You sneak in for one last good night kiss and as you look down at your sleeping child, you can’t help but think of the kids for whom a warm house, a comfortable bed and a safe environment are a dream. You make your holiday gift lists and check them twice but remember the moms who aren’t going to be able to put anything special under their tree this holiday season. You walk your dog late at night and vow to never forget the service members, past and present, who protect your safety by putting themselves in harm’s way. But you’d like to do something more than think and pray. You’d like to show your kids how great it feels when you do something for, or in service to, someone else. Bergen Mama’s Family Guide to giving back has 10 ways your family can volunteer in Bergen County NJ this holiday season, no matter your income, your kids’ ages, or your availability.
Baby Basics: A typical baby can require up to 12 diapers per day. Toddlers require up to 8. But there is no federal assistance program that allocates dollars for the purchase of diapers. Baby Basics in Ridgewood provides free formula and diapers to low income families living and/or working in Bergen County.
How Can Families Help: Host a diaper drive and collect diapers of all sizes and formula. Baby Basics offers a Supply Drive Toolkit on their website. Talk to kids about the health hazards of babies not having their diapers changed often enough.
Adopt-a-family: The Salvation Army Adopt-a-Family program and the Bergen Volunteer Center’s All Wrapped Up program match families in need with individuals or corporations who can provide their tangible needs during the holidays.
How Can Families Help: Fill out the online form and then wait to be paired with a local family in need. Have your kids do a reverse holiday gift list. Instead of listing what they’d like to get, have your kids make a list of what they’d like to get for the kids in the family you adopt. Then, involve your kids in shopping for and wrapping the gifts.
Birthday Bags: Because some families can’t afford to provide a birthday celebration for their kids The Social Service Association assembles Birthday Bags for their clients on a monthly basis.
How Can Families Help: Make birthday bags. Bags are assembled on a monthly basis. Sign up to help out once or on a recurring basis. Bags usually consist of wrapping paper, cake mixes, and small gifts, toys or books. A contents list, ages of recipients and deadlines will be provided to you.
Feed local families: The Center for Food Action’s goal is to get food to where it's needed most. Because, although you may not see it, there are families who are hungry in Bergen County NJ.
How Can Families Help: Step it up for #GivingTuesday, November 27th, when CFA will be collecting canned soup to highlight the issue of hunger in our neighborhoods. Or think about participating in a Weekend Snack Pack Program, where healthy snacks are packed for needy school aged children, or hosting a food drive or donating Thanksgiving items or meals, there are tons of ways to get involved and help out. (Center for Food Action, various locations, click here to learn more)
Suitcases for Foster Kids: When foster kids move, they often carry their belongings with them in a plastic bag. Comfort Cases and Together We Rise aim to give foster kids, in whose lives so much is impermanent, a suitcase for their belongings so at least one thing that feels sturdy.
How Can Families Help: First, speak with your kids about how and why kids become part of the foster care system. Then, sponsor a duffel bag from Together We Rise in which foster kids receive comfort items like a teddy bear for the youngest in the system, a warm blanket, activities and a hygiene kit. Or, make a donation to Comfort Cases through their Amazon Wish List. Work with your child to figure out what would be most meaningful for them to give to another child in need.
Socks for the Homeless: The Bowery Mission in New York City collects all sorts of items for their homeless clients but new, unused socks are among the most important. Why? Imagine being homeless in the winter in New York. Wet, dirty socks can lead to frostbite, illness or infection. Clean, dry socks help those who sometimes have to sleep outside stay at least a little warmer.
How Can Families Help: Purchase new socks to send to the Mission. Or, ask family and friends to bring socks to a holiday party or gathering. If you’d like to go one step further, assemble Ziploc bags full of things homeless individuals might need. You could include socks, hand warmers, band aids, granola bars, a few dollars, and a handwritten note. Keep them on hand so that when you head into the city you can hand them to anyone you pass who looks like they might be in need.
Feed Supper: You’ve probably seen the Feed bags, but meet the Feed Supper. Feed’s mission is the create products that engage people in the global fight against hunger in a tangible way. Hosting a Feed Supper is another way to raise money to help those who are food insecure worldwide.
How Can Families Help: Sign up to host a Feed Supper and as a family agree on a fundraising goal. Then invite friends to your dinner and ask them to contribute to your fundraiser. Host them for a simple pizza party or something more involved. The most important part is that you are together doing good.
Little Free Library: The Little Free Library movement is building community, sparking creativity and inspiring readers by providing easy access to free books around the country in the form of little library boxes where anyone can give a book or get a book.
How Can Families Help: Build a Little Free Library for your community using the plans and installation tips on the website. Or, contribute books to an existing Little Free Library location. Even better, construct a Little Free Library for a less fortunate community and make a commitment to ensuring that it is regularly stocked with books.
Tray Favors: Meals on Wheels delivers meals to home bound neighbors bringing not just a nutritious meal but the promise of a visit for those who can’t leave their homes.
How Can Families Help: Decorate cards or make a craft to be included on the trays that are delivered to Meals on Wheels clients. Talk with kids about how much brighter their artwork will make someone’s day.
No Sew Blankets: Project Linus provides security and comfort to kids who are ill, traumatized or otherwise in need through the gift of new, handmade blankets and afghans.
How Can Families Help: Pick a no sew pattern for fleece blankets and make them with your kids as a way to care for kids who could use a hug.
Want more ideas about how you and your family can volunteer? Check out these websites: