The feasts, the gift giving and the gatherings, when all the trappings of the holidays start coming together, feelings of gratitude can begin to swell, which is why so many people make an extra effort to donate or volunteer during the holiday season. But if you want your act of philanthropy to have the biggest impact possible, a bit of strategizing is in order.
Each year, Heart of Florida United Way puts out its Holiday Volunteer Guide. It’s a somewhat voluminous catalogue of the volunteer opportunities and donation needs to be found at dozens of Central Florida nonprofits. Serving meals Thanksgiving Day at the Coalition for Homeless or Christian Service Center is a great idea, but it’s a great idea shared by almost everyone, which means those slots fill up fast. Consider instead sponsoring a meal for a family staying at Harbor House, or dropping off a meal at the Boys & Girls Club. And think outside the realm of Thanksgiving or Christmas. Those days are extremely popular for volunteering because most people hate the idea of someone going without a holiday meal. But the focus on the actual holiday means other days are overlooked, even though families can benefit from help on any day of the year and throughout the holiday season.
Donations are another area in which a little extra thought could make a real difference for somebody. Each of the agencies listed in the Holiday Guide have a list of donation needs. Many of those lists emphasize things other than toys for young children, which tend to be the most heavily donated items. Toys are great, but many agencies find that their teenagers are often overlooked and go without. And some agencies ask to receive gifts that children can give to their mothers and fathers. Look through the lists for requests for personal care items, gifts of music and some of the other non-toy needs.
There’s a pretty wide variety of options listed in the Holiday Guide, with agencies ranging from Meals on Wheels to Clean the World to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Florida. It’s a big community with a lot of different needs, which makes the holidays a great time to think outside the toy box.