Spread The Charitable Holiday Cheer On A Budget

Rolling into the “ber” months has many of us anticipating the upcoming holidays. While December usually means plastic pine trees from Home Depot and the return of Starbucks’ secret menu, it is also a time of giving. Though it’s the simplest and most practical way to help others in need, we aren’t all equipped to donate money. (That is, of course, unless you’re Bill Gates) However, there are a plethora of different ways to spread the charitable holiday cheer on a budget — and it may be more rewarding than you think.

Making a physical donation is easily the most viable option for holiday busybodies. If money isn’t exactly on your side, choose to donate in kind. Considering that the Christmas season rakes in a lot of presents, there are probably household items you can choose to live without. You can pledge clothing to shelters and toys to children’s groups. Books can go to your local library and appliances or electronics can end up in Goodwill. Of course, it is best to ensure that the items in your “give” box are in good condition.

If you can spare a day being proactive, you can opt to give your time. Charities don’t only seek checks and boxes — they need people. Volunteer at a home, whether for the elderly, ill, or four-legged. Chances are, there will be a lot for you to do. A rise in nonprofit groups may leave you with a copious amount of options. If you’re unsure of where to start, figure out where your interests lie and what skills you have to offer. This is where making a list and checking it twice may come in handy. (Scoot over, Santa)

If you are keen on raising funds, plan something income-generating like a garage sale or auction. If you’re without a charity of choice, research a group that could use the money. Remember that you will make the greatest impact by sticking to one organization. A few hundred dollars will go a long way for a single cause as opposed to dividing costs between various groups.

Some people love experiencing the immediate effects of giving back. If you’re handy in the kitchen, consider running a food drive. Get your neighborhood in on the action. Decide what meals are easiest to throw together, and are most cost-efficient. Not only will you satisfy a handful of hungry tummies — you’ll bring the community together.

Needing a change? Or are you simply not so squeamish? Make a medical donation. Blood drives are common during the holidays and a perfectly suitable option for those who have managed to stay in shape. (Perhaps skip the fruit cake?) If you’re not too hot for needles, donate your hair! You’ll be surprised how many people are affected by hair loss due to medical conditions. Moms can also donate breast milk to milk banks.

Giving back can be rewarding, especially if you have the money to do so. But you can choose to be charitable every single day. The time you take to change someone’s life will likely be more meaningful than just a dollar bill.

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Surfing Dogs Raise Funds For Orphan Pets

Dogs have been known to help people and fellow animals alike. From planting trees to assisting baby cheetahs, we can rest assured that they care about the world. After Hurricane Harvey, there is a particularly fascinating story involving our furry friends that caught my attention. Some surfing dogs are looking out for their own, raising funds for orphan pets.

The 12th annual surf competition for dogs raised $80,000 to help orphan pets at the Rancho Santa Fe-based Helen Woodward Animal Center, including more than 60 rescued dogs and cats from Hurricane Harvey.

The Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon lasted 6 hours and attracted over 5,000 guests. Dogs, separated into weight classes, surfed in 10-minute heats. To be honest, I’m not sure what I am more impressed with — the funds raised, the cause that the funds are supporting, or the fact that these dogs are practically amazing athletes.

The canine surf fest also included a costume contest for pooches to show off beach wear and freestyle surf competition, where points were awarded for creativity.

I am bummed to have missed such a lighthearted event. But more than that, I am also proud that our two-legged friends have been participating in relief efforts — and doing fantastic jobs at it! Truly, anything is paw-sible.

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Superhero Pope Francis Shirts Help the Poor

There are a dozen different ways to help the poor outside of huge monetary donations. This Anatolian restaurant is feeding the needy for free. This Philippine community is building bleach lamps from plastic bottles for households without electricity. Graffiti artist MauPal is using Pope Francis as an icon of hope, creating “Superpope” t-shirts to help Vatican-sponsored charities.

“With the economic and social crisis that hit Italy and the world, I saw Francis as a symbol of hope for all,” the artist said.

“I graphically summed up a widely-shared opinion of the pope as someone with a lot of power who is also humane and humble at the same time.”

The Pope Francis shirts aren’t MauPal’s only masterpieces. In previous years, the artist depicted the Pope in various playful forms as street art. However, city cleaners were less than pleased, scrubbing the works off walls near St. Peter’s Basilica.

It was only after that MauPal made the remaining sketches appear on the Pope Francis shirts. And while some are also not appreciative of the cartoon tees, the Pope himself has expressed his approval.

“I offered him the drawing I had painted on a simple piece of wood, a medium I thought fit his (anti-luxury) philosophy. He looked at me, he smiled at me, then he affectionately pinched my cheek,” MauPal said.

If the Pope himself gives a thumbs-up to your work of kindness, you must be doing something right. And more importantly, if the Pope has given your artwork the smiley rubber stamp, well, I’d say you must be pretty skilled with a pencil!

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Be A 5-Star Hostess At Your Local Animal Shelter

For stray pups and wandering felines, an animal shelter is a stepping stone towards a forever home. Or at least it should be. Some promising residents become therapy dogs, while others find families through dating apps (yes, you read that right). Others don’t seem to hit the jackpot. If you’re an animal lover but lack the extra space for a furry friend, volunteering at a shelter might be the perfect side hustle.

As with any non-profit, making a difference isn’t just a monthly stint. Charity groups, especially those that cater to animals, require time commitments. Before diving into the deep end, arrange your schedule. Anyway, most organizations will indicate a minimum amount of hours for students or working volunteers.

Be ready to train. Depending on what you sign up for, training programs may or may not be required. After all, you don’t want to be chasing after a Road Runner stray without the proper equipment. When it comes down to actual tasks, work with your skills and strengths. Do you have an eye for photography? Snapping headshots of handsome adoptables may be the job for you. Are you hands-on and nifty with a comb? Grooming might be your thing.

Animal shelters are all about their tenants and like any hotel, require a load of maintenance. Beyond the animals, you can participate in clerical or manual work. Accountants are totally underrated, despite a slew of paperwork and finances pulled from medical care, neuter-and-spay services, and food alone. Similarly, anyone familiar with carpentry could construct pens and crates.

Supporting your cause remotely is also highly doable (and effective), especially in this day and age. Spread the word by posting your experiences on social media, handing out fliers, and inviting experts to speak at special events. If you have a nickel to spare, gather supplies. While most needed items are often laying around your storage cupboard, others are a little more elusive. Pay a visit to your local Pet Smart. Use Facebook to your advantage to call for donations. Consult sites such as Amazon or eBay — with caution!

If you’re big on events, there’s no going wrong hosting a fundraiser. Whether it be a birthday bash, a school fair, or simple food drive, donate your earnings to your favorite shelter. Even better, allot time to highlight your cause through a speech, video, or game. Learning is always fun when it’s, you know, fun.

At the end of the day, if you’re itching for a companion but can’t yet set aside the funds to care for one permanently, foster them. Falling in love with your temporary house guest may leave you in a sticky situation. Still, the outcome (usually adoption) is often heartwarming one.

Puppies in pet stores may certainly be more attractive than grown ones behind cage doors. Nevertheless, any dog’s eagerness to love and accept you are often immeasurable, regardless of breed or age. They are, after all, everyone’s favorite friend.

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Little Boy Holds Toy Drive For Kids In Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico’s recovery has been slow-moving, but the outpouring of helping hands has remained on the rise. Donors across the globe are raffling items for funds and pledging hoarded supplies to get people on their feet. While the devastated country is slipping from headlines, some, like Jayden Perez, refuse to give up. To help Puerto Rican kids, the 8-year-old is collecting toys, and has scored over a thousand in just two weeks.

Kids lost a lot of their toys, and now they don’t have any,” Jayden tells the camera [in a Facebook post]. “So can you donate one toy, from the bottom of my heart and the bottom of your heart?”

According to Perez’s mother Ana Rosado, the family has also raised a sum of more than $6,000. Describing the selfless act as holiday cheer may now be an understatement.

“I think it’s a great experience for Jayden to see what these kids have gone through and the smile that he’s going to bring to them when he gives them the toys,” Rosado said.

The family will venture out onto the island to personally distribute the toys.  Santa better watch out — there’s a new one in town!

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Be King Of The Jungle: Easy Ways To Help Wildlife

While it’s up to high-profile activists like Leo to rehabilitate the world’s most endangered species, we, too can be wildlife warriors. Ordinary citizens have been doing what they can to keep animal populations afloat. Some have gone as far as fending off wildfires for an entire sanctuary — and despite how heroic it may sound, isn’t always necessary in becoming a true environmentalist. In fact, there are many different and simple ways to help wildlife.

Contrary to popular belief, being involved in animal conservation doesn’t always entail direct contact. You can start you journey (and continue it) within the comfort of your home. A great way to set the scene is to reduce your carbon footprint. This can be as simple as recycling, researching, and making eco-friendly choices. Carbon emissions are unforgiving when it comes to marine life in particular. Slowing the pace of climate change will do wonders for all species.

If you are more of a people person but still have a soft spot for nature’s greatest, share your knowledge. Spread awareness. Use your own strengths to get the word out. If you are an illustrator, infographics are popular on social media. Writing about the state of our wildlife is also important. Anything that will paint a clear picture of the current goings-on may also encourage others to participate. For go-getters, visit an animal preserve. Learning more about how certain species function may help you understand how to approach them.

Believe it or not, your shopping habits can also make a difference. Faux fur may be all the craze, but will often encourage many to purchase real fur. To set an example, buy responsibly. Ivory keychains may look charming, but are never worth the suffering an elephant goes through. In fact, elephant poaching has surpassed its limits in that some calves are being born without tusks. Refraining from purchasing leather may not revive the animal it was taken from, but it will allow the industry to dwindle in popularity. After all, if nobody is buying your product, why go through the trouble of making it?

Many wildlife conservation groups are big fans of hefty donations. But pledging your time is also just as valuable. If you have a weekend to spare, volunteer. There are a profusion of non-profit organizations that will almost always accommodate a number of volunteers. Figure out where your skills will be most useful. Are you looking for a hands-on experience caring for injured or abandoned animals? Perhaps you are also keen on hosting fundraisers. Whatever the case, there will likely be a place for you.

If you are eager to get up close and personal, you can choose to adopt an animal. Of course, these adoptions are symbolic — a Bengal tiger won’t be curling up on your sofa. However, you’d be remotely caring for an animal you can truly develop a bond with by learning about it and providing for it.

Many interested in keeping our wildlife safe often believe that the only way to do so is to walk right into the fire. But most of the time, that isn’t the case. Doing what you can wherever in the world you are is always enough. Trust me — like in a zoo, bears, lions, and monkeys enjoy admiring you from a distance.

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Charity Machines Help Third World Families

Vending machines are perfect for a quick fix on the go. They’re practically everywhere, but aren’t necessarily accessible to everyone. Since Nottingham introduced free machines for homeless customers, a Salt Lake church figured it’d do the same. The LDS establishment is kicking off the holiday cheer with a machine that operators can use to donate to needy families.

“You could donate a goat that gives milk, and someone can use it to support their family. There’s not many places around here where you can donate a goat,” [LDS executive director] Elder Nielson said.

Other goodies include first aid kits, school shoes, food items, and even chickens. Four machines cater to four different charities, and will be around for the season. LDS, however, hopes to keep them running, with the help of partner groups and volunteers.

“Sometimes it’s hard to know how to give, where to give. This is simple way to donate to a charity,” Elder Nielson said. “We are hoping people see how easy it is to give a few dollars or share money with a charity in need.”

“Sharing is caring” has never been truer. Especially now.

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Military Mom Sends 10,000 Goodie Bags To Soldiers

In rare instances, people put their lives on hold for others. For troops, it’s an everyday thing. Where military parents have prolonged time away from their children, military couples have postponed weddings. Many have since figured it’s time to give back. Mother to U.S. troops Michael and David Scott, LeAnn Boudwine began sending care packages to her sons and their comrades. Since 2007, Support the Troops WI has mailed 10,000 bags to deployed soldiers all over the world.

“Every box is different,” [Boudwine] says. “I always tell people when we are putting them together, make them neat and make it a ‘gift’ from you … around the holidays this may be the only box they receive, make it special.”

Support the Troops WI is run entirely by volunteers and shipping is covered by donations. Boudwine shops according to a wish list, giving packages a personal touch.

[Boudwine] goes on to say, “I really can’t believe that we have come this far. I never take for granted the donations … no one could do this alone, it takes a village. Or in my case a caring, giving, compassionate community.”

The group’s slogan is “They’re Still There, We Still Care” — a mantra that volunteers clearly, religiously live by.

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Texas University Donates Leftover Food To Homeless

For homeless shelters across the globe, food shortages are a constant, pressing reality. On the other hand, restaurants deal with a baffling amount of leftovers. Because of this, apps like MealTech are helping facilitate donations, while select farms are growing produce for the needy. To alleviate waste issues at football games and do some good, Texas Christian University students are hauling tons of leftovers to shelters.

The donations are coordinated by the TCU Food Recovery Network, a student organization that works to eliminate food waste on campus, and Sodexo, the university’s food service company. The student organization also delivers leftovers from the campus dining hall to Union Gospel Mission twice a week.

With up to 40% of food supply wasted annually in the United States alone, it’s good to know perfectly good coleslaw isn’t being tossed. The Food Recovery Network, led by senior student Megan McCracken, also volunteers to serve their donations personally.

“People really want to help out, but they don’t know how to help out sometimes,” [food services director Robert] Clethan said. “They just need to know there’s a place like this that can use things like that.”

Thanks to TCU, Union Gospel feeds nearly 300 residents three times a day. Now that’s a feast!

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Weightlifter Auctions Medal To Help Earthquake Victims

As a quick and entertaining form of fundraising, charity auctions have grown in popularity. Moguls like Warren Buffet have raised millions for homeless shelters, while even city locals have conducted raffles for disaster victims. Determined to support Iraqi and Iranian families displaced by the recent quake, Olympic weightlifter Kianoush Rostami is auctioning off his gold medal.

“I consider it my duty to take a step, however small, to help my beloved fellow countrymen who have suffered as a result of the quake,” Rostami said.
The 7.3-magnitude earthquake saw the death of at least 452 people, and left at least a thousand injured. Aftershocks rocked the shores of both Turkey and Pakistan. Along with other athletes and sports icons, Rostami feels it is his duty as an influencer to take action.
“I am returning the gold medal, which is theirs by right, to my people. I will auction off the medal and use the proceeds to help the quake victims.”
Gold medal or not, Rostami is a champion for Iraqis and Iranians alike.
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