The shoppers are shopping, the halls are decked with holly and the spirit of the holiday season is in the air. But true holiday cheer comes from kindness. When you share small acts of kindness, you are giving back more than you might think. When you spread cheer to someone else, you are elevating your own mood and inspiring a ripple effect of more giving and kindness. Here are some ways you can lend a helping hand and spread some holiday cheer and kindness to those who need it the most this time of year.

Collect Canned Food. Food banks look for nonperishable, high-protein and kid-friendly foods, i.e. peanut butter, tuna fish, canned vegetables and soups, pasta and cereal. Food pantries need help during the holidays, but also throughout the entire year. Call to see what your local food bank needs.

Visit Seniors. Many of the seniors at the assisted living or health care facilities don’t get many visitors and love to have people come and spend time with them. Bring a book or a deck of cards and brighten someone’s day. 

Volunteer. Sign up to help at a local food bank. Bring your kids and/or teens to teach them the value and reward of giving back to those less fortunate. You can truly make a difference in any number of lives.

Say Thank You to All Who Serve. Learn how you can help Operation Gratitude send care packages filled with food, entertainment, hygiene, and handmade items, plus personal letters of appreciation to Veterans, First Responders, New Recruits, Wounded Heroes, their Care Givers, and to individually named U.S. service members deployed overseas. 

Run a Marathon. Search for holiday 5K races in your area, usually the proceeds benefit a good cause. Mountain House, Folsom, Rohnert Park.

Deliver Meals on Wheels. Donate your lunch break, pop by and drop off a nutritious meal and say a quick hello to a few seniors in need. Sign up to volunteer with Meals on Wheels here. 

Clean Out Your Closets. Give a woman a new start with your gently-used clothing. Dress For Success provides support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

Clear Clutter. Donate possessions you no longer need to the Salvation Army. Items are sold and proceeds are used to fund Adult Rehabilitation Centers, where those in the grip of addiction find help, hope, and a second chance at life.

Adopt-a-Family. Call your town’s Social Services Department or a local church to see what your community’s specific needs are. This is all done anonymously and a great way to teach kids to give back.

Give the Gift of Warmth. Donate your gently used winter hats, gloves, thick socks, coats and warm blankets to women’s and homeless shelters. One Warm Coat has drop-off centers around the region.

Donate Toys. The U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program collects new, unwrapped toys and distributes to less fortunate children.

Help Local Foster Kids. Search collection drives at Sleep Train that provide foster children with the little things that often make a big difference — school supplies and sports shoes, properly fitting clothing, or a gift during the holidays.

Support Schools. All schools can use extra support. Check with your local schools, PTA’s and school foundations to see how you can get involved in volunteering or supporting community events. Don’t have a school in mind? Surf Donors Choose for a deserving school in your neighborhood. 

Foster a Furry Friend. Reach out to your local animal shelter and inquire about fostering a cat or dog. Animal shelters can get chilly in winter weather, which is a great reason to take a pet back to your warm home. You may decide to make the move and adopt your foster friend. If you can’t adopt or foster, ask about donating blankets, pet food, toys or your time. 

Visit Children’s Hospitals. Donated new toys, books, stuffed animals, craft materials, and other items can help comfort and entertain children during their hospital experience. View the UCSF Oakland and San Francisco wish lists for more information. 

Donate Blood. Make a difference and help save a life by donating blood. Visit the American Red Cross for local Blood Drives. 

Be a Friend. The holidays can be a lonely time for someone who has lost a loved one or doesn’t have nearby friends and family. If you know someone who finds the holidays tough, make sure to include them. Invite them to your gatherings, or just spend some extra time with them one on one. 

Thank Volunteers. If you’re unable to make a volunteer commitment this season, thank those who can. Send a thank you letter to shelter volunteers or make sure those Salvation Army volunteers ringing holiday bells stay warm too with gloves, hats and coffee or hot cocoa. You can also spend a little time in the kitchen baking cookies for First Responders, Police and Firefighters and drop them off with a thank you note. 

Send a Note. Many people have made an impact in your life. This season, remember to tell them. Write a letter to friend or loved one, or reconnect with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Expressing how you feel and how much they mean to you is the perfect holiday gift. 

Invest in Your Neighborhood. Get involved in local neighborhood watch and general meetings. Hear about the needs of others that might be mere blocks away, or get tuned into the volunteer opportunities and charitable efforts that your neighbors are engaged in. 

Cut a Check. This is an easy one. Think big, and channel the issues that have touched your life. There is an endless amount of charities that would love your support this season and year round.

There are many more ways to make a difference this season and throughout the year, these are just a few ideas to spark your holiday cheer and kindness creativity. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from Signature Homes! 

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