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15 Ways to Donate a Merry Christmas: Ideas for Giving and Volunteering

I believe in the importance of charity at Christmastime. I enjoy sharing ideas for giving to others over the holidays.

Give of your time and money this Christmas with these 15 ideas for donations and volunteering.

Give of your time and money this Christmas with these 15 ideas for donations and volunteering.

Give the Gift of Christmas on Any Budget

Christmas is the season for charitable giving. It's the time of year when we should all give a little to those who have less. For those who can afford it, there's endless opportunities to give someone a Merry Christmas. And for those who are already living on a shoestring budget, you'd be surprised at how much you can do.

For instance, if you meet the requirements, you could try hair donation. You've been wanting a new look anyway. Or how about making a trip to your local blood bank to donate blood? What better gift to give than the gift of life? (And that's coming from someone who is very grateful for the blood transfusion I received.)

So how about it? Are you ready to put a little Merry into someone's Christmas?

Donation and Volunteer Ideas for Christmas

  1. Help a Needy Family
  2. Visit Your Local Pediatric Wing
  3. Donate Your Hair
  4. Grant a Small Wish
  5. Visit Your Local Humane Society
  6. Make a Child's Dream Come True
  7. Give to Toys for Tots
  8. Donate to Bell Ringers and Bins
  9. Check With the Department of Social Services
  10. Visit a Nursing Home
  11. Collect Coke Caps
  12. Give Life: Donate Blood
  13. Participate in Operation Christmas Child
  14. Shop Local
  15. Give Away a Dollar
This amazing view was captured on Christmas Day in my home state of South Dakota by a very talented man named Jerry7171.

This amazing view was captured on Christmas Day in my home state of South Dakota by a very talented man named Jerry7171.

1. Help a Needy Family

When I was a kid, my Dad would take me to the homeless shelter every Christmas. We'd find a family that needed coats and we would buy them the thickest, warmest coats we could find. At first I didn't understand why these homeless children were getting coats better than mine. It took me a while to realize they would be wearing theirs a lot longer than I would.

If you don't have a homeless shelter, you could do the same thing for someone who's just down on their luck. Like that struggling single mom who lives next to your Aunt. Or that guy down the street who lost his job and is worried about his family. Think about how much a couple weeks worth of groceries would mean to them.

If you would like to help someone but you're worried they would refuse your charity or get upset, you could send them gifts anonymously. Or just send them a gift card anonymously and let them decide what they need the most.

2. Visit Your Local Pediatric Wing

My son was in the hospital for a long time when he was in kindergarten. One of the things that made it easier on me (and more bearable for him) was all the volunteers. They would stop by periodically just to tell a joke or just to say hi or to give him a little toy. It always made the day seem that much brighter.

I can't even imagine being a child and having to spend Christmas in the hospital. My guess is that's when volunteers are needed the most.

Here's a couple ideas for how you can make Christmas seem a little better for a sick child:

  • Create and deliver gift baskets full of stuffed animals, books and small toys.
  • Go in a couple times a week and read to them as a group.
  • Help the not-as-sick kids put on a play for the little-bit-sicker kids.
  • Dress up as Santa on Christmas Eve and hand out toys to all the kids.
  • Update the pediatric library with books, board games and video games. They never have enough to go around.

3. Donate Your Hair

My Dad used to have gorgeous hair. He wore it long - past the middle of his back. I remember when I was growing up I always thought it was so pretty and shiny. I never thought I'd see the day when he cut it. But 5 years ago, he took the plunge. Not only did he cut it, he also decided not to tell anyone until after it was done! I was really upset with him until I found out he gave his ponytail to Locks of Love. He just doesn't look the same without his ponytail. But because of him, a child suffering from alopecia areata can now walk around with gorgeous brown curls blowing around her face.

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If you'd like to give a child the gift of hair, all you have to do is follow these guidelines:

  • Hair must be a minimum of 10 inches long
  • Hair must be tied in a ponytail or a braid before cutting.
  • Hair must be clean and dry before it's put in an envelope.
  • Colored, permed out gray hair can be donated.

As long as you follow these guidelines, you can cut your hair off at home and mail it off yourself. Just place the ponytail or braid inside of a plastic bag, and then inside of a padded envelope. If you would like to be acknowledged for your donation, write your name and e-mail address or mailing address on a full size separate sheet of paper and place in envelope. Send it to:

Locks of Love

234 Southern Blvd.

West Palm Beach, FL 33405-2701

It takes 3-6 haircuts just to make one wig. Think about donating the next time you get a big haircut.

4. Grant a Small Wish

Have you ever heard of The Wish Upon a Hero Foundation? It's a tax-exempt non-profit organization that works to support the online community of individuals who grant the needs and wants of others making a wish. They believe in three things:

  • No wish is too large.
  • No hero is too small.
  • Everyone can become a hero.

You can make a wish, you can grant a wish or you can do both. If you'd like to grant a wish, I'm sure you'll find one within your budget. They vary from:

  • "Please send my son a greeting card to make him feel special" to
  • "Please help pay my water bill" and of course
  • "Please send cash".

Right now there's a bunch of parents wishing for their kids to have presents for Christmas. There's also a couple people asking for warm clothes and a heater.

5. Visit Your Local Humane Society

One place that always has needs is the Humane Society. They take in so many animals and most rely on donations to keep going. What I love about the Humane Society is that literally anyone can do their part to help. Money is their number 1 need, but there's so many other ways to donate. You can volunteer your time, as little or as much as you want. You could also donate supplies. Blankets, food bowls, toys and collars are always in short supply.

Here's something to think about. If you or someone you know recently had a pet that passed, what about donating their left over food and treats to the Humane Society? It's just one more way for your beloved pet to leave their special mark on this world.


6. Make a Child's Dream Come True

The Make A Wish Foundation was created in 1980 with a simple mission. That children of the past, present and future will have an opportunity to share the power of a wish. Today, almost 33 years and over 201,000 wishes later, that mission is still holding steady.

And do you know why?

Because of people like you and me. Volunteers. They have volunteer opportunities that span all interests and time commitments. Their donors range from individuals to some of the world's largest companies. Here are 6 ways you can help:

  • Donate money. Choose to give a one time gift or become a monthly giver.
  • Volunteer your time and/or talents. They need committee members, event planners, translaters, office help, professional services, public speakers and wish granters
  • Donate Treasures. These are the common needed treasures
    • Building Materials, Computer Equipment, Hotel Loyalty Points, Hot Tubs/Spas and Shopping Sprees
    • Click here to see what urgent items are needed in your area.
  • Frequent Flier miles to help cover some of the estimated 2.5 billion miles flown each year.
  • Shop to Help in one of two ways
    • Buy and sell on eBay with the eBay Giving Works program to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation
    • Shop for products with the Make-A-Wish logo and help grant wishes.
  • Adopt a Wish by funding the cost of a child's wish.

The foundation grants an average of 1 wish every 38 minutes, so there's endless opportunities for people like you and me to help out.


7. Give to Toys for Tots

Toys for Tots is a not-for-profit public charity run by United States Marine Corps Reserve. Their goal is to "deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens." To date, they've delivered almost 500 million toys to needy children.

If you would like to donate some new unopened toys to Toys for Tots, just enter your state and county here and it will tell you where the closest drop off locations are.


8. Donate to Bell Ringers and Bins

We've all seen them. The Jolly old Santa's standing outside the store ringing their bells. Ok. So maybe it's a guy wearing jeans and a plaid shirt standing outside the store ringing the bell. What matters is that they're both ringing it for the same reason: The Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army is known worldwide for their charitable work. Their mission is to "perform evangelical, social and charitable work and bring the Christian message to the poor, destitute and hungry by meeting both their physical and spiritual needs." Which translates to: They feed the poor when no one else can! And really, those men stand out in the cold for hours ringing that bell. Don't you think they deserve that 63 cents the cashier just handed you? Heck, throw in a couple bills while you're at it. Whatever you do, don't just walk by and pretend you don't see them.

That goes for the toy donation bins you see in front of the stores every year too. A lot of people put it off saying they'll add to it next time they see it. Then the next time comes and they say the same thing. It's not like they're asking for a hundred dollar toy. Any new toy will do. Go get a $10 doll or or a $5 stuffed animal. And as you're putting it in the bin, just imagine how happy you're making some little girl or boy.


9. Check With the Department of Social Services

I know that not every DSS office does this, but it's worth finding out if yours does. Every year around Christmas, a lot of offices will put a tree in the lobby and decorate it with little cards. When you pick a card, you'll see the gender and age of a foster child that needs a Christmas present. Then you go buy an age/gender appropriate gift and deliver it to DSS unwrapped with the tree card attached to it. It's easy and it ensures that every foster child will have something waiting for them under the tree. And if you're really in the giving mood this year, you could go back again right before Christmas just to make sure there's no more cards left on the tree. Back home, I knew a social worker who would gather up all the leftover cards on December 23 and spend her own money making sure that every child got a present. Now that's dedication.

Another thing you can do at the Department of Social Services is to donate a Christmas dinner to a needy family. If you know of a family who can't afford a Christmas dinner, you can specify that it go to them. Otherwise, the social workers will find a family that needs it. And it's all anonymous so the needy family will never know who donated it. If, for some reason your DSS office doesn't do this, you can always go to a church and ask them to handle it. This is just a guess, but I can't imagine a church refusing to give free food to a needy family.


10. Visit a Nursing Home

I've been visiting nursing homes since I was a child. First, when I was 10, it was weekly visits to see the neighbors after they got too old to care for themselves. Then there were the monthly visits to see Granny Hayes when I was 12. At the age of 15, I started volunteering at one twice a week. It may not have been every ones cup of tea, but I enjoyed it.

All those old people want is someone to sit with them. They want to tell you stories about the good ol' days. They want to beat you at cribbage. They want to know how your day went. And they want you to listen to the latest nursing home gossip. For a lot of them, they have no one else.

So if you want to bring a lot of smiles to a lot of faces, just start going to the nursing home once a week. And if you really want to make them smile, bring your kids. Your children will instantly gain 20 grandparents and they're guaranteed to be doted on by every single one of them.

And as an added bonus, think of the lessons you'll be teaching your children by involving them.

11. Collect Coke Caps

Here's something anyone can do. Collect caps from coke branded products. Enter the codes at and then donate the points you receive to charity. They have many charities to choose