Here come the holidays and with them, the spirit of giving. But who says you have to give back the same way every year? By varying the ways you give, you can create meaningful experiences beyond simply writing a check. Make giving more of a family adventure, and encourage discussions on having empathy for others. Here are some ideas to get your family started.

Take a Ticket

Look for giving trees in stores that support local charities. Contribute a longed-for toy to a child who might not otherwise receive it or donate experiences like going to the zoo or to the theater.

Feed Your Community

Consider making a donation to the Atlanta Community Food Bank or look for an organization that provides holiday meals to those in need, such as Hosea Helps or Lift Up Atlanta.

Think Stocking Stuffers

Buy small gifts for family helpers like babysitters, yard workers and dog walkers. A little bit of thoughtfulness goes a long way.

Toys for the Win

Watch for toy collection programs at local businesses, like Toys for Tots or Clark’s Christmas Kids. Have your child pick out a toy they once enjoyed receiving to help kids in need.

Fill Those Pots

Keep change in your purse to give to donation to bell-ringers and others asking for a holiday handout. This is an interactive way to teach children that it is a blessing to give as much as it is to receive.

De-Clutter All Year

The less clutter you have, the more generous you have been. Gather donations after the kids go back to school, make another round of donations after the holidays, then declutter once more after school gets out for the summer.

Let Kids Sort, Too

Ask your kids to go through their rooms a month before the holidays to make room for the new. Consider the best ways to donate based on what they have to offer.

Use Sock Sense

Shelters often need donations of new socks. Watch for sales on socks all season, gather as many as you can, and contribute them to a local shelter.

Connect Directly

Join an online community group such as Nextdoor and watch for requests from local families for holiday assistance. Be sure to choose a safe place to meet up to make any exchanges of goods or food.

Volunteer as a Family

Contact local senior centers, soup kitchens or animal shelters and see if they offer families a way to participate together. In Atlanta, Pebble Tossers and Open Hand Atlanta offer volunteer opportunities for teens, kids and families.

Over There

Send holiday boxes to soldiers serving our country overseas. Put yourself in their shoes before you shop. What would surprise and delight you?

Double Your Donation

Participate in a matching gift program of some kind. Ask your employer what they offer.

Roll Up a Sleeve

Donate blood with teens who are eligible to participate. Make it an annual tradition.

Spread Seeds

Make a feeder for winter birds and keep it full of birdseed you buy in bulk until spring arrives.

Turn the Page

Go through your shelves and remove books you no longer love. Donate them to your local library or resale shop.

Sweets for the Sweet

Write thank-you notes to teachers and instructors and include a gift card for something tasty.

Shop Win-Win-Win

Buy some of your holiday gifts from a shop or organization that supports others. Sustainable gifts, shared profits and sales that support the community are all fair game. Find locally made, fair trade gifts at The Local Exchange in Marietta or Homegrown Decatur.

Donate Warmth

Dig through your closets and find old coats or even new coats that seldom get worn. Offer them to a local coat drive or tax-exempt charitable resale shop.

Create Good Karma

Pay for a cup of coffee or cocoa for the next person at the local coffee shop or drive-up window and make someone’s day.

Consider Ongoing Giving

Together, come up with ways your family can give year-round. Charities are often flooded with donations around the holidays but could use more support during the rest of the year. Spring and early summer are common dry periods for food banks.

– Christina Katz

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