Small Ways to Give Back During the Holidays
Baby & Parenting

Small Ways to Give Back During the Holidays

Looking for an opportunity to give back this season? If you want to take a step back during the busy holiday season and brighten someone’s life, we have a few ways that are small in and of themselves but can make a huge difference. These ideas are also great suggestions for helping kids to learn to be grateful and to show compassion to others.

Lots of these ideas apply any time of year. But if you’re looking for more year-round ideas, don’t miss our Guide to Volunteering in Upstate, SC.

Inevitably, the holidays can be stressful with the endless lists of the hottest toys of the season, frantic mall runs to find the perfect gift, and long waits in lines to see Santa that snake around fake trees covered with puffy, cotton ball snow. However, I remind my family and myself often that these are problems of privilege.

Meanwhile, children and families both in our own communities and countries abroad are just wishing for something small and meaningful during Christmastime. The elderly want a visitor. The lonely, someone to talk to or the laughter of children to listen to. Those who labor unseen want to be noticed.

Our readers are enormously generous and thoughtful and many of these suggestions come from them.

Meals on Wheels

One local mom, Tina, wrote about her family’s experience with Meals on Wheels and how to get involved. This is a neat thing to participate in as a family, especially if you have younger children who aren’t old enough to volunteer in a soup kitchen or other places. One reader said her family makes ornaments and fills bags with candy for Meals on Wheels recipients.

Toy Donations

Toys for Tots, the Angel Tree at the Salvation Army, Angel Trees at churches, and the Santa Shoppe at the Dream Center in Easley all take donations of toys during the holiday season. One reader said her child likes to shop for a toy to donate for one of these groups.

Participate in a Food Drive

Pick up some extra items and donate to a local food pantry or food drive. These organizations are very efficient at getting food to those in need and there are so many to choose from. Here’s what local food banks and food pantries need now.

Pack a Shoebox

Operation Christmas Child and Box of Joy are programs where a family can choose a child based on age and gender, fill a shoebox with small toys, treats, and everyday items a child may need, and then bring it back to a local drop-off center, where it will be packaged and sent to that child. You can go online to find a local drop off-center.

My family has been doing this for years and my young children caught on pretty fast as to why we were doing it (I was surprised!). It’s become a favorite holiday activity for my children to shop for another child in a country where they will never experience the overflow of toys and abundance of everything we have here. We can’t all go to these countries and provide food and water but we can do small things to bring joy into their lives.


A program started only about two years ago in Greenville, families/groups/individuals can adopt a cop in the Greenville Police Department for a year. They can send him/her cards, bring a basket of goodies to be dropped off, and keep their law enforcement officer in their prayers if they like. The program has become quite popular and a waiting list had to be created! Read about what it’s like to adopt a cop and how to get involved.

Surprise Gifts for Mail Carriers, Sanitation Workers, Delivery People

This suggestion was mentioned by more than a few of our readers. It’s an easy one because you don’t even need to leave your house to do it. Bake some cookies or other treats and package them in baggies for surprise gifts for all the people who work day in and day out to make our world run smoothly.

Giving Tree at School

One year, Rudolph Gordon Elementary School had a Giving Tree with tags located in the front office. On each tag was written the age of a child and their gender. People could take a tag, purchase a gift for that child, and return it wrapped so the school could give those gifts to the children at Christmas. If your school does this – awesome! If not, it could be a great thing to start. Working with local shelters could be a possible way to help needy children in the area.

Sponsor a Holiday Box for a Local Family

In the past, local food bank Harvest Hope allowed you can sponsor a holiday meal for a local family that includes ham, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, yams, green beans, corn, and cranberry sauce for just $15.50.

Go spread some holiday cheer in our community!

Other Ways to Volunteer

Of course, our community has needs throughout the year. If you’re looking for ways to give back now and/or year-round, check out our list of Ways to Volunteer with Kids.

Volunteering in Greenville

Here’s our full Volunteer Guide with lot of ideas and volunteer opportunities near Greenville, SC

Are you in the midlands? Check out our guide to Giving Back in Columbia, SC. It’s full of volunteer and charity opportunities.

What small ways have you found to give back to your community?