The holidays are coming quickly, with American Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas all around the corner. The fall and winter holidays can be a busy and frenetic time, with shopping, get-togethers, and holiday and family responsibilities and events. This time of year can be difficult for spending quality time with loved ones and remembering what’s important. Today we’ve compiled some ideas of ways to step back and give to those in need.

  • Designate a day or time to volunteer at a local soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or food pantry.
  • Give a donation or gift to a local charity or fundraiser in lieu of or in addition to more traditional gifts.

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  • Invite someone who may be alone for the holidays (such as students, neighbors, the elderly, etc) to have dinner or spend time with you.
  • Spend time at a rest home or with an elderly delivery service.
  • Schools and workplaces often have donation and gift drives. If money is tight, “Sub for Santa” can also use shoppers or wrappers and time spent volunteering.
  • Offer to babysit for overworked parents who have errands to run.
  • Carol at a rest home or hospital. (You don’t have to be a good singer to spread cheer!)
  • Avoid “Black Friday” shopping and sales that require workers to work on Thanksgiving Day so retail workers can spend the holiday with their families.
  • Give unconventional gifts such as micro-loans, charity donations in a person’s name, or fair trade products that support industry overseas.
  • Attend a concert or religious service with family, friends, or solo to de-stress and feel the spirit of the season.
  • Drive sober, safely, and distraction-free — nothing derails a holiday like a car accident, even if no one is injured.

If you have other suggestions, we’d love to hear them in the comments!