The holiday season brings its own distinctly merry energy to communities far and wide, including here at Tutor Zone where we are enthusiastic about experiencing this joyous time once again with our students, families, and friends. The Halloween wind-up to Christmas break grants us an opportunity to collectively embrace the final months of the year, as we light up city streets and decorate suburban houses–festive sights so remarkably welcoming and familiar that they immediately redirect our focus towards the things that truly matter in life. For those who have the means, gathering loved ones together and sharing in the warm comfort of cheerful music, happy mealtimes, and unforgettable memory-making is the yearly tradition. As people everywhere participate in the spirit of giving, don’t forget to polish off your festivities by making a positive contribution to the town you call home. We’ve compiled a list of ideas for you to accomplish just that:
1. Donate to Food Banks
Promote the health and wellness of underserved community members by combating food insecurity. Not having the proper nutrition limits us from being fully functional and meeting our goals. Luckily, there are nonprofit centers such as churches and health-oriented groups that collect food items for distribution to the needy year-round. Since many families already plan large feasts and often end up with surplus goods, there’s no better chance than during the holidays to donate those extra groceries and help feed the hungry. Check out what’s tucked away in your pantry and find a food bank near you. To learn more, you can reach out to organizations like the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank or the Vista Community Clinic (VCC) Patient Food Distribution in La Habra.¹ ² ³ ⁴
Alternatively, you may choose to participate in the Food Can Drives at your local schools, charities, and small businesses. At Tutor Zone, we’re delighted to be accepting donations at each of our three locations from October 16 through November 10.⁵ See our website to find the address closest to you: www.tutor-zone.com/locations-2/
2. Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen
If you want to be hands on and dedicate a few hours of service at a soup kitchen or work as a volunteer with the homeless, nonprofits such as the World Harvest Food Bank in Los Angeles, the Someone Cares Soup Kitchen in Costa Mesa, or the Union Station Homeless Services in Pasadena could be exactly what you’re searching for.⁶ ⁷ Soup kitchens do an amazing job at fighting both hunger and food waste by preparing and distributing nutritious meals to vulnerable communities, including the homeless, the unemployed, and senior citizens.⁷ Contribute your special talent in the kitchen to a worthy cause by contacting a homeless shelter or a food preparation center in your county.
3. Donate Your Old Clothes
An easy way to help low-income individuals is to donate gently-used clothing. Right now, you probably own more than a few style items that you’ve 100 percent phased out of your routine cycle of weekly fashion choices. Perhaps they are brand new clothes that you’re fine parting ways with because they are simply taking up valuable space in your closet. It could be that you’re a parent and therefore, a likely keeper of old clothes that your children outgrew. There are countless places that will gladly receive your donated clothing and recycle it, such as Goodwill, The Salvation Army, and the Union Rescue Mission.⁸ Keep in mind that good quality clothing of any kind is welcome, so also consider donating: specialty sizes (maternity, extra tall, etc.), winter gear, business attire, and shoes.⁹
4. Create Hygiene Kits for the Homeless
Outside of the scope of donating food and clothing, another creative way to help the homeless is to provide them with other essential goods. You can assist someone experiencing homelessness by assembling care packages for them that contain hygienic supplies so they can meet their basic needs. A kit can include things like: toothpaste, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, body wash, etc.¹¹ Check out organizations like the Los Angeles Mission and the Union Station Homeless Services in Pasadena to see what items they accept for drop off.⁷ ¹⁰
5. Volunteer at a Nursing Home
While the shopping centers are bustling with holiday activity, maybe you’ll find yourself in need of a quiet retreat and there’s no place more pleasantly calm than a nursing home. Sign up to become a volunteer for the elderly community through the California Department of Aging.¹² Duties can be as simple as visiting a home-bound elderly person to ensure their well-being, running grocery pick-up errands, and providing transportation for a disabled or frail senior citizen from their home to a health center.¹²
6. Volunteer at Local Holiday Events
Although many people commonly save their travel plans for the end of the year festivities, there are others who choose to stay in town for the season. One way to spread holiday cheer is by volunteering at your community’s local events. Figure out what fun activities are planned in your town by researching online (see websites such as Discover Los Angeles and Eventbrite), browsing the local news sites, or reading information on official websites managed by your city government. You can also conduct a search by popular event types such as pumpkin patches, tree farms, local parades, farmer’s markets, photos with Santa at the mall, etc. Whether you’re an international visitor looking for a home away from home or a long-time resident, this is a great way to build community with folks locally.
7. Participate in Toy Drives for Low-Income Kids
Similar in objective to Food Can Drives, Toy Drives–often conducted by places such as public schools, churches, and children’s hospitals–provide a direct opportunity for you to be the Santa Claus in a child’s life. Participation in Toy Drives is a wonderful way to support low-income families and bring the unmatched delight of getting a present to a disadvantaged child who may not otherwise receive gifts this season. Find an organization of your choice and make inquiries as to their specific requirements before making a purchase or wrapping a toy. For example, the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital has particular guidelines to ensure kids’ safety as well as wish-lists available for viewing on their website.¹³ Some of their most needed wish-list toys are: coloring books, Crayola markers and colored pencils, Play-Doh, baby rattles, action figures, and many more.¹³
8. Donate to Small Businesses
The holiday time can be economically strenuous for small businesses that must close at irregular intervals because staff are out on vacation or perhaps the ordinary clientele is devoting more time to family than on spending at their usual locales. Whatever the case may be, check in on your local small businesses, like the nearby family-run restaurant, cleaning service or construction company. These are the places that steadily operate our communities all year long. Making even a minimal monetary contribution to them during times of low productivity can be the key that helps them stay afloat into the New Year.
Our organization, Tutor Zone, is a proud small business with three locations spread across Los Angeles and Orange counties. We provide scholastic services to families with school-aged children in Pre-K through 12th grade who live throughout California, as well as teaching countless other online classes for students who are out of state and internationally based. While we do not accept monetary donations, we do accept donations of school supplies, which will ensure the academic advancement of our students. Consider donating supplies such as: books, notebooks, writing instruments (pencils, highlighters, pens, markers, crayons), technological equipment (laptops, tablets, calculators, etc.), art supplies, and more. In this effort, you would be greatly benefiting parents undergoing financial hardships who cannot afford to equip their students with the materials they need to be active and ready learners.
9. Give Back to Schools and Support Students
Show your support for student achievement and the educational services in your neighborhood by partaking in holiday fundraisers, volunteering in the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), and seeing what you can do for the tutoring centers in your area. If you have students on holiday break, positively reinforce the importance of independent learning time, and encourage them to read or take up a new project. Equipping students for later success–in the often dreaded back-to-school, post-vacation time–requires strategically reflecting on their goals and adding some excitement to their outlook.
10. Give Back to the Global Community
Giving back to the community also means giving back to the global community which every one of us is a part of. One way to give back to the planet itself is by mitigating greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change through ride-sharing, carpooling, using public transportation, riding your bike, skateboarding, or walking. On a social and professional level, the right option for you might be to volunteer virtually for organizations where you can make a difference using technical skills like research, design, or translation.¹⁴ This holiday season, make a pit stop on websites for organizations including United Nations Volunteers, Amnesty Decoders, and Translators Without Borders to learn how you can spread cheer online.¹⁵
We gain so much courage and prosperity from being active members in our communities. While you go about your jolly times, think about how you could show up for others who want to share in the same sense of holiday abundance, particularly those members of your community who maybe experience different struggles than your own. Start spreading the news: you’re making a positive impact today!
By Daisy Ocampo
Feed People, Not Landfills. Donate Your Surplus Food! | Los Angeles County Department of Public Health – Environmental Health (lacounty.gov)
Los Angeles Regional Food Bank – Fighting Hunger. Giving Hope. (lafoodbank.org)
VCC | VCC Patient Food Distribution (vistacommunityclinic.org)
Food Assistance for Individuals & Families | La Habra, CA – Official Website (lahabraca.gov)
Locations – Tutor Zone (tutor-zone.com)
Where to Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen in California
Volunteer Work Homeless Shelter | Los Angeles, CA Homelessness Shelters (unionstationhs.org)
MomsLA: Where To Donate Children’s Clothes In And Around Los Angeles
Union Rescue Mission: Wondering what to donate?
The Los Angeles Mission: Donate Food, Clothing and Goods
Union Station Homeless Services: Hygiene Kits. pdf
California Department of Aging: Become a Volunteer
CHLA: Donate Toys
Globalteer: 7 Ways to Give Back to the World Community as a Global Citizen
Do Something. Org: 9 Places to Volunteer Online and Make a Real Impact