Ways You Can Make A Difference This Christmas With More Than Money

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With the hustle and bustle of holiday festivities and last-minute Christmas shopping, it's easy to forget the holidays are a time for giving back.

Christmas is a time of gratitude. It's a time for thanking others for the joy they bring into our lives, and a time to show family and friends what they mean to us.

But giving back doesn't just have to be about giving fancy gifts wrapped with bows.

Giving back is also about sharing your time and spreading love. So while you are rushing through lines and hurrying to finish your Christmas cards, take a few minutes to think about how you can give back to others.

Think about the ways you can make a difference in the lives of people you may or may not know. Use this time to spread compassion and love by giving back.

If you do, you will truly experience the joy of Christmas:

1. Donate toys to Toys for Tots.

The mission of the US Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program is to collect brand new toys to give as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children, so these children can celebrate the joy of Christmas like every other kid.

Toys for Tots allows you to make a monetary donation, or you can drop off new toys at a local drop-off location. If you feel like making an even greater impact, you can host a local Toys for Tots event yourself!

2. Send a letter to a military man or woman through A Million Thanks.

You can share your words of gratitude in letter form by sending a sweet note to the men and women serving our country overseas.

It's hard enough to spend the holidays away from your family, much less in a different country, and these brave men and women will appreciate any words of encouragement and love.

3. Send a gift basket to a child who is stuck in the hospital during Christmas.

Contact your local hospital for how to go about donating a gift basket or toy to a child spending the holidays in the hospital.

You will make that little girl or boy's Christmas, and put a huge smile on their face, even if they can't be home for Christmas.

4. Spend time visiting the elderly at a nursing home or in an assisted living home.

One of the most valuable gifts you can give someone else is your time. And showing people you care is invaluable.

Often, some residents in nursing homes never receive any visitors. Spend time with them, share stories with them or just provide your company. Either way, your gesture will be much appreciated.

5. Donate your clothes to a local Goodwill or Salvation Army.

If you need even more encouragement to detach yourself from your old (but perfectly good) clothes, just know if it doesn't bring you joy, you should get rid of it!

It's sure to bring someone else joy and warmth during the frigid winter season.

6. Volunteer at a local animal shelter, or start an animal food or toy drive.

Many pets are left without homes this time of year and are in need of some extra toys, food and/or cuddling.

Contact your local animal shelter to find a way to help because, odds are, they'll always be in need of something.

7. Donate a homemade blanket to a child in need through Project Linus.

If you are good at crocheting or knitting, find a local drop-off site to donate your blanket. All blankets will be given to children in hospitals and shelters.

And don't worry; if you love the cause but have no sewing or crafting abilities, you can still donate money to the project!

8. Keep bags of food in your purse to give to the homeless.

While giving whatever money you can to the homeless is always help, giving them food is always a great idea as well.

Try to keep some bags of trail mix or something a little filling in your car or purse to give to the homeless people you pass.

9. Donate money to UNICEF to support Syrian refugees.

UNICEF is constantly working to provide nutrition supplements, safe water, temporary schools and polio vaccinations to Syrian children.

8.4 million children in Syria have had their lives torn apart by fear, death, violence and displacement. Any donation you can afford is much needed for this crucial cause.

10. Spread Christmas magic to a child in the hospital by sending a homemade card through Cards for Hospitalized Kids.

Donate your time and creativity by creating a kid-friendly Christmas card that'll be distributed in Ronald McDonald Houses and hospitals across the country.

Remember, it only takes a minute to make someone's day or bring someone the hope they deserve this holiday season.

Be the reason someone smiles this Christmas. Take a little time out of your schedule to find a new way to give back. You'll feel good, and it'll make someone else feel even better.