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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.

Big SNOW American Dream will hold different give-back opportunities this season. Their Fall Food Drive on Nov. 1 benefits the Community FoodBank of New Jersey (CFBNJ), New Jersey’s largest anti-hunger and anti-poverty organization. A special Veterans Day promotion offers a priority skip-the-line lift service on Nov. 11 – another great way to give back during the holiday season is to thank a vet or donate to USMC Toys for Tots. In partnership with One Warm Coat, Big SNOW will then host a coat drive on Giving Tuesday (Nov. 29) benefiting Greater Bergen Community Action – bring any unused and gently worn coats for redistribution to children and adults in need. As a thank you to donating guests during any of these programs, anyone who participates on these days will get a complimentary 2-Hour Slope Access Ticket voucher for a return visit.
Mayo Performing Arts Center is holding a food drive with all donations going to nourish.NJ. Patrons attending events are encouraged to donate non-perishable food items and personal care items at shows. Donations may also be dropped off at the box office during regular business hours (10 am – 6 pm, Monday – Saturday). Current needs include low sugar cereals, oatmeal packets, shelf stable milk, canned chicken and tuna, canned beans, shampoo, laundry pods, new warm hats and gloves, new socks and white T-shirts.
Kids who are sick have an especially hard time during the holidays, so see if you can make a donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Monroe Twp. or send toys to Saint Peter’s Children’s Hospital in New Brunswick.

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.

Survivors of domestic violence need support, too, so reach out to Women Aware of Middlesex County or the Center for Hope and Safety in Bergen County. You can host a Dress-Down Day or create a restaurant or Facebook fundraising page.

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 from Nov. 7 to Jan. 8. Helpers are also needed to sort coats.

The Salvation Army has its Red Kettle program, or you can apply to its Adopt-a-Family program to help a family that’s less fortunate with tangible needs during Christmas. The virtual fundraiser that began during the pandemic is still in effect, in case you don’t see volunteers out in public.

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.

Many food banks and religious organizations request donations of food baskets prior to Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. Consider buying a turkey, baking a pie or possibly driving/delivering the meals to a family or senior citizen in need of some company this holiday season. HomeFront will accept baskets for Thanksgiving from 9am-3pm weekdays and 9am-12pm Saturdays at 1880 Princeton Ave., Lawrence Twp.

You can also support a diaper drive since some families need the basic necessities even moreso during holiday time. The third annual Baby Diapers & Essentials Drop will be held Nov. 5 at Smithburg Farms in Manalapan. Diapers, formula, new onesies, baby soap, blankets and accessories are needed. You could also reach out to the Central Jersey Diaper Bank in New Brunswick to see what their requests are year-round.

Liquid Church is hosting five meal packing programs across the state Dec. 2-3. Help pack 1 million meals for the hungry.

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!