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Granite State Rumblings: Ten Ways to Teach Your Kids to Give Back this Holiday Season

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1.    Support the Troops

Cards and letters from back home are some of the most important gifts you could send to our troops. Besides putting a smile on a soldier’s face, this is also a great opportunity to help your child learn to write a letter. Plus, it doesn’t cost a thing (other than domestic postage) if you mail it to an organization like SKIP to send to a soldier for you. SKIP’s mailing address is: Special Kindness In Packages, Inc., P.O. Box 276, East Bridgewater, MA 02333.

The United Service Organizations (USO) also offers various drives for soldiers. Sponsor the cost of a phone call home or call your local USO division to find out how you might help directly.

2.    Invite Someone Over

Know of a lonely relative? A neighbor far from home? A student unable to go home for the holidays? Consider offering up a seat at your dinner table this Thanksgiving. And don’t forget to ask your children to help you with the shopping list.

3.    Visit a Retirement Home

Retirement homes are likely to have at least some residents who won’t see family members during Thanksgiving. Determine what visiting hours are first, and have your child pick out a small gift or make a decoration to bring along if you so desire — or simply give the gift of good conversation.

4.    Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen

Soup kitchens see an influx of volunteers during the holidays, but it’s important to remember that hunger is a year-round problem. Still, most soup kitchens are grateful for the extra volunteers. Call local churches or check out Homeless Shelter Directory to find local shelters, pantries and soup kitchens.

5.    Donate to Food Banks

Chances are, you have extra cans of food in your pantry right now. Go look. Now consider donating those cans. First, find a local food bank, then determine what it needs. Think outside the box: Sometimes pantries are in need of non-edible supplies, like soap and toothbrushes.  The next time you are at the grocery store with your kids, ask them to imagine what children their age might want and pick one or two canned goods to donate to a Thanksgiving food drive or a food bank.

6.    Respect Your Elders

Look for opportunities to volunteer as a family. Devote time to neighbors or other family members by scheduling a group project to rake leaves for an elderly relative or cook a meal for someone who’s under the weather.

Meals on Wheels delivers daily more than 1 million meals to the home-bound, and many of those served by the program are elderly. According to data collected by Meals on Wheels, the number of food-insecure senior citizens increased by 88 percent between 2001-2011. The organization is always looking for volunteers.

7.    Visit a Hospital

Hospitals don’t take a break for the holidays. Call your local hospital to find out if it will accept volunteers for Thanksgiving. Offer to distribute food, bring small gifts to children or elderly, or simply sit and visit with someone. Ask your kids to pick out a gift they think a kid like them would love.

8.    Click a Button

Can’t get away from home this Thanksgiving? You can give gifts of individual food items, feed a family for several weeks, or even organize a virtual food drive through www.feedingamerica.org.

9.    Find Time for Four-Legged Friends

Take your son or daughter to an animal shelter to volunteer for a day, or sign up to volunteer once a week to spread the love throughout the year. PetFinder.com is one resource for people who want to learn how to volunteer with — or donate to — animal shelters. It even offers information on how to foster needy animals.

10. Embrace “Giving Tuesday”

After Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday this year, take Tuesday off from your looming holiday to-do list, and help raise funds and awareness for a charitable cause dear to your heart. Whether it is donating to a non-profit organization like Every Child Matters in NH, volunteering in your community, or spreading awareness via social media, your efforts will embrace the true spirit of the season.

Thank you for all that you do every day of the year for the children and families in our state.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Every Child Matters!

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About MaryLou Beaver

New Hampshire Campaign Director Every Child Matters Education Fund
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