Since Amazon sold 1 billion items last holiday season, it’s safe to assume that many of you will be doing some of your Christmas shopping with the online retailer. But did you know that you can do some good for charity while buying gifts from Amazon?
With AmazonSmile, you can easily and automatically support your favourite charitable organization whenever you shop—for no additional cost. By visiting smile.amazon.com to make your purchases, you’ll find the same products, prices, and shopping experience, but with the extra benefit that Amazon will donate half a percent of your purchase price to the charity of your choice. When it comes to charitable giving, it really doesn’t get any easier!
Using your existing Amazon account, simply visit AmazonSmile and then select the charity that will receive the donations from your purchases. There are nearly one million organizations participating in the program, including the vast majority of charities that we have featured here on the Elf Blog, such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. There are also plenty of small and regional organizations to choose from, such as Basset Hound Rescue of Georgia or the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
In total so far all charities have received more than $62 million (!) just from folks shopping on Amazon, which they would be doing anyways. And if you want to start using AmazonSmile, but you’re worried you won’t remember to start at smile.amazon.com, you can add a bookmark to your browser or you could install the Amazon Assistant.
Whether you’re finishing up with your Christmas purchases or just getting started, consider shopping at smile.amazon.com to effortlessly give a little something extra [for free!] this holiday season.
How many of you do a lot of holiday shopping online? If you have boxes from Amazon or other retailers piling up at your home, wait a moment before you simply toss those boxes into the recycling bin. With the Give Back Box platform, you can fill a box with items for donation, print a prepaid shipping label, and then ship the items to your nearest Goodwill. Donating unwanted items has never been so easy!
Unless you are connected with someone in the armed forces, you may not realize the impact a spouse or parent being deployed has on a family. Operation Homefront understands the challenges service members, wounded veterans, and their families face and is dedicated to providing assistance. Over the years, this organization has been helping American military families through an array of programs; two of my favorites are their Holiday Toy Drive and Holiday Meals for Military programs. Read on for more details on how Operation Homefront assists military families during the holidays and how you can get involved.
Holiday Toy Drive
The Holiday Toy Drive runs through November and December of each year. With the support of several sponsors and generous donations from folks like you, Operation Homefront has been able give the gift of Christmas to countless children. There are several ways to get involved with this toy drive, such as donating toys, setting up a collection bin at your workplace or church, helping distribute toys, or becoming a volunteer. To learn more, click here.
Holiday Meals for Military
In 2015, Operation Homefront provided 8,500 meals to military families nationwide and is on track to provide more than 12,000 meals this year! For folks who are struggling to make ends meet, this generosity makes a world of difference. The season seems brighter when they experience glimmers of hope thanks to kind-hearted souls. Click here to locate a food drive near you and see a list of upcoming events.
Give to a Specific Need
Operation Homefront maintains a list of people’s needs that require urgent assistance, and each need has a monetary goal to which you can donate (similar to a GoFundMe campaign). For example, if someone needs help paying their mortgage, you can donate any amount towards that campaign. Maybe you yourself know what it’s like to have your utilities cut off or to have the threat of foreclosure looming over your head. However you decide to give, your tax-deductible donation will make a world of difference in another’s life. Click here to see the needs list and find one (or more!) that speaks to you.
Other Ways to Give
There are various other ways you can get involved with this admirable charity, now and throughout the year. If you are specialized in a service-based line of work (e.g., handyman, mechanic, accountant), you can donate your time and abilities. Federal employees can donate by withholding a portion of their paychecks. For a full list of ways to donate to Operation Homefront, click here.
For some, the holidays are filled with potlucks, cookie swaps, and big family dinners, but at the same time other families struggle to simply put food on the table. Living in a state of food insecurity where one doesn’t have consistent access to enough affordable, nutritious food would be distressing any time of year, but I imagine it’s especially difficult during what is supposed to be a joyful season.
Each year millions of hungry people turn to food banks for meals and pantry staples, and this Christmas you could lend a helping hand by donating to your local food bank. Whether you decide to pick up a few extra items at the grocery store or host a food drive at the office, your donation would assist those who need it most.
What Food Should You Donate?
If you would like to donate food, it would be best to call your local food bank to find out what their specific needs are, as that can vary from region to region and month to month. Food banks prefer to receive nonperishable, nutrient-dense foods, especially those that are low in salt and sugar. If you plan to scour your pantry for items to donate, make sure to check the expiration dates because food banks will not accept items that are past their expiration. Do not give glass containers [they are harder to transport and store], and canned goods with pop-tops are best since some of the people receiving the food will not have access to a can opener.
Below you will find a list of some items that are many times in need. I’ve also created a printable list that you can take on your shopping trip to make things extra easy for you 🙂
Dry whole wheat pasta
Whole grain cereal
Whole grain crackers
Vegetables & Fruits:
Canned vegetables [low sodium]
Pasta sauce [low sodium]
Canned fruits [no sugar added]
Dried fruits [no sugar added]
Shelf-stable 100% vegetable juice
Shelf-stable 100% fruit juice
Dried beans, lentils or peas
Canned beans [low sodium]
Canned soups, stews, or chili [low sodium]
Peanut butter or other nut butters
Disaster supplies [MREs, emergency kits, etc.]
Donate Holiday Food Items
Besides the more essential donation ideas listed above, since we are in the Christmas season, you could also donate holiday food items so that even those who are food insecure can enjoy a festive meal. Remember, these items should still be nonperishable and low in salt and sugar.
Food banks will also always appreciate monetary donations. The volunteers at the bank will best know that their needs are at any given time, so that takes the guesswork out of deciding what to purchase at the grocery store. Plus, many food banks have food industry partners that are quite generous, so every dollar they receive has 5 times the buying power. That means every $1 you donate equals $5 worth of food.
Find a Food Bank Near You
There are food banks all across the United States and Canada—in both large metro areas such as Ottawa and NYC, as well as in more rural areas like Western Michigan.
Let’s stop for a moment and think what it would be like to live without food. Not only would we feel hungry, but it would be difficult to focus at work or school. For children, the effects of hunger are more far-reaching as it stunts their growth and development. Did you know that 1 in 5 children in America face hunger? And that statistic worldwide is 1 in 4! Feed The Children is on a mission to make sure all children are fed.
Poverty is the biggest reason for hunger, and in addition to providing food, Feed The Children aims to end the cycle of poverty. They have programs in the U.S. and around the world that provide education, living essentials, and disaster relief programs.
With donations from folks like you, Feed The Children boxes up food and essential supplies and distributes the boxes to families in need. Food provides nourishment for children’s growing bodies, and things as basic as soap and toothbrushes allow children to go to school clean and confident. When children and families have their basic needs met, they then have the strength, health, and opportunity to be successful!
Wondering how you can help? There are several ways you can get involved with this organization.
Give a Gift in Someone’s Honor
A great way to make a charitable donation and give your family a gift is to buy a present in their honor. To do so, browse Feed The Children’s gift catalog. When you purchase a gift, the item goes to a person in need, and the honorary recipient gets the pleasure of helping someone. Some gift ideas include sending school supplies to a child, providing medicine for 500 children, or supplying a family with chickens that will provide eggs for food and income. If you’re having a hard time choosing a gift, you can always give a gift where it is most needed. Simply click here, and scroll to the bottom of the page until you see the pink stripe that says, “Give a gift to help where needed most…”
When you give a gift in someone’s honor, you’ll want to give the honorary recipient something, so take advantage of the printable holiday cards Feed The Children has to offer. There are six different holiday cards that are available for you to download for free and print at home. (Click here to view, download, and print.)
Whether you live in the U.S. or not, there are several different ways to volunteer. Just a few examples include helping prep and pack boxes in a distribution center or greeting families and passing out boxes at food distribution event. To learn more about volunteering within the U.S., click here.
If you enjoy traveling and want to volunteer on the global front, then you might be interested in volunteering at one of Feed The Children’s offices worldwide. This volunteer experience can last 1–2 weeks, and you’ll be helping Feed The Children’s employees strengthen their communities. To learn more about this volunteer opportunity, click here.