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‘TIS THE SEASON FOR GIVING

Christmas is traditionally a time of giving, and that doesn’t end when the wrapping paper is torn from the gifts. Giving isn’t just restricted to buying presents for friends and loved ones – you can give to strangers, to those who are truly in need, and those who wouldn’t have much of a Christmas without your donation. It’s the ultimate way to live in the spirit of Christmas, and it doesn’t even have to cost you a lot of money either.

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Online Shopping For Charity

You may want to do all your Christmas shopping online this year – it’s quick, easy, and you can really make the most of your free time by logging on for a few minutes during the day or evening and picking up a couple of gifts. For a lot of people, online shopping is the best way to get their festive presents. But did you know that when you are buying online you can also be giving to charity?

There are a number of different websites that you can choose from to do this. Some excellent ones include www.giveasyoulive.com, www.thegivingmachine.co.uk and a range of individual charities too. Once you sign up and log in, you can then click through to a wide range of big online retailers – and you’ll probably find at least some of the ones you would have used anyway. These include Amazon, Boots, Dorothy Perkins, Tesco, John Lewis, eBay, Expedia and thousands more. Every time you buy something this way, a percentage of your purchase cost will be given to the charities – and it won’t cost you anything extra. The only thing you need to do is remember to log in to the website before you go shopping, and the magic of IT will do the rest!

Or why not use a cashback site such as www.giveortake.com? This site offers cashback on various purchases, and you can give that ‘extra’ money to charity through the site.

Shopping With Charities

If you would rather not sign up and log in every time you want to go shopping, then why not purchase your Christmas gifts directly from charity shops and websites? Many shops including Cancer Research, Oxfam and The Red Cross sell brand new items as well as second-hand ones, and one shop could solve all of your Christmas gift problems as well as giving back to those in need.

Many charities also offer you the chance to buy charity gifts that go directly to the person that they need to help. A gift from Unicef, for example, is sustainable, waste free, and ongoing, meaning that one Christmas present can last for many years to come; what other gifts can truly be that useful and that thoughtful? Once you have chosen your gift, you can create a personalised card or e-greeting to give to the recipient so that they know exactly what you’ve bought, and who it’s helping.

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Christmas Cards

Pop into any charity shop or search online and you’ll soon discover that almost every charity offers special themed Christmas cards each year. A percentage of the money (usually 40 to 60 percent) you spend on these cards will go directly towards helping those in need.

 

Give Your Time

Money is one thing, but not all of us spare much, especially at Christmas time. However, charities can always use a donation of your time, and by volunteering to help over the Christmas period you could be giving someone the greatest gift of all – somewhere warm and safe to spend the night. Crisis (www.crisis.org.uk) helps the homeless at Christmas, and you can choose to be a general volunteer at one of their many centres which would involve serving food and talking to the people who come into the centres amongst other things. Alternatively, you can volunteer a particular skill – Crisis is always on the lookout for drivers, hairdressers, and cooks to name just a few requirements.

Perhaps you want to care for the elderly at Christmas? So many older people are on their own at this festive time, and volunteering with a nationwide charity such as Age UK (www.ageuk.org) will show you exactly how you can help in your local area.

Children also need a Christmas to remember, and across Kent and Sussex you will find a variety of different charities that will be looking for volunteers to ensure the little ones get the Christmas they deserve. Contact Dandelion Time (www.dandeliontime.org.uk) or Demelza (www.demelza.org.uk) in Kent or The Rainbow Trust (www.rainbowtrust.org.uk) or Chestnut Tree House (www.chestnut-tree-house.org.uk) in Sussex – amongst many others you can choose from – to see how you can help.

Have A Clear Out

You know that you are about to receive a haul of brand new items from your family and friends, and if you have children those gifts seem to multiply hugely. The question of where to put it all often arises just after Christmas, and the annual trek to IKEA (or similar) to buy even more storage is planned. But what if you didn’t need to buy more storage? What if you didn’t find yourself in a house crammed with gifts?

If you can’t persuade your friends and family to buy you and your children fewer gifts, or if you enjoy receiving lots of presents (and that’s nothing to be ashamed of – we all love to be given things), then what about having a clear out before the big day? Making space for the new items you know are coming helps you keep a clear head and will save you money on that dreaded IKEA trip. But it will also help those in need if you take the old toys and unopened gifts from last year to your local charity. Either drop them off at a shop or take them to a centre where they can be wrapped and given out to those less fortunate. That cuddly bear that hasn’t even been looked at let alone played with since it arrived in your home might be the only present a less fortunate child receives this year.

It’s not just about toys either – we’ve all got too many clothes, and some of them having been languishing in our wardrobes and drawers for months or even years without seeing the light of day. For a homeless person the gift of a new suit or warm jumper could make all the difference. Coats are particularly needed. There are lots of clothes banks dotted around high streets, or again you could take your unwanted outfits directly to a charity shop.

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Buy A Little Extra

The big Christmas food shop… love it or loathe it, it’s a necessity, particularly if you are hosting on the big day. Christmas is a time to indulge, to eat a little (or a lot!) more than you would normally, and generally be a bit naughty. And the money we spend on these feasts is astronomical. We might moan about it, but by the time we get home with enough food to see us through the week of Christmas, we can finally feel as though things are going to plan.

But what if, instead of buying things that are not going to get eaten (we throw away around £64 million worth of food as a nation over the festive period), wouldn’t it be better to donate items to a food bank instead? You could do your big Christmas shop and buy a few extra bits and bobs (not just food, but sanitary products and nappies are always needed too) which can go straight to charity. Alternatively, don’t buy any extra than usual, but donate anyway. Are you really going to eat all of those mince pies? What about the selection box of chocolates that was on offer so you bought two? If you can, let someone else enjoy these treats.

And don’t forget, food banks need donations all year round, so if, once all the excitement is out of the way, you find yourself with plenty of leftover food that just isn’t going to get eaten, don’t throw it out – take it to a food bank. Check www.thetrusselltrust.org.uk to find your nearest one.

Help The Animals

Sadly, animal shelters become more full than ever at Christmastime. Some people choose to give away their older pets in anticipation of getting a new one, and others give away news ones that they hadn’t asked for and didn’t want and yet were given them anyway.

Any extra pet food that you have – particularly for dogs and cats, although fish food and birdseed are also needed – will always be welcome at your local animal shelter. Unwanted pet toys can also be given. Your time will also be gladly received as shelters will be so busy. Come in to play with the animals, take the dogs for walks, clear out the kennels and cages and generally be on hand when required.

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Give Blood

Giving blood won’t cost you anything, and it won’t harm you in any way. And although a lot of people sign up to give blood at Christmas, estimates say that around one in five of them simply don’t turn up to their appointment. Hospitals are always in need of blood, and taking the time to give yours could literally save a life this festive season. It’s easy to sign up (you can do it online at www.blood.co.uk) and, as long as you meet the requirements, you can start giving straight away.

Pay It Forward

The idea behind paying it forward is something that can – and should – be remembered throughout the year, but at Christmas it is the perfect time to begin giving on a daily basis. Paying it forward means doing something good for someone else so that they will, ideally, do something nice for someone else. In this way, a chain of good deeds can grow hugely – and make quite the difference. You could start simply by paying for someone’s food in a restaurant or buying someone coffee in the morning. Put a smile on their face and you’ve changed their outlook for the entire day. It’s a lovely thing to do.

You don’t even have to spend any money to do this. Pay a stranger a compliment and you could have started a chain of positive events that ends up helping someone you have never and will never meet. It’s a beautiful thought indeed.

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