6 Ways to Give Back this Holiday Season

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I truly LOVE all of the holiday gift guides many of my favorite bloggers share this time of year. But in thinking about creating my own, I quickly realized that my gift guide would simply be a list of yoga pants, kombucha, and maybe a puppy- because let’s be honest, everyone wants a puppy for Christmas! So instead, I’m providing ideas to help you give back this holiday season by sharing 6 of my favorite organizations or causes and ways to give back to them. Many of the organizations mentioned are local or have local branches in southern Maine however, I’m sure you can make this list specific to your area by finding local branches or similar organizations close to you.

1. Wayside Food Programs

Wayside increases access to food for those in need in southern Maine by providing prepared community meals, non-perishable food items through their Mobile Food Pantries, and by ensuring Portland children have healthy snacks through their Kids’ Healthy Snack Program. In 2017, Wayside served 29,000 community meals, 41% of which were given to seniors, and 84,800 meals were shared through their Mobile Food Pantries.

Ways to Give Back

Non-perishable food items can be donated through community food drives, many of which are organized through local grocery stores. Wayside strives to offer nutritious food items to those in need, so they commonly request items such as rice, peanut butter, cereal or granola bars, and cans of tuna. Businesses can also participate in their Food Rescue Program by donating leftover food items from meetings or gatherings, ensuring no food goes to waste. You can also you support Wayside by providing donations as little as $25, which would be enough for 10 rows of vegetables, and a donation of $50 would be enough for 35 prepared community meals!

2. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Maine

This program holds a very special place in my heart. Ted has been a Big for a little over 5 years and his involvement with this organization has been nothing short of incredible. The program goes above and beyond to ensure all of their Littles are matched with the very best Big and does everything they can to support the families that are looking to have their children matched with a volunteer. Big Brothers Big Sisters helps children realize their potential through the development of positive relationships with their Big that will have a lasting effect on their lives.

Ways to Give Back

Become a Big. It saddens me to say that the waiting list of male Littles in southern Maine is quite long, and they don’t have enough male Bigs to match them with. Ted was even part of a recruitment commercial in an effort to get more male Bigs involved. The matching process can take a bit of time, simply because the organization really ensures each match is the best fit. While many feel they don’t have enough time to be a Big, the truth is the time commitment is really no more than 3-5 hours every 2 weeks. And with the matching process you end up doing things with your Little that you enjoy doing yourself anyway, you simply gain a little buddy to share the experience with! Plus I can say without a doubt, being a Big is absolutely worth it. You can also provide a monetary donation as little as $25 to support each child in their program. It costs Big Brothers Big Sisters approximately $1,000 to make and sustain a match for each child so any donation you can make is a huge help for the program.

3. Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland

The Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland provides temporary care and shelter for stray, abandoned, confiscated, and relinquished animals. They don’t place limits on an animal’s stay in their care and do everything they can to ensure each animal is provided with the opportunity for a new beginning.

Ways to Give Back

The Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland needs individuals willing to act as Shelter Helpers. Shelter Helpers are asked to volunteer only once a week and only need to be 13 years and older (those 13-16 years of age must volunteer with a parent or guardian). Volunteers may help by providing walks for dogs, cat cuddles, kennel cleaning, laundry, and extra love for each animal being cared for. You can also open your home to animals that need a relaxing, comfortable environment to recuperate outside of the shelter by becoming a foster home. The Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland is always looking for donations of pet and shelter supplies such as durable pet toys, newspapers, cat litter, and grain-free treats. They have even created a convenient wish list of the various supplies they often need.

4. The Locker Project

The Locker Project works in partnership with the Good Shepherd Food Bank to ensure food security for all Maine children. They work with local schools to provide healthy snacks in the classroom as well as foods that can be taken home, especially during times schools are closed for vacations, for those most likely to experience hunger.

Ways to Give Back

Donations for non-perishable food items are always needed, and if you contact the Locker Project they can arrange to pick them up. They are always in need of granola bars, canned soup, canned chicken and tuna, and instant oatmeal. They also supply some toothbrushes, toothpaste, and other basic toiletries to some of their school pantries.

5. Maine Walking School Bus

The Maine Walking School Bus program, funded by the Maine Department of Transportation, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, and Maine Safe Routes to School, provides groups of children accompanied walks to school each morning as an alternative to taking the school bus. The opportunity to walk to school with a trained adult volunteer affords kids a cost-effective means of transportation while getting some physical activity at the start of their day. I formerly was a volunteer Walk Leader when the program ran at Reiche Elementary School located in the West End of Portland, and I loved walking to school with a small group of kids a couple times a week.

Ways to Give Back

East End Community School and Riverton Elementary School are currently the only schools in Portland that are running the program and they are always in need of community volunteers to become Walk Leaders. Volunteers are asked to commit to at least 1-day a week for only 45 minutes-1 hour before school. What a great way to start your morning by connecting with children, while getting in some physical activity of your own!

6. Girls on the Run- Maine

This organization inspires girls to be joyful and confident through a 10-week experience-based curriculum that integrates running for 3rd-5th grade girls. Girls on the Run- Maine is dedicated to creating a world where every single girl is able to activate their limitless potential and boldly pursue their dreams.

Ways to Give Back

There are so many ways to give to this organization- everything from becoming a coach to starting a new site, or by using your own athletic endeavors as a SoleMate to raise money for your local council.  You can also act as a running buddy for the 5k held at the end of each session, for girls that don’t have an individual that is able to run along with them or act as a volunteer for these special 5k events.

I know that time and money can be tight during the holiday season but there are truly so many ways you can give back that can take very little of both. And what better way to celebrate the holiday season than shifting your focus and your family’s focus from exchanging gifts to giving back to others in need?! I promise it will not only bring joy to others but giving even just a little bit will bring so much joy and fulfillment to your own life.  

What are some of your favorite ways to give back during the holidays? Share with me in the comments below!


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