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Ideas for Giving Back at the Holidays


Many schools and families love the thought of giving back at the holidays. Take the guesswork out for them with these ideas.

by Elizabeth S. Leaver


Giving Tree

A giving tree, sometimes called an angel tree, is a meaningful way to personalize holiday giving. Start by contacting local charities or social service agencies. Depending on the agency, you might be provided with a list of children’s first names, ages, and desired gifts, which you write out on a paper tag and place on the tree. (For example, your tag might say “John, age 7, Star Wars Legos; Sarah, age 5, puzzles.”) Publicize the tree in your newsletter and on your Facebook page and encourage families to take a tag. Arrange both a central location for gift drop-off and for volunteers to deliver the gifts to the agency.

Giving Tree Tags (kids)
Giving Tree Tags (families)

Winter Coat/Clothing Drive

Many closets contain outgrown coats and other winter wear. Give them new life by organizing a winter coat and clothing drive. This can be as simple as placing large boxes in the school foyer or outside classrooms. Donate the clothing to a local shelter, or search “winter coat drive” online for other suggestions of where to donate the items.

Winter Coat Drive Flyer

Get a free “elf bucks” template to make your holiday shop inclusive

Gift Baskets for a Shelter

Collect money or supplies to assemble baskets for a women’s or homeless shelter: blankets, socks, games for children, books, personal hygiene supplies, etc.

Toy or Other Donation Drive

Contact a local agency or a national organization such as Toys for Tots to arrange a toy donation. Get the word out to parents and place a bin in your school lobby. Some families might prefer to give a non-toy gift. As a variation, school supplies for some kids could be running low. Ask parents to donate backpacks and school supplies.

Toy Drive Flyer

Cards or Crafts for Seniors

The holidays can be a lonely time for senior citizens in nursing homes. Have students make simple crafts (easy ornaments, paper placemats, magnets) or cards. If possible, arrange a visit to a local nursing home or senior center to deliver the gifts and spread some cheer.

Cards for Seniors Flyer
Holiday Card Template

Candy Cane Cheer for Teachers

Sometimes, “giving back” can be as simple as making someone smile. Attach a candy cane to a note and give it to a teacher. Include in the note the suggestion that she do the same for someone else.

Candy Cane Note Template

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