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Giving Back During the Holidays Is *So* Important—Here’s How To Do It During a Pandemic

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Photo: Getty Images/Alexandra Iakovleva
The pandemic has taken its toll on each of us in so many different ways—millions of people have lost their jobs, homes, and loved ones. Needless to say, the upcoming holiday season may well feel quite different than the merry and jolly time that typically denotes the end of the year. That's exactly why this year, it's especially important to know how to give back during the holidays to communities and groups who need extra support, love, and care.

In-person volunteering is largely noncompliant with social-distancing guidelines and many people are too financially strapped to donate money—but rest assured there are a number of tips for how to give back during the holidays in the midst of a pandemic. Below, find seven ideas for safely supporting local communities, marginalized folks, and anyone in need during the 2020 holiday season.

7 tips for how to give back during the holidays in the middle of a pandemic.

1. Write letters to essential workers, the elderly, and incarcerated folks

The holidays can be a frustrating, lonely, and upsetting time for those who are away from their families and loved ones or not celebrating for one reason or another. With that in mind, spend some of your free time writing “thank you” letters to health-care and frontline workers, holiday cards to seniors in retirement homes, notes to incarcerated people through the Prisoner Correspondence Project, or those who may be experiencing intense feelings of loneliness or anxiety this upcoming winter through organizations like Letters Against Depression and Letters of Love.

2. Donate (in any number of ways) to communities in need

Are you planning to clean out your closet before the New Year? Do you have nonperishables sitting in your pantry that you’ll never eat? Consider donating clothes, toys, and food to local organizations in need. There’s also a current shortage in blood donations due to the pandemic, so donating blood is another no-cost way to give back, if you’re able to do so.

Research companies are in your area that are accepting donations that directly support various marginalized folks and communities that have been affected by COVID-19, including those who are immunocompromised; Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC); and LGBTQ+. For some ideas for where to donate, check out the Salvation Army, CSL Plasma, and the American Red Cross.

3. Support causes you care about on social media

Social media has the power to boost awareness for and positively affect important causes. So, this holiday season, share and promote the charities and causes that you believe in by signal boosting on your various platforms. Another way you can use social media to support others in need? Use Facebook Marketplace to purchase items (read: potential holiday gifts) from small business owners and neighbors in your local area who may need the extra bucks in their pocket.

4. Volunteer your time to local non-profit organizations

It's still possible to volunteer while abiding by social distancing guidelines, so sign up to phone bank or text for upcoming political campaigns, like for the runoff elections in Georgia happening in January 2021. You can also participate in local charity drives, events, and workshops held by various organizations, like LGBTQ+ equality foundation Human Rights Campaign or Reveal Beauty, which works to empower woman-identifying victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence.

5. Offer your services for free in a virtual space

Take your skills to the internet, and host Zoom workshops and online events to benefit your community. Lead yoga classes or meditation sessions. Edit résumés for unemployed job seekers. If you’re a writer and have the availability, create content for non-profits and organizations in need. If you’re a website designer, consider creating sites pro-bono for content creators and small business owners in marginalized communities. No matter your skill set, you are likely able to offer a service to folks in need.

6. Buy holiday gifts from brands that give back

If buying (or sending) holiday gifts for friends and family is still on your radar, double down by purchasing them from organizations that will give back on your behalf. Below are a few ideas:

  • Gift a backpack to your best friend who loves to hike from Adventurist Backpack Co., which provides meals to families in need by partnering with non-profit Feeding America.
  • Send scented Pomegranate and Champagne candles to your parents from Bright Endeavors, which hires young mothers from marginalized communities and trains them to handcraft sustainable soy candles as a means to cultivate economic security (with 100 percent of proceeds going back to the program).
  • Invited to an intimate gathering that you may or may not attend? Bring or send drinks from bottled-water brand Live To Give, which donates 50 percent of its net profits to charities that support veterans, first responders, and their families; or Sierra Nevada, which is donating $1 million to community non-profits from Dankful IPA beer purchases.

7. Be kind

Above all else, practice gratitude and kindness this holiday season. You can do this by engaging in friendly conversation with (or expressing a heartfelt thank you to) the cashier at your grocery store, showing extra compassion to your co-workers during virtual work meetings, and packing homemade gift baskets and dropping them off on the doorsteps of friends' and neighbors' homes, for just a few examples. You never know what people are going through, and this especially rings true throughout 2020. A little bit of positivity can go a long way and help to spread some much-needed cheer during the end of a very challenging year.

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