November 25th, 2015

Please give generously

I’m on a committee at work about our charitable donation program for the various end-of-the-year holidays, and I’ve gotten to learn a bunch of interesting stuff about giving. One thing I’ve learned is that you really have to give generous people an opportunity to give in the ways they want and to feel valued for doing so–another is that there is so much need out there, there is ALWAYS a use for whatever generous instinct a person might have.

My husband forbids household discussion of the holidays until after Remembrance Day, so here it is way past that and I want to get the ball rolling on the best of this time of year, which is ways to be kind to others. Probably there’s a bunch of stuff here that is familiar to many, but perhaps there’s something new too–hope it helps!!

Non-perishable foods: This one is a holiday standard and I think most of us are familiar with going to a party or event with cans of chickpeas in our bags for the holiday food hamper. And I do not want to discourage anyone from giving anything at all. When I was a kid, every food drive I would haul all the canned pineapple out of the cupboard and give it away because I hated it–but I’m sure someone was happy to get it, especially as many food banks operate as “free stores” and people can choose what they need. But if you’re interested in what specifically food bank might really need, it’s…
–proteins like canned meat but also alternatives like peanut butter, soy products, and beans.
–powdered milk and infant formula
–Halal products. This is going to be region specific, but where I am working (Scarborough), families that observe Muslim dietary laws struggle to use food donations. I have looked into this a bit and as I understand it (correct me if I’m wrong!), if you cannot find anything with the Halal symbol on it, anything that does not contain meat or artificial colours/flavours is fine. The meat because, obviously, of rules around butchery, but the artificial stuff because it often contains isopropyl alcohol, alcohol being haram. Interesting ,no?
–breakfast cereals (cold cereals)
–treats. It’s nice if there’s something fun at the food bank. If a colleague or acquaintance gives you yet another box of chocolates but you’re on a diet, you know where it could be welcome??
To make your donating dollars go furthest, my parents taught me a neat trick–every time they grocery shop, they buy doubles of whatever useful items are on a good sale, then drop the extras into the donation bin on the way out. That way you spread your giving out, making it a little more manageable. The “donation packs” that some stores sell are often filled with low-nutrient processed foods, but they are a good deal, so if you feel like that’s your best option, obviously it’s still going to be useful somewhere.

Household Cleaning and Personal Hygiene Products

I never used to think of this, but obviously it’d be incredibly hard on morale and just life in general to not have enough money for dishsoap and toilet cleaner. And how about tampons? Anything you use regularly and run out of regularly is useful to these donation drives, though if it is specifically advertised as a food drive, one should probably double check that they’re able to store and distribute non-food items before loading up on bleach or whatever you’re thinking. But these are so useful, and often forgotten, kinds of donation.

A cool friend posted this link to ALL SORTS of donating opportunities on Facebook, so I thought I’d pass it on here. But do keep in mind, in this season of sock drives and one-day volunteer stints, it can feel overwhelming to fit in helping others with work and school and family and everything else. I love volunteerism and creative charitable projects, but I just want to mention that these are very much the kind of problems you CAN throw money at. Yes, there are foodbanks that don’t take cash donations, but most love them as liquid funds allow them to go out and purchase exactly what their clients need, without having to sort or store it. I think there’s a vibe around a lot of giving (cough, especially for women) that if it is not a project with a lot of time and love and sacrifice it’s not worth doing. And giving one’s own time and love is amazing, but so is giving a cheque. As I say, there’s so much need, there’s always a use for whatever you want to give.

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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