Simple Ways to Help Others This Holiday Season

With the holidays approaching (Hey, tomorrow is Thanksgiving), you will probably start to see charities and organizations ask for assistance with their holiday campaigns. If you are on a budget, writing a check may not be feasible, but there are other ways to help.

1-Donate to your local food bank food drive: Most food banks see an increase in clients at the end of the year, and need everyday foods. Clean out your cupboard and donate some IN DATE, un-dented cans or boxed items.  

I know most of us have some extra (and unexpired) items in their cupboard they could part with. If you are unsure what kind of items to donate, here are items that the food bank always needs:

  • Canned Meats
  • Canned Vegetables
  • Canned Fruits
  • Canned Soup
  • Peanut Butter
  • Cereal & Oatmeal
  • Rice & Pasta
  • Powdered Milk, beverage mixes (like shelf stable juice concentrate, instant coffee, hot cocoa pouches)
  • Infant Formula (The sample sized canisters or sample pouches that you may have received free in the mail are perfect donations!)

2- If your local area doesn’t have a food bank, check to see if there is a  Little Free Pantry in your area.  These are stocked by neighbors in the area, and most of them can always use some extra boxes or cans. Our neighborhood has a Blessing Box located at the nearby church.  Sometimes neighbors are too embarrassed to seek out help. In those cases, Little Free Pantries and Blessing boxes are saving graces.

3-Don’t forget to check out your local Buy Nothing Groups. Within local buy nothing groups, your neighbors are offering up items for free, and you can offer items from your home that you no longer need.

4-Donate! Charities sometimes accept gently used items to sell to raise money for their causes (such as AmVets, and DAV). You can drop off stuff you no longer need/want and help others at the same time!

5-Donate to a Clothing Swap. I’ve written about clothing swaps here before. With the holidays coming up, some local organizations have an increased need for clothing, especially if they offer clothing without requiring a donation from those in need.  If you are in need of clothing, but have nothing to swap, two good free clothing resources in San Diego are The Closet on 54th (Men, women, and children’s clothing) and Naomi’s Closet (only women’s clothing). 

Helping Neighbors with Blessing Boxes

So for those of you that live in San Diego, one of our local Methodist Churches (The one in Santee-8964 Magnolia Ave, Santee, CA 92071) has a Blessing Box where neighbors can put food, toiletries, diapers, formula, etc. to share with neighbors who are in need but can’t make it to the local food bank for whatever reason. It was started last year. You can read more about it here and see some pictures.
I try to stop by every few weeks and put some stuff from our pantry in it. I pick up a few extra items at the grocery store (or 99 Cents Only or Grocery Outlet) when I shop each week. Instant oatmeal, canned soup, tuna, or beans with a pop-top (in case someone doesn’t have access to a can opener).
When I walked to the blessing box this AM there were 4 packets of oatmeal, some citrus fruit, and a fleece blanket (in the grocery bag).
I quickly scoured my car for everything I had. I didn’t have a lot extra in my trunk, but I emptied it of all of the food I had- I even went through the kid’s Snack bag that is for “emergency car snacks”.
IMG_8728.jpgHere is what it looked like after I put in my donation. I picked up a package of wipes from Huggies at a bloggers summit a few weeks back. I hadn’t yet opened it, so I added it to the Blessing Box.  I know that this box gets utilized by a lot of locals with great frequency. I will be back to add more groceries tonight.
Some of you may have Little Free Pantries or Free Food Boxes in your area too. If not, it’s easy to start one! Many local schools also have a food pantry for kids whose families face food insecurity. Santana High School has one!
My call to action for you is this:
  1. Look into your pantry and pick out 5 things you can live without. They must be in date and something someone actually wants to eat (I’m looking at you, jar of cocktail onions).
  2. Find someone in need. Add it to your local Little Free Pantry, post it on a neighborhood forum, a local parents group, or donate it to your local school food pantry.
  3. Give freely and with love.
  4. Repeat.
I know that most of us have grocery budgets. Imagine if we all cut $5 out of our budget and bought 5 (or more) items to share with a neighbor in need- That would go really far to help hungry families!
If you aren’t sure what to donate, here are a few suggestions:
  • Canned Meats
  • Canned Vegetables
  • Canned Fruits
  • Canned Soup
  • Peanut Butter
  • Cereal & Oatmeal
  • Rice & Pasta
  • Powdered Milk, beverage mixes (like shelf stable juice concentrate, instant coffee, hot cocoa pouches)
  • Infant Formula (The sample sized canisters or sample pouches that you may have received free in the mail are perfect donations!)
  • Toiletries and hygiene items
 I can’t wait to hear about how you’ve helping a neighbor!