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Christmas compassion

Fifteen ways to give a gift that makes a difference this holiday season

By Ashli O’Connell

The spirit of giving is a natural part of the Christmas season, and many will find themselves open to compassionate outreach in the weeks ahead. The problem is, people don’t always know what to do to help those in need. Here are 15 ideas of activities that families can do together to make a difference in the lives of others this Christmas.

The following list is not tied exclusively to the holidays. Consider designating one idea for every month of the year — and keep Christmas compassion alive all year long.

1. Donate new toys, books or videos to a hospital pediatric floor. The gifts can be used in two ways — to be kept by the hospital staff to be used with children who come and go throughout the year, or to be wrapped and given to children who spend their holidays in the hospital. Staff at your local hospital can let you know how best they can use such gifts.

2. Take up a collection and purchase snow boots or warm shoes for every child in a local homeless shelter.

3. Buy your Christmas greeting cards from a community or church group. Many groups raise funds by selling their own cards. This is an easy way to help out and give something different and meaningful to friends and family.

4. Raise funds to donate to a school library in a low-income part of town. New books are a consistent need in school libraries.

5. Collect new baby clothes and items for a crisis pregnancy center.

6. As a family, empty your piggy banks and collect all the loose change in your house. Count and roll the change together — serve hot chocolate and popcorn and make a party of it. Once you’ve collected and counted the money, decide as a family how it will be donated. This activity doubles as a good math lesson for young children.

7. Adults and teens over age 17 can donate blood together. In some states, teens as young as 16 can give.

8. Take your children to visit a nursing home. Read to and visit with residents. Go back and visit regularly.

9. Organize a Christmas party for children at a community center after-school program.

10. Make Christmas the time for your family members to register as organ donors.

11. Donate your expertise to make a difference. Consider whether you or your business could provide pro bono assistance to a ministry or community group. It may be legal advice, accounting, auditing, marketing, public relations or IT knowledge — or landscaping, carpentry or bricklaying skills. Whatever your professional or trade skills, chances are a local ministry or community group needs them.

12. Put your old Christmas decorations to good use. Rally co-workers or friends to help decorate a local shelter or community center or perhaps a new church. Children can help by making their own decorations.

13. As a family, adopt an elderly neighbor or shut-in. Bake cookies, shovel his or her walk and driveway, run Christmas errands and look for ways to help in general. Invite the adopted neighbor to join your family in Christmas activities.

14. Make others a part of your family Christmas celebrations. Many single and widowed people live far from family or do not have family to celebrate with. The holidays can be a lonely time for many people.

15. Treating your family to a new computer this Christmas? Donate the old one to a good cause. There are organizations that will take your old PCs, refurbish them and distribute them to disadvantaged schools, families and community groups.

These ideas are only a sampling of the many worthy activities a family can do together to impact the lives of those around them. Use Christmastime as an opportunity to pray as a family and decide how best to utilize your time and resources. For a list of Assemblies of God ministries that accept donations, visit and click on the “Contributions” link.

Ashli O’Connell is assistant editor of Today’s Pentecostal Evangel.

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