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a donation box with collected food items

They say it’s better to give than receive, and to get in the spirit this holiday season, we’re spotlighting five ideas to make the month of December a little merrier for many Americans. We’ve included a variety of ways to invest your time and money for good, so keep reading to see how you can spread holiday cheer by helping others.

The United States Marine Corps – Toys for Tots

Since 1947, The United States Marine Corps has been showing up for children who, without the generosity of others, might not have Christmas presents under the tree. The Toys for Tots Program has distributed 584 million toys to 265 million children to date.

Local toy collection campaigns are held in every state, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, meaning more than 800 communities participate in the annual toy drive. Collection boxes are placed at various partnering businesses, and from October until mid-to-late December, individuals can drop off the toys they buy. After the collection period is complete, coordinators and volunteers pick up all the donations and sort them. With the help of local welfare groups, churches, and community-focused agencies, the toys are distributed to those in need.

If you’re not comfortable getting out, shopping, and dropping off toys this year, you can make a donation instead. When you give to Toys for Tots, 96% of your donation goes directly to their mission of providing gifts to children, with the remaining amount going to cover fundraising expenses. In other words, none of your donated dollars are used to pay manpower expenses or salaries.

Know someone who could use a helping hand this year? Direct them to the Toys for Tots application page!

Various Organizations – Angel Tree Programs

Whether it’s through the Salvation Army or local organizations, Angel Tree programs have become a great way to give back around Christmastime. The concept is simple – come together to make sure kids in your community have presents to open

After families apply for the program, each child’s wish-list items are written down on angel-shaped ornaments (along with their name, age, and gender) and distributed to participating organizations. The organizations typically hang the ornaments on a tree, allowing club members, church attendees, or office employees to pick as many ornaments as they’d like. When you pick up an ornament, you are responsible for purchasing the written item. Return the present you buy (wrapped, of course), and your club, church, or company should make sure it gets to the right place.

Typically, the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree registration period ends in October, so if you know someone who needs help this holiday season, direct them to a comparable program for 2020 and encourage them to apply early next year.

Animal Shelters – Pet Adoptions & Donations

Nobody should have to spend the holidays alone, including cute little cats and dogs, and all around the world, animal shelters are working hard so that adorable future pets don’t spend another day in a cage. However, animal shelters can’t do it alone. They’re willing to take in as many animals as they possibly can, but they need our assistance to help pets find their forever homes. During the holiday season, state SPCAs and local shelters hold adoptions. You might even see one set up in the mall while you’re shopping for Christmas gifts. If you’re willing and able, consider stopping by and adding a new family member. Your new best friend will be forever grateful, and in return, they will provide lots of love. Before you adopt, check out these ASPCA tips to make sure you’re ready.

Not ready to adopt? See if you can donate to your local shelter so they can continue helping as many animals as possible. They may accept monetary donations or pet food and toys.

Red Cross – Blood Donations

We’re accustomed to giving gifts that can be wrapped and put under a tree, but what if this year you gave someone the gift of life?

Donating blood is not inherently tied to the holidays, but it might be one of the best ways to give back this year. While the Red Cross is always looking for blood donations, in 2020, it seems the need is even greater than normal. Local news outlets across the country have posted articles about blood and plasma shortages in certain cities and states during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you feel safe enough and brave enough to give blood, search to see if there is a blood drive in your area.

One additional benefit of giving blood right now? The Red Cross is now testing all donations for COVID-19 antibodies, meaning you could learn if you might have been exposed to the virus previously. While it doesn’t confirm previous infection or immunity, you’ll know it’s a possibility you were exposed, and you can talk to your doctor about the results.

Various Organizations – Charity Runs

They’re festive. They’re fun. They help raise big money for community-minded organizations. That’s right, we’re talking about charity runs.

Historically, these events, like the Santa Hustle® Smokies 5K and Half Marathon, have been a great way for people to dress up, gather for a good cause, and put their fitness to the test. However, due to COVID-19, many of these races are going virtual or waiting until closer to race day to make a call on if the event will be in-person or online. Even if you have to pick out your own route, a holiday 5K or 10K could be a fun way to give back. You’ll get in better shape and support charitable organizations you believe in, and with many races going virtual, you can search far and wide until you find initiatives you’re truly passionate about.

From policyholder credits during COVID-19 to providing millions of meals to Feeding America, we’re always looking for ways to give back. Have any other ideas on how to help this holiday season? Share them in the comments below!

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