Reach Out to Those Often Forgotten at Christmas
Christmas is a special time of year that brings people together. Our schedules are full with family celebrations, school musicals, Christmas programs, holiday get-togethers with friends, and work parties with coworkers. But what about those who are alone during the holidays?
There are many different groups of people who may be forgotten during the holidays – the elderly, those serving in the military, and those with little means, just to name a few. The holidays would not be the same if people did not extend the good cheer beyond personal ties and seek ways to create joy for others. Volunteering in one’s local community is a wonderful way to give back and increase well-being plus form new friendships.
This week we provide practical ways your family and/or class can make the holidays more special for those who are often forgotten.
Help an Elderly Friend or Neighbor
– Do chores – You don’t need to be a skilled professional to do things around the house like raking leaves, shovel snow, change a light bulb, or sweep a patio.
– Offer transportation – Many elderly people no longer drive which keeps them isolated and alone. Make it a weekly ritual to run an errand and bring them along so they have a chance to get out.
– Help a family caregiver – Give respite to a family caregiver by giving them some time away from an elderly loved one.
Volunteer at a Senior Care Facility
– Find local facilities – You’ll be surprised at how many nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and adult day centers are in your area that would love some additional help.
– Provide exercise programs – Exercise programs are a fun way to stay active for people of all ages.
– Create and design social events – Examples include music, crafts, dancing, games, parties, pet therapy, trips, cooking, gardening or reminiscing
– Coordinate educational sessions – Sessions can teach a new skill, review a topic of interest, or stimulate their brains.
– Serve meals or snacks – Meal or snack time is a great time to help the facility and have some social time with residents.
General Ways to Share Joy to the Elderly
– Create a gift basket – Gift baskets are especially nice around the holidays when the gift basket may be the only gift the senior receives. Ideas include snuggies, socks or slippers, specialty food items, wireless headphones, hair salon gift certificates, electronic picture frames, and reading items (books, lights, magnifiers, puzzles, etc). Be sure to include a hand written note or card.
– Visit with seniors – Plan ahead with a phone call to select the best time to visit. Learn how the person wants to spend time with you: reading a book, playing a board game, learning to use technology, watching a video, or sharing a baked treat.
– Bring your well-behaved dog for pet therapy – For many older seniors, they’ve been without a pet for years and yearn for the loving attention.
– Teach technology – Help the adult learn how to Skype with a family member or to send an email to a friend.
– Listen and learn from the residents – You’ll find facilities filled with stories of veterans, former teachers, homemakers, and social workers. Listen to them and learn about all the things they did. Record it for them and send it to their family for a keepsake.
THOSE SERVING IN THE MILITARY
Holiday Mail for Heroes The Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program enables Americans to “Give Something That Means Something” during the holiday season. Check with your local Red Cross for times and locations of events and for opportunities to get involved.
– Homefront America sponsors two different programs during the holiday season: Homefront Santa and Gifts for our Little Unsung Heroes. Homefront Santa endeavors to match sponsors to military families. Gifts for our Little Unsung Heroes provides each registered child with unwrapped toys and/or gift cards. In addition, holiday meals for families are also provided.
– eMail Our Military is a charitable organization supporting our troops through morale boosting email, cards, letters and care packages. Troop supporters can take part in a number of support projects ranging from eMailing a service member one-on-one to general year-round support projects.
– Full Circle Home gives deployed servicemen a chance to send a gift box to their wives back home. Gift boxes contain pampering items, such as lotions, bubble baths, and spa socks. They also feature a handwritten note from the serviceman.
– Operation Christmas Spirit supports local military families by: “Adopting” over 100 families and fulfilling their Christmas wish lists with gifts for all family members and gift cards to do their own shopping; sponsor gifts and crafts at unit holiday parties; “Adopt” single Marines and Sailors, giving them gifts and gifts cards to celebrate whether near or far from their families.
– Operation Holiday Joy. Donate to Operation Holiday Joy and 100% of your donation goes to food and toys.
– Operation Homefront offers many programs for military families throughout the year and Christmas. To receive a gift, you must register for your local Operation Homefront Toy Distribution. A military family may also participate in the organization’s holiday meal events and receive all of the groceries for a Christmas dinner.
– Toys for Tots program Thanks to the Marines Toys for Tots program, military and civilian children alike, have the opportunity to receive a new toy for Christmas.
– Tree for Troops delivers a Christmas Tree that was grown on an American farm on the other side of the world, just in time for Christmas. Also, they offer spouses and children the gift of a free, real Christmas Tree while their family member is away serving our country.
THOSE WITH LITTLE MEANS
– Go to the grocery store together as a family and pick up a few items for your local food pantry. Many stores have drop-off locations within the store itself during the Thanksgiving/Christmas seasons.
– Clean out your coat closet and take your old coats to a local shelter. Better yet, host a coat drive at your church, school or work place.
– Set the timer for 10 minutes. Have each person in your house go through their books and choose a few to donate to your local library (or elsewhere).
– Host a packing party for Operation Christmas Child, a charity that sends a shoebox of gifts/personal items to a child in a Third World country for Christmas—which is often the only gift the child will receive.
– Get a present for someone on an “Angel Tree.” Angel Tree is a program of Prison Fellowship that connects parents in prison with their children through the delivery of Christmas gifts.
– Ring bells for the Salvation Army.
– Prepare and serve a meal with a local soup kitchen.
Spread Kindness and Joy this Holiday Season!
If you’ve ever been a recipient of random acts of kindness, you know the pleasure, but when you turn the tables from receiving to giving, the feelings of joy and satisfaction double. What you receive through giving is miraculous and immediate. You won’t have to wait long to experience its value. It begins when you touch the other person’s life through kindness.