The holiday season is finally upon us. While it is certainly the time for cheer and celebrating with friends and family, it is also the season of giving. There are many opportunities to give back to the local and national community this winter. People are often conducting food drives, coat drives, and even toy drives through local charities and Toys for Tots. However, there are many other ways to give back this holiday season that are not as well-known or advertised. In the spirit of giving, here are three lesser-known ideas to give back to your local community this time of year, and all year long.

1. Pay for School Lunches

Food kitchens and pantries are wonderful in making sure families are fed at home. However, they do not help the children who do not have enough money or food for lunch during the day. Contact your local school to determine how to donate money to help pay for kids in need of a good lunch meal. There may be lunch accounts that are unpaid or an anonymous fund that can go towards the kids who do not get to have lunch regularly. Either way, it will help kids in need and make sure no one is embarrassed or left hungry in the lunchroom.

2. Adopt a Family

Unfortunately, as well as many families seem to do at this time of year, there are also families that go without much every holiday season. Many times, people are laid off from their jobs as the weather changes or because they become the victim of downsizing at the end of the year. These occurrences that take place late in the season mean that the families are unable to provide gifts for their loved ones. Look to “adopt” one of these families to make sure their children have a holiday to remember. You can donate as much or as little you want; either way, adopting a family means some precious gifts will be under the Christmas tree or present during Hanukkah this year.

3. Remember Your Furry Friends

People are not the only ones who suffer throughout the holiday season. With the hustle and bustle of life during this time of year, our furry friends in local shelters are often forgotten as well. Start a drive specifically for the animals at a nearby local shelter. Collect food, blankets, toys, and money to help the animals stay warm and cozy during the holiday season. Moreover, you can set up a schedule to go and play with the animals to let them know they are loved and that they will find a home soon. At the same time, remind people that while we love our furry friends, do not make them a gift for the holidays unless you intend to keep them forever.

No matter how you choose to give back, remember that the holidays are a season to remind us of the importance of giving. Joining a local organization that believes in giving throughout the year is a great way to make sure philanthropy is a part of your everyday life. To learn more about giving back to your community and ideas on how you can help, contact the St. Paul JCI at to get involved now.