The holidays are often thought of as a time to give.  Some of us donate money to charities we believe in, or sign up to run a 5k to benefit a cause that means something to us, clean out the closet and donate clothes, or volunteer at a food pantry or for an event like wrapping presents for children in need.  Yet we can give year round and give in ways we wouldn’t normally think of giving.

Giving not only benefits those who receive, but those who give.  According to studies giving helps

  • Boost your immune system
  • Improve your cognitive performance
  • Increase energy
  • Lower your heart rate
  • Decrease the stress in your life
  • Improve your mental health, even alleviating symptoms of depression or anxiety – Giving can make us happy
  • Reduce physical pain

Those who give are more likely to live a longer and more satisfied lives.  And the more generous we are, the more gifts we receive, the more you gain respect and cooperation from your peers, and the more influence you wield over your peers.

Last week, I wrote a post for Austin Involved about unique ways to give.  I wanted to share my giving ideas here:

Food for the Salvation Army

Every time I go to a meeting where lunch is provided, food is inevitably left over.  Often people will offer to take some home, but we know that it can just sit in the back of the fridge and never get eaten.  Instead, you can bring your food to the Salvation Army between 7th and 8th on Red River across from Arch.  The Salvation Army will take open food – as long as it hasn’t been sitting out an unsafe amount of time and the food was prepared in a commercial kitchen.  You can bring chips, fruit, side dishes, main dishes, baked goods and deserts – how nice it is to have good food for those with nothing.  We often give turkey’s or non-perishable goods at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but this kind of gift can be given year round as these folks aren’t just hungry on the holidays.  Please don’t throw out food out or take it home for yourself, donate it to those in desperate need.

Clothing for Lisa’s Hope Chest

One of my favourite Austin charities to give to is Lisa’s Hope Chest.  This clothes closet provides gently used clothing to men and women in transition in our community including the homeless, those affected by the economy, battered women, and individuals released from prison. We often give to those in disaster situations like people affected by wildfires or floods, but we need to consider our neighbors who struggle every day.

While several organizations take clothing donations (though fewer and fewer in this economy), Lisa’s Hope Chest provides clothing and other items to their customers completely free of charge.  Whatever they have, they will give to someone in need – people who literally have nothing and want to restart their lives.

Lisa’s takes more than just clothes, probably things you might not consider including:

  • Hangers
  • Cloth Bags to take donations home in
  • Household Trinkets (pitcher, old boom box, books, candle holders, lamps)
  • Free hats, water bottles, t-shirts or other items you get from a 5k you’ve run (in fact, sometimes I’ll ask for an extra item if they have it so I can bring it to Lisa.
  • Personal hygiene items (you can save the shampoo or soap you may not use at a hotel and donate those to Lisa)
  • Crutches, ace bandages, wrist or knee braces (after you’ve healed, someone else may need your medical supplies (you can also give medical supplies to Project CURE out of Houston, TX))

I encourage you to be imaginative in your giving and give things that you don’t need, or might just throw out.  More so, give year round – whenever you clean out your closet, whenever you have a pair of pants that don’t fit, set it aside to donate.  Lisa has never turned down a donation I’ve brought.  I’ve dropped off all sorts of items – boxer shorts, visors, mini first aid kits, water bottles, bras, stuffed animals, bride’s maid dresses, suits, t-shirts, lamps without shades, books, Christmas tree skirts, an old vacuum, a water pitcher, blankets.  You never know what someone needs or wants to build their home.

Holiday Cards

Holiday cards are a lovely way to feel remembered.  We all cherish cards we get from friends and family but often they are thrown out soon after the holiday.  Some people need a bit of extra love during the holidays, whether because they are sick or alone. To show love and care, I encourage you to give cards to cancer patients in a clinic, children in the hospital, homeless or battered women shelters. Ask friends and family to send you blank cards, which you can then fill out and give to others who will be touched by your generosity and thoughtfulness.  You can have people at your work sign them, kids decorate them, or just write a simple message of encouragement.  Christmas, Hanukah, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Passover, Independence Day, Thanksgiving.  Holidays that some may not be able to celebrate and for which they could use some extra cheer.  And it never hurts to write a card for no reason – just to show someone you care.


Donate your used magazines. Clinic and hospital patients are often sitting for hours without much to do. Magazines can be a great distraction and a way to help your subscription go even farther.  Men’s (magazines other than InStyle or Vogue) or non-English magazines are often in short supply – so after you’ve read the last page, gather up as many magazines as you can and drop them off at a clinic near you.

We are all one breath away from being down on our luck.  As we know, our circumstances can change in an instant.  Our homes can catch on fire.  We can lose our jobs.  We can face illnesses.  Through giving we can help pick those in our community back up.  And we can do more than donate money or time.  We can find unique ways to give, whether through donating clothing to a local charity, giving food to the hungry, or writing special holiday cards.

Look for your own unique ways to give.  Find local charities in your communities.  Consider what you have to give of yourself and you’ll be surprised how many lives you can touch.  Even if it’s just carrying around some candy or water in your car to give to people on the street, it is the small things that make the biggest difference both in their lives and yours.

Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. –   Robert Kennedy


Information about the health benefits of giving found at:

Random Acts of Kindness

And this article from Science Centric


3 Responses to Giving

  1. […] Donate to local clothing closets those that will give your donations away for free (remember when you have nothing, even a $1 at Goodwill can be too expensive) like – Lisa’s Hope Chest here in Austin.  Donate: […]

  2. An interesting article on the Psychology of Gift Giving and Generosity can be found here – The study discussed in the article concludes – “Human generosity, far from being a thin veneer of cultural conditioning atop a Machiavellian core, may turn out to be a bedrock feature of human nature.”

  3. […] to charities helping the homeless.  I wrote a few ideas helping the homeless here and for giving here. You may also find some information and inspiration following the #OurHomesOurVoices hashtag that […]

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