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Giving Back During the Holidays

Somewhere on your shopping list between nieces, nephews, little cousins and – oh yeah, your own kids – make room for people in need. It’s a great time of year to teach your kids that giving is more important – and more meaningful – than receiving. Plug in to a local charity by donating toys, clothes or even seasonal craft projects. Or help your kids pick out an appropriate gift for kids across the globe.

Global Giving
As you exchange gifts with family members this season, remind your kids that other children around the world could use some gifts, too. World Vision and Heifer International both offer online catalogues with a variety of unusual gifts for families in need – everything from a camel to honeybees to three rabbits. Browse the catalogue together and help your kids pick out something in your price range. Teach your kids about the sustainable value of farm animals and that giving the one-time gift of a goat provides milk for a long time to come. Help them to understand that even though they might never put a cow on their wish list, others would be thrilled to get a cow for Christmas.

In addition to animals, the International Rescue Committee offers other untraditional gifts, such as mosquito nets for $18, school supplies for $20 and even a year of school for $52. From now until December 31, all gifts will be matched dollar-for-dollar, so your family can do twice as much good with your donation. When you choose a gift, you and your kids can send a personalized message to the recipient.

Local Giving
There are so many opportunities to give around the Dallas-Fort Worth area at Christmastime, from the Salvation Army bell-ringers to local food pantries. But buying items for other kids or doing craft projects might interest your kids more than putting money in a cup (but if they feel like being generous with their allowance, you can always encourage that, too).

Shopping Spree
As much as kids complain about being dragged along on shopping trips, they always seem to perk up when you arrive at the toy aisle. So this season, take the kids to the toy store and let them loose – you may be surprised how much fun your kids have buying toys for other children.

Several charities take toys, books and games during the holiday season. Toys For Tots has drop-off locations around the DFW area for new, unwrapped toys for ages 0–12 that will be distributed to children in the local community. Check the website for a list of drop-off locations; be sure to call ahead before you go.

SafeHaven of Tarrant County needs new, unwrapped toys, books and clothes for the families at its emergency shelters who are victims of domestic violence. You can place these items in one of their Santa’s Sacks around Tarrant County December 12–22.

Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children also collects toys, books, games and craft supplies for its patients. Visit the hospital’s website for a list of patient needs and take your kids shopping for a few items on the list.

Homemade Gifts
If your kids get more excited about making messes than going shopping, corral your crew for family crafting time. Local organizations collect craft projects to distribute, but you can always take homemade cookies and cards to elderly neighbors or people who may not have family in town for the holidays. Look for ways that your children’s handiwork can spread holiday cheer.

The local chapters of Binky Patrol and Project Linus collect blankets for people in need. No sew? No problem – you and your kids can make and donate no-sew fleece blankets (the kind with the knotted fringe on the edges). Take a trip to a fabric store and pick out two kinds of fleece. Then help your kids measure and cut the fleece and spend some family time tying knots. Pop in a favorite Christmas movie while you’re tying for even more festive fun. When you’re finished, contact local chapter leaders for drop-off information. Be sure to check the website for more detailed instructions before you get started.

Meals on Wheels of Tarrant County is always looking for holiday cards and crafts to give to their clients. Head to a craft store and let your kids pick out festive paper and other materials to make homemade Christmas ornaments, glittery cards and other seasonal projects (popsicle sticks make great snowflakes). Encourage your kids to use their imagination and to put a lot of care into each project. Contact Meals on Wheels for delivery information.

This article was originally published in December 2012.