Return to Bethlehem ~ This is a wonderful charity every Christmas that we love to attend. It is a guided tour through the "streets of Bethlehem" just days after the birth of Jesus. It ends with a live nativity. There are beggars spread throughout the "streets" to collect money for a local charity that serves the homeless.
Giving to the Food Bank Christmas Tree ~ The kids have given food to the food bank every year since they were very young. They pick a few items at the store and then we take it to the tree. It is a tradition that they look forward to year after year. This year, Dean was busy the day we were able to go so I only got a picture of Anne.
Toy Drives ~ Instead of "adopting" a child for Christmas off of an angel tree, we tend to pick toy drives where toys are collected for families to come and "shop" for their children. It is much more affordable for us, since many of the angel trees seem to want or require the giver to spend more than we can afford to spend even on our children. Not that giving to others more than ourselves is a bad thing, but it was a very confusing concept to our children when they were little that anyone would be allowed to ask for so much. We have "adopted" a teen mother twice since teen motherhood is close to my heart, and I want to encourage young mothers to push on and reach their highest potential.
|This year there was a call out for teen gifts. We gave a make-your-own Lava Lamp.|
Homeless Kits ~ We make these year round and hand them out as we pass homeless people on street corners. Through the years, we have gotten to know a few homeless or nearly-homeless folks. Some we talk to and some we just watch and help where we can since they are too mentally ill to safely approach. We have found that most of them love lollipops and candy canes but often can't chew granola bars because of poor dental care. We generally try to give toothpaste and tooth brushes with candy. They also love socks year round and water bottles in the summer time. The women often become very excited about soap. But most of all, they just want to be spoken kindly to and seen as human and worthy of a few kind words.
- We also love filling shoe boxes with treats for the elderly homebound with the organization, Meals on Wheels. We may still pull this charity off this year if the snow doesn't make us miss the cutoff date. For sure, we will drop off some pet food that they can take out on their rounds to help the homebound with pets.
- We also generally take in our worn out towels once a year to a no kill shelter so that they can turn them into rags or extra bedding for pets. The kids also like making dog toys for the shelters. Most have directions on their websites on what they need or how to make dog toys.
- Most years we take a name off the library book tree and buy a book for a child in need.
- Lastly, we like to "Secret Santa" someone who is really struggling. This year we have a few people in mind. The days are over of my kids commando crawling across the lawn in the hopes of not being caught (lol), but they still like the idea of surprising someone with the joy of Christmas.
A few year-round charities that are fun for little ones ~
- Thank you notes given to the Red Cross for those who donate blood. My oldest needed two blood transfusions as an infant.
- Making encouraging cards for Veterans, which we will leave at the VA Hospital.
- Taking a special meal to a family in crisis or a lonely elderly person.
- Making blankets for the Linus Project. While hospitalized, two of my children have received blankets from this project through the years.
- Taking cookies to the police or fire department.
- Finding a teen mother program that encourages mothers to stay in school and provides parenting classes. They usually have a list of needs, but diapers are always a safe bet.
- Anonymously sprinkling a playground in a poor neighborhood with dolls or stuffed animals with encouraging notes attached has been one of my kids' favorite charities through they years. Later, they love to go back to the park or playground to see that the toys have been picked up and know that they have found new homes.
- Taping dollar bills to vending machines on a college campus or hospital.
- Leaving books and small toys with "please take" signs in laundromats or other places where kids may need to wait for a long time.
- Placing quarters in meters that have expired.
- Taking toys to children who will be in the hospital over Christmas.
- Asking a Head Start day care what toy they need and then shopping for it with my children and taking it into the day care.
I would love to hear any other ideas y'all have. I am always looking for fresh ways to give. We are so abundantly blessed!