Despite the pandemic, lockdowns and restrictions on family visits, the spirit of the holidays remains strong! Many people in our local communities could use some help this season, but with so many restrictions, how can you and your housemates make a difference? Here are some safe ways to spread holiday cheer and support those in your community.
Local Food Drive
Is it safe to donate canned goods to a food drive? Many schools are no longer collecting non-perishable items, which will have a huge impact on local food banks. However, there are food bank collection bins still scattered around most areas (your local firehall is a good bet). If in doubt, call first or check the food bank's website for information about a collection bin near you.
Salvation Army Kettle Bell
Salvation Army kettle bells across the country have for the most part, stopped ringing. In some high-risk areas like Ontario and Alberta, it's simply no longer safe. Instead, the organization is encouraging people to make online donations at Fill the Kettle or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY. Funds raised go directly towards helping approximately 1.9 million Canadians who need food, a warm place to sleep, or require direct, compassionate assistance to get back on their feet.
Your local humane society could use a hand (or paw) this holiday season! Appointment-only adoptions are still an option in most places, but your local humane society does much more than find homes for animals in need! Money donated goes towards animal rescues, medical expenses, food, and much more. If you love animals, consider donating, or giving a gift-in-kind this season.
Nursing Homes and Retirement Communities
The residents and staff at nursing homes and retirement communities have been hardest hit with the pandemic. Due to safety some of the regular holiday traditions – caroling, visits, gift-giving, etc. are impossible. However, there are other ways to make a difference. Consider writing a letter or mailing a Christmas card (don't lick the envelope – seal with tape) to a resident. Just call the facility first to ensure they're accepting mail. Even if you don't personally know a resident, you can still send good wishes. Simply address the card to "Any resident."
Some community groups are lifting spirits by donating lights and decorating outdoor areas so that residents have a festive view from their windows. This is a great way to make a difference without adding to your holiday expenses (all you'll need to do is give your time)!
Mittens, Scarves and Hats
If you can knit, then consider making mittens, scarves and hats and leaving them in bags around your community with a note that they are free to whomever needs them. This is a great way to lift spirits in your neighbourhood and help people stay warm. Remember to make items in different sizes and colours, but of course warmth and durability are the main goal!
Unfortunately, in Canada domestic abuse is an ongoing issue for many women and their children who are unsafe at home. From a monetary donation to emergency kits for these families, there are a lot of ways you can help. Check with your local woman's shelter to see what they most urgently need and the rules around donating safely.
Community groups on Facebook are supporting members by coordinating the donation of turkeys and other items for holiday meals. This is a great way to give a family that's struggling some holiday cheer, a sense of normalcy and a full belly.
Toys for Tots
Many police and first responders are still running toy drives for children in need. Cram a Cruiser events are taking place across Ontario, and you can also donate cash or gift cards to help make this a special holiday for children in your community.
Take Care of Your Neighbours!
Is anyone in your neighbourhood going through tough times? It's usually impossible to tell who is in need because some people work very hard to hide that they are struggling financially or emotionally. Although you can't get together with friends and neighbours, you can certainly drop off a card, baked goods or a homecooked meal.
Remember, calling a neighbour to see if they're alright can make a world of difference. Those who are particularly vulnerable this holiday season are people who live alone, who have lost a loved one, or who are unemployed. Of course, homesharing is a great option for homeowners who are feeling the affects of living alone or who are struggling financially. Give the team at HomeShare Alliance a call if you're interested in learning more about the benefits of homesharing.
Random Acts of Kindness
Why not start a chain reaction with a random act of kindness? From picking up the tab for the person behind you at the Tim Horton's drive-thru, to letting someone in a rush go ahead of you in line, to sending a thank-you note to a first responder, there are many ways to spread kindness this holiday season, and many of them cost nothing at all!
We know that the holidays will be very different this year, and a great way to keep your spirits up is to do something kind for others. At HomeShare Alliance, we believe that's what the holidays are all about!