9 weeks till Christmas: plan for your family to give to the community

With nine weeks left until Christmas, it’s easy to start filing our mind with travel itineraries, gift ideas, and the weekend holiday plans.  But when we expose our family to the world beyond our visible sphere, we infuse our seasonal experience with what the season is really about.

12weekschristmasIt’s not too early to prepare for charitable giving for the holidays. In fact, when you plan enough in advance, you have the advantage of giving to something you’re truly passionate about, and involving your kids in the process as well.

Megan suggested a few ways to give charitable acts as gifts to your kidsHere are a few ideas to get your children involved in giving to the world around them as the  Christmas season gears up.

Operation Christmas Child

This is an annual project held by Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian relief organization dedicated to helping the most desperately needy worldwide.  Each season, simple shoe boxes filled with needs and small wants for children are collected and then distributed.

These shoe boxes are a great way to involve your kids, because it’s a hands-on, inexpensive, easy way to help them directly give to another child.

Samaritan’s Purse asks you to fill a box with simple things like school supplies, hygiene items, gum, and small toys — all things our kids understand.

Then your child can decorate the shoe box, print a label designating the box to a specific gender and age group, and then drop it off at a nearby location.

The national collection week for Operation Christmas Child is November 16-23. That gives you a few weeks to create your boxes.

children mumbai
Photo by Peter Rivera

World Vision

Most grandparents don’t want or need anything for Christmas.  Instead of another tie or necklace, have your kids browse the gift catalog at World Vision, and give something in their grandparents’ honor.

You could give two chickens for $25 to a needy family in places like the Philippines.  Or you could give education to one child for a measly $32, so that children in Rwanda can have textbooks, paper, and crayons.

I like the idea of giving $350 worth of necessities in the U.S. for $25.  This gift would deliver basics like clothing, diapers, and shoes to children in desperate poverty in the United States.

Give your children the immensely rewarding gift of giving to other children. And give your parents the gift of a clutter-free Christmas, with one less item to store.

Habitat for Humanity

All over the world, Habitat for Humanity builds homes for people desperately in need of shelter.  If you live in or near a larger city, there is probably a house under construction by Habitat in your area right now.

Small children aren’t allowed to lift a hammer at a Habitat site (with good reason).  But they could be lunch volunteers. Each Saturday, you can provide lunch for one of Habitat’s worksites, so that their hard-working construction volunteers can replenish their bodies for more physical work.

Get involved just one Saturday, or commit as a family to serve lunch each week for a season.  Check out your local Habitat affiliate to see if they have a need for lunches – head here for the U.S., here for Canada, here for Europe, and here for Asia/Pacific.

Christmas Caroling

Are you involved in a playgroup?  Call a local nursing home and see if your group can take your kids caroling one afternoon. Practice a few simple songs like “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and then set aside an hour to visit local folks who could use some holiday cheer.

Children and the elderly typically have a unique bond, one that neither should miss.  Make someone’s day, and open your kids’ eyes to the neighbors they don’t always see.

Sack Lunch Drop-offs

Do your kids ask about the people they see at intersections holding cardboard signs?  They’re wanting to know why that person is asking for help.  Don’t ignore their question — explain that some people have gone through unfortunate circumstances in their lives, and sometimes need a little help.

homeless hand
Photo by Alex Proimos

During the holidays, keep a few simple sack lunches in your car on your errand running day.  When your kid spots someone in need at an intersection, offer that person one of your lunches. Use discretion, of course, but a quick offering takes no more than a few seconds.

Your kids can easily help make a few sandwiches, fill a few bags with apples, and provide a cup of water before you leave the house.  Then after you give a lunch, talk with your child about the many ways your family is blessed, and pray for that person together.

There are many more creative ways your kids can get involved both locally and globally this Christmas. What are your ideas?

top photo source
Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. We have finally made the decision to cancel our traditional “Christmas Day” festivities and will be delivering meals throughout the afternoon and evening to refugee families.
    I was so convicted last year when I made something but didn’t take the time to deliver it personally. Yes, it was “justified” and no one faulted me for it, but this year, we are SO excited to do this as an extended family. I know it will impact our children for years to come and become a new tradition that will create a legacy for generations.
    .-= Jen@Balancing Beauty and Bedlam´s last blog ..Frugal Fashionista Fashion Show =-.

  2. We have always done Operation Christmas Child. We also do local stuff through our fire dept. here.

    Samaritans Purse also has opportunites in some states to participate in packing, checking, and shipping the boxes. I believe youth have to be 14. We are blessed to have one pretty close to us, and this year I want to make it a date night with my hubby. Next year, we can bring my oldest.

    We went caroling last year with a group of friends at a convalescent home, we’ll probably do that again this year. We also usually do some kind of meal for a family through a church here. And Angel Tree is a great program we’ve done, you can buy a gift for the child of a prisoner.

    There are so many things to do, the hardest is choosing which ones!
    .-= Angela Mills´s last blog ..Introducing…Coco and Soleil =-.

  3. wonderful reminder/post. [as always]

    we have been participating in Advent Conspiracy for the past three years. http://www.adventconspiracy.org/
    It’s a wonderful way for our family to talk about the value of gifts and spending.
    .-= christina´s last blog ..school’s out for the summer =-.

  4. Thanks for the reminder to give to others this holiday season. I love all of these ideas!
    .-= Samantha @ Mama Notes´s last blog ..Return Your Baby Einstein DVD’s for Full Refund =-.

  5. I love the Samaritan’s Purse org. I was a rep for them for 2 years in Africa, and I got to experience first hand the joy these boxes bring to the children there. Its amazing! I’m glad you referenced them on your site. Brings joy to my heart! 🙂 Great post!
    .-= Maureen´s last blog ..Friday Fun: I’m a Croc Hater (and not ashamed) =-.

  6. My husband and I are coming up on our third Christmas together. We got married when we were still students in college, so needless to say we didn’t have much money to spend on Christmas gifts. We also knew we wanted to give someone else a blessing who couldn’t afford anything for Christmas. So we adopted an angel from our Angel Tree at church as our Christmas gift to each other. (I especially felt passionately about this, since I grew up very poor and was the recipient of many “Angel Tree” Christmases.) It was so wonderful being able to buy a child things that he/she would normally go without–a winter coat, blankets, clothing, and a few toys. I know the gifts aren’t the most important part of Christmas, but the great thing about the Angel Tree is that it shows recipients and their families that people who don’t even know them, love them and care about them. We still do this each Christmas as our gift to each other.
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Goodwill Finds =-.

  7. Last year I started 25 Days of Giving with my children. We did one giving activity every day of Advent. It was amazing. This is a list of activities I had compiled at that point. http://thetraintocrazy.typepad.com/the_train_to_crazy/2009/01/the-ultimate-li.html
    There are more now. We’d love people to join us this year!
    .-= Andrea @ The Train To Crazy´s last blog ..Dimples =-.

  8. I love this post – thanks for the wonderful ideas!

    We did Operation Christmas Child last year as well and we regularly give donations on behalf of gifts for family members (often we’ll donate to the organization where my husband works, Love146 – http://www.love146.org/ – fighting against child sex trafficking & exploitation).

    .-= steadymom´s last blog ..Who Said Mothers Don’t Get Paid? =-.

  9. I think this is a wonderful idea. Excellent Post!!

  10. ANOTHER way for Dallas-Ft Worth area families to give to their local community is to order for their children “letters from Santa” from Gorbella’s Santa Mail for a Mission project. All proceeds go toward building a safe, clean, healthy, and free-access community center designed to give families with young children a place to play, connect, learn, and grow.

    If it’s a cause you believe in supporting, no matter where on Earth you are, here is info: http://www.gorbellas.org/
    .-= MamaHall´s last blog ..getting it right in this life =-.

  11. This is a great reminder during what can turn into the season of busy-ness and materialism.

    I would like to start a tradition with my two-year old daughter to go and pick out gifts for other kids. Also, my family sometimes get each other donations to Heiffer International or like charities.
    .-= Kendra@www.15minuteminimalist.blogspot.com´s last blog ..Easy Eating: Lentil Tacos =-.

  12. Thank you for your thoughtful post. A great reminder for all of us!

    My daughter’s school collects items for AVDA (Aid for Victims of Domestic Abuse). They collect baby and kid items like toys and clothing. They also collect personal hygiene items, as many of these women and children literally have to flee their homes with nothing.

    This year, my family and I are sending out a letter to all of our local friends. We’re going to spend one night of Hannukah/Christmas (we’re an interfaith family!) driving around to all of our friends homes, collecting items for AVDA, and then dropping them off at the collection site.

    I feel that this way, we can bring the small project full circle.
    .-= Melanie at Parenting Ink´s last blog ..Part-Time Jobs for Moms That Pay Well… =-.

  13. Wonderful ideas, some of which we’ve done in the past–the shoebox deal, caroling, Angel Tree. A couple years ago we gave money for the purchase of chickens for a poor Asian family through Gospel for Asia.

    Our church sponsors an orphanage in Uganda, and last Christmas and this Christmas we plan to give a special offering toward it.

    I can hardly wait until DS is old enough to fully participate in something like Angel Tree or adopting a family via Salvation Army, and understand the joy and importance of giving.
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..The Never-Ending Search For A Cure For Cancer, Part 1 =-.

  14. Excellent post! I love all these ideas. I was the president of my school’s campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity in college so I know a lot about their inner workings, and I know that, at least in my area, they usually have enough volunteers, but what they really need is money. Houses can’t be built if there is no money for supplies. Maybe you could collect coins or organize a church fundraiser with the intention of helping other families to have a warm, cozy home this Christmas season.

  15. This year instead of filling shoe boxes for Samaritan’s purse, we ran a fundraiser for a four year old we know with leukemia. My 9yo daughter and a group of friends got together for a card-making party (my daughter made cake, sent out email invites and otherwise prepared, with my guidance, for the event). They made cards, bookmarks and Christmas gift tags and then “sold” them at our church for a few nights. We would have been happy to make even $50 to send off but they made $420! I’m so proud of them – how they joyfully worked to meet a need. I hope it sticks with them (and us moms) that we are called to use whatever we have (money, giftings, energy) whether big or small. When we offer what we have, God is able to multiply it and besides, the results are up to Him. This is not necessarily a Christmas thing but what a blessing to experience.

  16. I love all the ideas. We have given to World Vision and done Operation Christmas Child the last couple of years. Our kids love to help pick out what we are giving and knowing that it is going to help others…especially other children. This year we are hoping to give out some gifts/volunteer at the Veteran’s home nearby as well. Thanks for the great ideas to give back to the community at Christmas time.
    .-= Erin´s last blog ..Happy Fall! =-.

  17. 9 weeks, oh my I better get busy! I am a big sister for big brothers and big sisters and I like to take her to buy presents for an angel tree child. Anyone can be blessed through giving, even someone who needs a little help herself.
    .-= Kimberly´s last blog ..Warning =-.

  18. checkout the advent conspiracy. http://www.adventconspiracy.org/ is the website, and this year’s video is on the homepage. we’ve been participating in this for the last three years. not only do we get to serve others, but it’s radically changing the way that we, and so many others, simply “do” Christmas.

  19. These are all great ideas. 🙂

    Our son was born with a cleft lip and palate, so we’ve chosen to give as we can to an organization that provides the necessary surgeries to poor children around the world. It’s an amazing ministry!

  20. Thank you for these wonderful and simple ideas. I love the sack lunch idea, just this weekend we were in the city and I was so saddened that I could not make an impact on the hundreds of homeless in my city. This is a great way to make an impact. At our home we collect change in a jar throughout the year to give to local charities, I love being able to help close to home.
    .-= shelle´s last blog ..Inspiration =-.

  21. I highly recommend Heifer International. We have donated flocks of baby chicks in several family members’ names. My kids love knowing that they’ve helped another family to become more self sufficient.
    .-= Kimm´s last blog ..Fall House Tour =-.

  22. Giving is always my favorite part about the holidays as I feel my family is fortunate enough that we ‘get’ all year round. I love taking the opportunity to give back in a more deliberate way and showing my kids how good it feels to be a part of that. We live in a transitional neighborhood where the elementary schools are over half filled with low income children on free or reduced lunches. For the past several years I have run an Angel Tree program through my neighborhood association for them. The school closed this past year, so I’m trying to find out another avenue and someone else to help me manage it since I will be out of town. And where as I think all of the international programs are wonderful, giving in your own backyard or city has an extra special feeling. Happy giving!

  23. We always participate in The Wenceslas Project, a local ministry of my husband’s NPO (gracetothenations.com). Also, as a part-time teacher, I started doing something different for my students for Christmas. Last year instead of spending money on candy or trinkets, I made a donation in the class’ name to World Vision and gave an education to an orphan for one year. Then I sent an e-card to each student telling them about the donation. Lots of parents commented on how much they like the gift and how it got their kids thinking about how THEY could give! Love this post!
    .-= Paula´s last blog ..5 Great Things About Having Small Children =-.

  24. We have always given to different organizations around the world, my husband also goes to third world countries 2 times a year to provide free chiropractic care. This year a lot of families are really hurting in these tough economic times. Through the schools and local organizations we are giving back in our own communities by providing meals, panrty goods and fullfilling christmas wish lists to children that may have had nothing for Christmas. When you give you receive so much more. That is what Christmas is all about. Thank you for the great post!

  25. Wow, what a wonderful message you are sending out into the world! Give yourself a hand.
    ‘Giving back’ is such an important concept. And if kids learn its importance, early, wow – that’s awesome.
    Patti told us her story a while back about how her kids seemed to have absorbed this message early, and how she decided to take it one step further and pass it along.
    You can check out her video at the link below. I really hope you like it.
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Saving lives. =-.

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