December 13, 2009

10 Ways to Start a Tradition of Giving

by Jennifer Tankersley

I once read an article about a woman who talked about her family's tradition of giving at the holidays and how it began. Her son was a wrestler on his high school's team. One day, the meet was against another school in a more impoverished district of the city. She recalled watching her son's team file in with new uniforms and shiny shoes and all the gear that wrestlers need for protection. The other team came in with holes in their uniforms, well-worn shoes, and many were wearing no protective gear whatsoever. Her heart went out and a tradition was born.

That Christmas, she bought some gear to donate to the other team. Her children came down to discover their gifts on Christmas morning, but were surprised to see an envelope tucked into the tree. When they opened it, it revealed the good and generous donation. Each year after that, she was on the lookout for a worthy cause and each year she placed it in an envelope and stuck it in the branches of their tree.

Children are capable of understanding how a family may strive to help out those less fortunate than ourselves. Giving becomes a part of who they are and allows them to look for opportunities to do good. Here are some ways you might start or continue your own tradition of giving.

  • Pick an angel off the Angel Tree in your local shopping area or mall.
  • Contact a local human services office and ask if there are any families that you can sponsor for Christmas. Get friends involved if it is a larger family.
  • Ask your local humane society for a list of supplies that they need, go shopping, and then deliver the supplies to the shelter. Take home a homeless animal while you are there.
  • Go on a baking spree and deliver baked goods to nursing homes and hospitals. Call ahead to find out about dietary restrictions.
  • Donate to the Box Project. Since 1962, The Box Project has been working to help people living in America's worst areas of rural poverty.
  • JustGive is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to connect people with the charities and causes they care about and to increase overall giving.
  • For those families with animal lovers, adopt an endangered animal at the World Wildlife Fund website.
  • Buy a new book for your local library (be sure to ask what books are on their wish list).
  • Deliver a stocking full of toiletries to your local homeless or battered women’s shelter.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open. This holiday season will offer plenty of ways to demonstrate human kindness and compassion.

Get your family organized and on the same page with Cozi, the free online family organizer.

ListPlanit Jennifer Tankersley is founder of, with over 400 printable lists and planning pages, including everything you need to prepare for the holidays, manage a family, and organize your life. Jennifer is also the creator of 100 Days to Christmas: a daily dose of inspiration and motivation to help you through the busy holiday season.


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