Between presents, food and drink, the holidays are often a time of excess. But this time of year also brings with it opportunities to give back, and there are so many ways to help others right in your own community. Whether you want to give clothing, presents or money, there are many organizations that need help. Plus, when you take time to lend a hand, you’re also teaching your kids important lessons about the true meaning of the season.

At Oasis, a Haven for Women and Children in Paterson, volunteers can help in so many ways, from serving lunch to helping women prepare for the US citizenship exam to providing childcare for their little ones while they receive an education.

You can sign up to receive a child’s wish list through Jersey Cares’ Frosty’s Friends. By fulfilling a child in need’s gift request, your own child will see Christmas presents in a new light. Spread some warmth by donating a coat to Jersey Cares’ Coat Drive, which runs through January 9. Helpers are also needed to sort coats.

The Salvation Army has seen a drastic drop in donations during the pandemic. You and your family can help change that by getting involved with its Virtual Red Kettle program. You can also apply to its Adopt-a-Family program to help a family that’s less fortunate with tangible needs during Christmas.

If your family loves animals, you can volunteer at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center. Some positions require volunteers to be 18 or older, so check with the center about ways to pitch in.

The United Way is also looking for people to spread holiday cheer, donate clothing, money and gift cards to those in need. All volunteer positions are currently virtual but there are still many ways you and your family can make a big impact.

Not all help has to come in the form of a check or online donation, and not all volunteer opportunities need to be organized. Sometimes a simple act of kindness, such as checking in on elderly neighbors to see if they need help with running an errand or clearing snow from their driveway, or visiting with a senior at a local center can make the greatest impact. This holiday season we challenge you to get out of your comfort zone and check in on those around you. Isolation is the hardest part of the holidays for many people so even if you can’t make a monetary gift, give the gift of your time!

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