Spread Smiles this Holiday Season

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The holidays are a time for gatherings, family and friends, smiles and giving. But the reason for the season can get overshadowed by the pressure to consume. So if you want to do something to give back and spread smiles, here are six great things to spread some holiday cheer.

Send holiday cards to active-duty military and veterans. Members of the military sacrifice for our country. Sending festive holiday cards is one way to show that we appreciate all that they do. You can send holiday cards to military members through a local American Red Cross chapter that participates in the Holidays for Heroes program.

Collect for a local food bank. Food banks distribute food to families and various organizations that serve people in need. A charitable activity that your family and friends can rally around is collecting items to bring to your local food bank. Food banks look for nutritious nonperishable items, such as whole grain foods and low-sodium canned meats. Besides groceries, food banks often ask for other items, such as paper goods and school supplies.

Volunteer at a shelter. Donate your time to do some food prep or meal service at local homeless shelters or at women and children’s shelters. Visiting a shelter and meeting the people one-on-one can be a gratifying experience for your whole family. Find a local shelter near you by checking this directory of homeless shelters.

Donate clothing, coats and other household goods. Gather the family’s gently used clothes, sheets or other textiles, give them to Goodwill or put them in a drop-off bin. Homeless and low-income families really need coats, hats, gloves and scarves during the cold winter months.

Sponsor a family for the holidays. Another way to give back is sponsoring or adopting a local family. Local religious and charitable groups gather personal information from families who need sponsorship, including their clothing sizes and holiday wish lists. Adopting a family is a charitable activity that may cost a little more than some of the other ideas on this list, but you can always get a group of friends or neighbors to chip in for one family.

Have your children pick out toys to donate to Toys for Tots. Instead of adopting a family for the holidays, you can donate to local Toys for Totscharities. Donating to Toys for Tots is an act of giving that young children can have fun getting involved in.

Whether you decide to donate your time, money or belongings, turning your family’s focus from exchanging gifts to giving back can help spread smiles the whole holiday season.

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