During the holidays it is very easy to forget just how fortunate we are. The whirl of activity, the lavish decorations, and oh yes — the presents — take all our attention and distract us from the fact that not everyone has these holiday indulgences. It’s even harder for children to remember this.
But children even as young as two years of age can begin to learn about the importance of giving back in their communities. The Midlands offers several opportunities for families to help other families throughout the holiday season.
Every year my family participates in the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program. Trees are placed throughout the Midlands, decorated with the names of children in need. We normally choose 2 or 3 names off of the tree and purchase a gift for them. This has been a tradition of ours for 5 years now, and my kids look forward to it every year.
Teaching children about charity doesn’t have to be a daunting task, and the holiday season is the perfect time to begin.
Opportunities to Give Back
Toys for Tots: The Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program is another one of our family favorites. Started in 1947 in Los Angeles, this national program accepts new, unwrapped toys ($10 and up) and distributes them to local children. Midlands donations are given to children in Fairfield, Lexington, Newberry, Saluda and Richland counties. Make a monetary donation through the program’s website or email [email protected] to find out how to donate toys.
- Families Helping Families: This program provides assistance to families throughout the Midlands (Fairfield, Newberry, Lexington and Richland counties), as well as the Charleston area. Nearly 3,000 families across the state are served with not only Christmas gifts, but food and clothes as well. Donate or sign up to sponsor a family through the program’s website.
- Stuff the Bus: This local effort provides gifts and food to local families through the Salvation Army. Bring a new, unwrapped toy or a nonperishable food item to dropoff locations at four Midlands Walmart stores this coming Saturday: 10060 Two Notch Road, Columbia 29223; 360 Harbison Boulevard, Columbia 29212; 2401 Augusta Road, West Columbia 29169; and 1283 Broad St., Sumter 29150. Donations will be accepted from 5 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Give From Your Own Possessions
Teaching your children to be charitable doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money either. There are several other options for those who wish to be charitable with little to no out-of-pocket cost.
- Donate Clothing and Toys: Goodwill is an amazing place to donate. By allowing your child(ren) to select which items they would like to donate to another child, it allows them to be actively involved in the process and adds value to the task they are doing. Doing it for them diminishes the process and doesn’t give them any incentive to enjoy it.
- Offer a Meal: If you have an elderly neighbor, or if you know a family in need of a meal, donating non-perishable food items or cooking a meal is another way to teach charity. Whether you put together a basket, cook a hot meal, or donate to Harvest Hope, you can also use this particular opportunity to talk to your children about being thankful as well.
Doing It Right
Make giving a family affair for your children. Include them in the process of deciding how your family can give back during the holidays. It’s also important that kids know why they are doing it and not just going through the motions. Young children may not fully understand, but they will understand that they are helping (and at a young age they always want to be helpful as much as possible).
Lastly, don’t forget to make them feel appreciated for their hard work; no matter how big or small their gestures, they should know that whatever they did, it was amazing.
Does your family have a charitable holiday tradition? Share yours in the comments.