30 ways to support your neighbors this holiday season
The holidays have always inspired giving, not just toward those closest to us, but toward others in need as well. This year, more than ever, people in our own neighborhoods are seeking economic help, job support, and assistance in filling their pantries. Charitable giving is expected to increase an estimated 4.8% in 2020 and 5.1% in 2021, according to Philanthropy News Digest.
Sometimes, the needs of the world can seem insurmountable, but one good act often leads to another. Not to mention that the simple act of helping someone else can, in turn, help oneself. Stacker has compiled a list of 30 ways to help your neighbors this holiday season. It researched ideas from around the web, including those from Charity Navigator, GoFundMe, Do Something, Monster, and Helping Americans Find Help. There’s a mix of virtual, remote, and on-site opportunities so everyone can find a cause that fits their comfort level during these trying times.
While there are hundreds of organized international, national, and local charities, sometimes the fastest way to help your neighbor is to simply offer. Hyper-local assistance means calling neighbors, businesses, and churches in your immediate neighborhood and asking how you might be able to help.
Are there local families or restaurant employees in need right now? Does the local pantry or animal shelter need food? Little tasks that may seem small, such as shoveling the snow in a neighbor’s driveway, or posting a note at the post office offering to pick up someone’s groceries, can mean the world to someone. That little act of kindness when you leave a bigger tip or pick up someone else’s tab at the grocery store does more than you know to bring cheer and lighten the load for another human being.
How will you support your neighbors this holiday season? Keep reading to discover 30 inspirational ideas to get started.
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Help to feed your community
Virtually every community has people in it who struggle to put food on the table. With COVID-19 shuttering businesses and causing painful job losses, almost 25% of all Americans in 2020 faced food scarcity. Organizations like Feeding America and United Way have programs in place to offer support to people facing food insecuirty and hunger, and rely on volunteers across the country to help sort, pack, and deliver meals. You can also set out on your own or team up with co-workers, friends or families to launch your own food drive or prepare meals for a neighbor in need. Another program, Lasagna Love, pairs people requesting food with volunteers in the community (termed "Lasagna Mamas") willing to prepare a hot meal.
Help a vision-impaired person to 'see'
With the free "Be My Eyes" app, volunteers can help blind and low-vision people with small, everyday tasks such as reading prescription bottles or finding something they can’t locate. The app works through video calls, so when volunteers receive an alert, they can see for the person they are assisting.
Support a young person in your neighborhood
More than ever, children need supportive adults in their lives. Male role models are in particularly high demand: At Big Brothers Big Sisters, only three out of 10 volunteers are men, but 70% of children looking for a big brother are boys.
Get trained to help out in emergency situations
The nationwide Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program trains citizens to help in emergency situations. Some of the assignments may include crowd control, missing person searches, fire safety, disaster medical operations, and escorting residents of evacuated buildings to recover their belongings. If your community doesn't already have a local CERT branch, you can set one up in a few basic steps.
Volunteer as a crisis counselor
The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ+ youth under 25. Digital messaging and telephone crisis counselor remote volunteer opportunities are available throughout the United States, with online training and a one-year commitment required.
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Document your local biodiversity
Throughout the year, there are hundreds of ways to document and protect the biodiversity in your community. Groups like iNaturalist and Citizen Science invite volunteers to assist professional researchers in helping to gather data on flora and fauna for larger projects. With the iNaturalist app, you can document the animals and plants living in your community; while at the Citizen Science page, you can sign up for specific projects where you live.
Support your neighbors' civil rights
Dozens of national civil rights organizations fight for people's fundamental rights and are always looking for advocates, volunteers, and donors. Many national organizations have local chapters throughout the U.S. that are always looking for more supporters.
Give your local businesses and nonprofits a boost
COVID-19 wrought havoc on the economy, and came down especially hard on small businesses and organizations. Show your support by making the effort to support independently run businesses and small non-profits. Many shops offer virtual tours of what's in stock or online shopping, and donations to local non-profits can be made 100% virtually. Meanwhile, gift certificates to local restaurants can provide a much-needed boost that can be used at a later date. If you've got specific skills you're willing to share with nonprofits, the website Catchafire connects professionals who with time and expertise to donate with organizations in need. Opportunities to volunteer range from making a quick phone call to full-scale marketing analysis projects.
Help your neighbors out with snow removal
Next time it snows, throw on some winter gear and head to a neighbor's house to shovel their driveway, steps, or walkways. This simple gesture goes a long way, especially for the elderly or disabled who may have difficulty taking care of snow removal on their own.
Help local students pay for college
Research what scholarship funds are available to students in your community and see how you can help either through volunteering or donating. Nationally, organizations such as Scholarship America depend on community volunteers and donors around the country to aid in each student’s success.
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