The Thanksgiving and holiday season is bound to look different this year. While some are foregoing get-togethers entirely, others are scaling down their celebrations and getting creative—turkey on the rooftop, anyone?—to keep themselves and their friends and family safe. But no matter how the logistics of the holiday change, the spirit of giving and gratitude remains the same.
So, here are five ways to get giving and support your community throughout the holiday season.
1. Volunteer at Your Local Soup Kitchen or Food Bank With Feeding America
Food is an integral part of the holiday season, but many people throughout the nation struggle with food insecurity every day. The economic fallout of the pandemic has only exacerbated the problem. According to Feeding America, one in nine people struggle with hunger—and the numbers are even more alarming for children.
To help tackle this year-round problem, consider volunteering at a local soup kitchen or one of Feeding America’s network of over 200 food banks. There are a variety of ways to get involved, such as sorting and packing boxes of food for distribution, delivering meals, or assisting at mobile pantries.
By taking action, you could help put food on the table for struggling families now and throughout the year.
2. Sign Up for a Virtual Holiday Run
For the runners, joggers, walkers (and those who aspire to be one of them), there are some amazing holiday-themed virtual runs to register for this year that allow participants to get their jog on while social distancing and supporting great causes.
Tough Mudder is organizing a variety of virtual “Tough Turkey” events this year for those looking for a challenge and the opportunity to support one of their many charity partners. There are still a few days left to get tough for a cause.
The second annual Jingle All the 5K, 10K, 1K run is taking place throughout the month of December and is open to participants both within and outside the United States. A portion of the proceeds are donated to Make-A-Wish.
Canadians can also register for the HoHoHoliday 5K (starting November 25), throw on their Santa suits (they’re provided!) and get moving to support Make-A-Wish Canada—and maybe have a little fun.
3. Take Part in GivingTuesday
Created in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y in New York City in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, GivingTuesday is a global movement to encourage generosity and tap into its power to build a better world.
If that mission speaks to you, GivingTuesday has a number of suggestions for how you can get involved, including building a kindness wall, volunteering your talents to a nonprofit, or simply sending a text message of gratitude to someone you care about.
While you’re busy researching the latest and greatest gift ideas for your loved ones, look for opportunities to make your spending do double duty by supporting local retailers and purchasing events that donate to charitable causes you care about.
Online shoppers can also use platforms like Giving Assistant or AmazonSmile to donate to charities of their choice. Alternatively, you could simply track down gifts using a search engine like Ecosia, which puts its profits toward planting trees.
For those breaking out of the great indoors, check your local news for socially distanced holiday markets and shopping events in your area that offer opportunities to support local businesses and your favorite charities (like this Champions for Charity event in Manhasset, New York). Or consider donating directly to charities in your loved ones’ names—no gift receipt required.
If you’re foregoing your traditional home-cooked holiday feast this year (or just want someone else to handle the kitchen duties), order some takeout from your favorite local restaurant. And, while you’re at it, consider donating to the Independent Restaurant Coalition to help save restaurants around the country.
Your time and money can be life changing for the causes and people you choose to support. No matter what your holiday plans look like this season, there’s real opportunity to feel good by doing good—all while making your community a better place in the process.