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Top 10 ways to participate in the season of giving

Even if you aren’t able to be with your friends and family this holiday season, there are still plenty of ways to stay connected and spread the holiday spirit through generous giving

<p>Kaitlyn Hilliard is a Top 10 Writer for The Cavalier Daily.</p>

Kaitlyn Hilliard is a Top 10 Writer for The Cavalier Daily.

1. Put together finals care packages for your school pals

Odds are with COVID-19 and an altered exam schedule, you won’t be spending finals with your roommates and school friends. A great way to kick off the season of giving is to put together small care packages that can be shipped to your friends across the state and even the country. Grab a USPS flat rate shipping box and throw in some snacks, gum, encouraging notes, pens and stickers to make your friend’s day! It may even be helpful to add in some de-stressing activities to help lower blood pressure, such as color pages or word puzzles. 

2. Prepare a small gift for delivery people

Be honest — with as much as you place online orders and get deliveries from Amazon, UPS, FedEx and USPS, the least you could do is leave a small gift for the delivery people constantly coming up to your doorstep. Remember, we are in the midst of a global pandemic, but there are still ways to give generously in a safe, hygenic way. There are different ways to give in this way. Consider making individual gift bags with items such as gum, hand sanitizer and granola bars for each delivery person to grab as they drop your package, or you can also have a bucket sitting out — reminiscent of trick-or-treating — filled with bottled water, toilet paper and healthy holiday-themed snacks for delivery drivers to choose from. Regardless of how you choose to show your appreciation, all that matters is that these diligent, hardworking people experience a little gratitude for all that we put them through. 

3. Secret Santa through Choose Love

Choose Love is a nonprofit organization that provides needed goods to refugees. This year, Choose Love is offering a “Secret Santa” service that allows customers to select one of several goods, which will be sent to where it is most needed in the world. These products range from emergency life-saving supplies like coats and blankets to hot meals, hygiene products and educational supplies. If the holiday spirit is strong within you and you want to donate beyond the Secret Santa program, Choose Love has other programs that allow you to donate various other supplies — including those to address emergency needs and building supplies. 

4. Donate toys to local drives

When most of us think of the holidays, specifically Christmas season, we can’t help but to associate this time of year with presents. No child wants to feel excluded from receiving presents and getting toys on Christmas morning, and luckily there are many great ways to give to causes that prevent this from happening. Various organizations — including the Salvation Army and many churches and schools — offer toy drives for local communities. Angel Tree — an organization that provides gifts to children of incarcerated parents — is also offering a virtual program this year in light of COVID-19. If your finances allow, I encourage you to give, and you could be the reason a child smiles this holiday season. 

5. Send handwritten letters to the people you love

There is something undeniably special about running to the mailbox and finding a note from a friend or family member. From seeing your name on the front of the envelope to reading the kind words on the inside of the card, there is never a dull moment when you receive a handwritten note. This holiday season — whether you feel isolated or just want to spread some cheer — sending handwritten notes can be a simple and effective way to make others feel loved and remembered. If you are feeling especially adventurous, I encourage you to get blank stock cards and decorate them yourself — a personal touch goes a long way! 

6. Send holiday cards to local nursing homes or assisted living facilities

This pandemic has been extremely difficult for everyone, but many older people have struggled tremendously with isolation from family and friends. During the holidays, this can be even more emotionally taxing, as the holidays tend to be a time to gather with loved ones and celebrate as one, which isn’t necessarily possible this year. A great way to give some holiday cheer and raise the spirits of some elderly people in your community is send cards and notes to residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. I can guarantee that your holiday message will bring a smile to their faces, and you never know — it could be the only holiday cheer that they receive this giving season. 

7. Participate in or help organize holiday food drives

For a lot of families, the holidays are focused around food and eating together as a group. This brings attention to food inequality — such as food deserts, inflated prices and much more. A great way to give to the community and families in need is to organize or participate in local food drives that collect nonperishable goods that can be used to serve holiday meals and even provide everyday essentials. Frequently donated items include canned vegetables, stuffing mix and gravy. There are also several opportunities to donate turkeys for Thanksgiving, such as one at the Jefferson School in Charlottesville. If you are interested in donating funds to this cause, you can do so at using the PayPal for We Code, Too — the organization that is stewarding the event. 

8. Walk or run for a cause

Not everyone enjoys running on Thanksgiving — or running at any time, for that matter. But, if you’re anything like me, you are tired of sitting inside during this pandemic, and having a real reason to get up and move is much appreciated. During this season of giving, participating in runs or walks for a cause is a great way to indirectly provide financial support while also benefiting yourself through physical activity. I’m not saying that you have to do a Turkey Trot 10K on the morning of Thanksgiving, but if you want to, I encourage you to do so! Use website databases — such as roadracerunner.com — to find a COVID-safe race near you.  

9. Write thank you notes to healthcare personnel and other essential workers

If there is a group of people that deserves to be appreciated and celebrated during the season of giving, it is our essential workers and healthcare personnel that have worked tirelessly during this pandemic. The least we can do is send a personalized message of thanks through different outlets — a simple Google search can bring you a variety of websites that direct messages to these incredible people. One of the best thank yous that you can give to healthcare and essential workers this holiday season is by respecting COVID-19 guidelines and staying safe through mask wearing and social distancing. 

10. Volunteer your time

The pandemic has brought a significant amount of financial struggle to many families and communities. Because of this, it isn’t always possible to donate financially or to donate gifts to other people in need. There are several opportunities to volunteer your time this holiday season to contribute to your community — ranging from local libraries to food pantries and even Habitat for Humanity. You may even discover that giving your time is more valuable than giving tangible gifts. 

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