3 Ways to Give Back this Season

The Small Things Team Gift Picks

My husband and I have a few different ways that we support ministries and causes that are important to us. We also have a few places locally that we regularly donate to.

My kids know that donating is a regular part of our life and the funniest thing happened the other day with David that I have to share.

I gave David my Instax camera to take some pictures, which he excitedly did, and when I asked him to show me his pictures he pulled a folded up and crumpled polaroid out of his pocket and reached for the trashcan.

“David, wait! What are you doing, are you throwing that one away?”

“Yes, I do not like that one.”

“Let me see it, buddy!”

He handed me the photo and I held back my smirk because I didn’t want to embarrass him. It was a selfie shot from about waist level looking up toward his face and apparently, he didn’t like how his face looked in it, so he wanted to throw it away.

“Okay, so you just don’t like this one? You can totally throw it away!”

Then David said, “Wait, maybe we can donate it to a kid that may like it more than me!”

I had to explain to him that while I appreciated his generosity that sometimes there are certain things that we can donate and others that we don’t.

I was truly grateful, though, that he thought about potential other uses for an item before just throwing it away. Both of my boys see me donating clothes, shoes, toys, baby items, and other things regularly, and I’m glad that giving unused items away is an un-emotional, natural thing to them.

In the spirit of giving, I thought I’d share just a few places that I personally enjoy giving to and also tell you about a great way to get your kids involved in giving with Operation Christmas Child.

Operation Christmas Child is a great activity to get your kids involved in that blesses children that may not get Christmas gifts this year. You are able to choose the age and sex of the children you buy for, and all you need to do is fill up shoeboxes with a few items from the provided list, then drop it off at a certain location. It’s such an easy way to give back and can really make the day of a child in need.

My mom and I went to Hobby Lobby recently and saw that they sell the boxes there if that makes it easy for you! And if you aren’t able to physically put a box together, there is an option to do it online as well!

The North Carolina Diaper Bank is a 501c3 organization that provides diapers to people who may not be able to purchase them. As someone who uses diapers very regularly, I loved having a chance to support and help this cause.

The Brown Bag Ministry is another 501c3 in Raleigh that provides food to the homeless and hungry in Durham and Wake Counties. Beyond financially giving, you can show up and help bag the lunches on Saturdays.

These are just a few ideas of ways to give back this season (or year round!). You can also find a few great ideas for volunteer opportunities that you may be able to do with children in the comments of this post.


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Charlotte says · 11.18.19

Our church filled boxes for Operation Christmas Child this year! Such a wonderful organization! Not only can it impact a single child’s life but it can literally impact a whole community of people…for eternity 🙂

I, too, have always encouraged my son to donate unused items and hopefully bless someone else with those things.

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog says · 11.18.19

These are really great ideas, Kate! They’re not really applicable for where I live, but I’ll definitely find some means to give back this holiday season! ❤️✨

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

Hilary says · 11.18.19

I look forward to reading the comments! We adopted an angel through the Salvation Army to provide Christmas gifts. We just started it this year, but we look forward to continuing the tradition of choosing an angel that is the same age as our child. We love the idea of our babe helping pick out clothes and toys to gift someone else.

Does anyone know of a good place to donate used toys and books? We have some barely touched ones, but many charities ask for only new ones. Beyond Goodwill, I have no idea what to do with them!

Megan says · 11.18.19

You might try a local women’s shelter. Often the women and children there have escaped from a bad situation with just the clothes on their backs. Many shelters lack toys or books for the kids.

HILARY ADAIR says · 11.18.19

Thank you! Someone just sent me a link to a domestic violence organization, which is a great option that I had not thought of!

Jessica W. says · 11.18.19

If it’s in your area, a Ronald McDonald House collects toys and books for the children of the families staying with them.

Katie says · 11.18.19

I love the intent of your generous giving.

If you aren’t fully aware, please check out this article about the challenges that are created by the Christmas shoeboxes – I had no idea until it was pointed out to me a few years ago: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/12/20/filling-millions-of-shoe-boxes-of-toys-for-poor-kids-seems-like-a-great-idea-heres-why-its-not/

Kate says · 11.18.19

I read through the article you shared. Some valid points are made and I can see how one could view the shoebox gifts as something that is not helpful as a long term solution, but they aren’t supposed to be that. The heart and mission behind it is a Christmas gift, and while I do see and appreciate the suggestions of more permanent charitable options at the end of the article, Operation Christmas Child is still something I’m personally going to be involved in. It may not be for you, and that is your prerogative!

an says · 11.18.19

I had a hunch that someone would bring up said article. It made valid points, but in my opinion it also might have paralyzed some readers into inaction. All in all, like you, I still believe in the mission of Operation Christmas Child (and pray that the gifts are not corrupted in any way).

Lynn says · 11.18.19

Thank you for this post. It is so important for your readers to hear about giving back rather than the daily influx of purchases. It is heartwarming to know your kids are involved, love David’s story! I strongly feel that as much one has been blessed, it makes it doubly important to share with others the things we have in excess and the items we no longer use. Blessings to you and your family!

Kali says · 11.18.19

My husband and I are both teachers so we see the needs of our students first hand. Every Christmas we buy gifts for students in need (a new winter coat, a toy they really wanted but won’t get, etc). Now that I have a 3 year old daughter we are filling a box to take to our local food bank with food donations and having important conversations. I love seeing her understand and want to make a difference for someone else.

Kate says · 11.18.19

Ah I love this! Thanks for sharing.


Erin says · 11.18.19

A family from our church lived in the Middle East for many years and were part of distributing operation Christmas child boxes. They said it was a highly anticipated event for everyone involved. He cherished the tradition and encouraged everyone to participate.

Jessica W. says · 11.18.19

Love this post! Every fall I help with a food drive at work for the local food bank. Last year we collected 5,233 items to donate. Hoping to beat that this year! I also personally pull families and children from the Salvation Army angel tree every year. There are so many ways to give back when/if you have the means. I also recommend cooking a meal for families at a Ronald McDonald House. It doesn’t cost anything but time. Most have a pantry and full kitchen that you can cook from without bringing anything in. They are so appreciative of everyone who comes in and donates the time and effort to provide them a hot meal while they are going through a hard time. Great post!

Michelle says · 11.18.19

Just dropped off our family’s first operation Christmas box. My 3 year old daughter went with me to pick everthing out for 2-4 year old girl. My daughter really enjoyed it. Well definitely make this a yearly tradition to give back.