use information from legitimate sources for jobs and career employment.
Food Banks Need:
- Non-perishable foods such as canned vegetables, canned fruits, dry beans, rice, instant potatoes, jar items, and so forth.
- Baby formula and baby foods (check expiration date).
- Holiday foods during the holiday season (cranberry sauce, dry stuffing mix, cake mixes & frosting, etc.)
- Canned meats, canned fish, and jar cheeses that do not require refrigeration before opening.
- Condiments such as ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, etc.
- Instant mixes like gravies and sauces that add a little something special to a holiday meal.
Soup Kitchens Need:
- Unopened items in good condition such as bread and eggs (check expiration date).
- Condiments (ketchup, mustard, etc.)
- Bulk items like 50 lb. bags of potatoes or onions.
- Stock mixes and seasonings for soups.
- Dessert mixes for the holidays.
- Seasonal items for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
- Utensils, plates, paper items, kitchen equipment
Volunteer Help during the Holiday Season
Many people are strapped financially and can’t donate food or clothing. There are other ways to share and make a difference during the holidays:
- Volunteers are needed in soup kitchens to cook and serve meals, particularly on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
- Shelters need bedding items, but also need volunteers to help supervise clients, set up cots and launder sheets.
- Helpers are needed to deliver food boxes to the elderly and persons disabled who are unable to leave their homes.
- Agencies holding toy drives need volunteers to collect and distribute items.
- Volunteers are needed in nursing homes, especially during the holidays, to help with seasonal programs and cheer patients who have no family.
- Programs such as Free Cakes for Kids and Free Cakes for Seniors could certainly use supplies, delivery people, and bakers during the holidays (and all year long).
It’s not easy “doing without” as many people have discovered during hard financial times. Holidays are tough on parents and kids when there is no money to spend on extra food, toys and gifts. But instead of dwelling on what’s lost, try brightening the holidays with helping hands. Adults, teens, and children can drive away holiday blues by volunteering time and energy for a good cause.
Donate or share in some special way, whether it’s dropping off extra Halloween candy at a local soup kitchen or lending a hand to stock shelves at a food bank. The holidays are a time for giving and sharing with others, and for teaching children the value of kindness.