While charitable giving increases towards the end of the year as important community needs are showcased, such needs continue all year long. Unfortunately, giving tends to drop off after the holidays, leaving many organizations with a shortfall of donated goods, cash and even volunteers in the new year.
"While it is true that part of the Christmas and holiday tradition is to give back to others, there are needs in our community throughout the year," said Major George Hood, National Community Relations and Development Secretary for The Salvation Army. "The Salvation Army serves nearly 30 million people every year and we cannot do that without the generosity of the American public who gives back, beyond the holidays."
What You Can Do
Whether you volunteer or collect goods to donate, resolve to take simple steps in 2013 to better your community. To shine a light on ways to give back, Ericka Lassiter, pro football player partner, avid volunteer and president of the non-profit Off The Field Players Wives Association, shares her top three tips on how to make giving a year-long tradition:
Tip #1: Simple Items Make a Big Difference: Many local charities collect clothes and essentials for families, particularly children, all year long. From warm coats and blankets to socks, toothpaste and
soap, the simplest items can make a real difference for those in need. Consider donating gently used items after your annual spring cleaning, organize a donation drive in your neighborhood, or if you buy in bulk
at warehouse clubs like Sam's Club, choose a few items from each trip to set aside for donation to your favorite local charity.
Tip #2: Think Outside the Can: Food banks are always in need of cash and food donations throughout the year. Feeding America says that for $1, food banks can provide 8 meals to men, women and children facing hunger; $50 will provide 400 meals. Donate at www.FeedingAmerica.org or call your local food bank and ask for their "most wanted" list. Often, proteins are at the top of the list along with peanut butter, baby food and juice boxes. Home gardeners with bumper crops can glean their harvests and share fresh vegetables and fruits so they don't go to waste.
Tip #3: Ways to Help are Closer Than You Think: Your local community center, religious institution or library most likely has programs to help those in need, so you can help as part of your regular routine. Ask if you can volunteer to serve meals to the homeless after church services, or offer to read to children at the local library. There are countless ways to lend a hand, so find one that feels right to you or visit www.volunteermatch.org for ideas.
"Every community will have unique needs and strengths," said Susan Koehler, Senior Manager of Community Involvement for Sam's Club. "To make the greatest impact, those wanting to give back should consider asking about workplace programs that match volunteer hours, local donation guidelines or making giving back a regular family activity."