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More Ways to Give Back During the Holidays

Real Simple readers share their goodwill ideas.

Plate of Christmas cookies and sheet musich Kate Sears

Making Special Deliveries

After many years of hearing the sad stories from my mom, a third-grade teacher for more than 30 years, about some of her students’ lives, I decided I wanted to do something for them last Christmas. I work for a large company, with about 140 people in my office, and I thought that if each person donated a gift, large or small, we could provide Christmas gifts for several families in need. I took the idea to the human-resources department, and the response was amazing. We had so many gifts that we added a few families to our list. I had the pleasure of playing Santa and delivering the gifts to the families (while the children were not at home, of course!). Many parents cried, some were as excited as the children at the sight of a doll or a pair of roller skates, but they were all so grateful for our help. It was an incredible experience, and I look forward to doing it again this year.
Lindsey Mahler
Langhorne, Pennsylvania

When my very good friend was in Bahrain working in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I was bummed out by the thought that he (and every other soldier) would be away from family and friends over the holidays. After much thought, I held a package-making party for soldiers abroad in my dining room with my children and a bunch of my girlfriends. We included all the basics that the crew needed, along with some fun decorations. We took pictures of our silly party antics and stuck funny Post-it Notes to things like toothpaste and foot spray, hoping to cheer the guys up. We figured that our troops have a stressful-enough job, and that words cannot be found to express our thanks to them and their families for their bravery and integrity. Although my friend is home safely now, making his old crew a holiday package is a yearly event that will continue until their ship reaches her home port for good.
Christine Schaefer
Newton, Massachusetts
Since my husband’s family is all grown up now, we’ve decided to forgo buying gifts for one another and instead adopt a family for the holidays through a local Salvation Army branch. The family creates a wish list, which we receive early in the season. We have greatly enjoyed shopping for the items on our adopted family’s list, imagining their surprise when they receive the items they had hoped for. It takes the pressure off holiday shopping because we avoid the agonizing chore of buying one another useless gadgets year in and year out, and we all admit that we enjoy our new tradition much more than our old gift exchanges.
Kathleen Arnini
Brattleboro, Vermont

At the end of each winter clothing season, I try to purchase as many gloves as I can to donate to children. In November, I go to a needy school and simply drop them off in the principal’s office with rolls of gift wrapping.
Carolyn Pelzman
Smithfield, Rhode Island
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