volunteers working in soup kitchen webHave you done your holiday shopping? If the answer is yes, you’re well ahead of the rush. But if you’re like many, you’re just starting to think about facing the crowds at the mall. Or maybe you’re an online shopper. Either way, searching for those perfect items for your loved ones is time consuming, stressful and expensive. But if you’re willing to change your mindset, there are much more meaningful ways to give during the holidays. The key is to give without expecting anything in return. The Bible verse, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35, NIV), is quoted often during this time of year. Most religions support this principle, as does science. According to “Psychology Today” magazine, multiple studies have shown that buying gifts for others makes people happier than buying for themselves. A wise old friend of my family once said, “The greatest gift is the gift of time.”

 

This year, instead of going overboard with material gifts, you can give the gift of time to a local charity, a family in need, or a neighbor. You won’t receive a brightly wrapped package in return, but you will gain the satisfaction of knowing that your gift is helping someone, plus you’ll meet new people and learn new skills If you have grandkids or other youngsters in your midst, you’ll be teaching them about the joy of giving and the benefits of helping others.

Here are just a few ideas for selfless giving.
Volunteer Your Time
There are endless opportunities to help others through established charities and service organizations, from serving at a soup kitchen to working a weekly shift at a hospital. If you prefer to work from home, you can easily find organizations that need volunteers to make phone calls or use the Internet. There’s something for everybody:
United Way of the Lehigh Valley has a list of non-profit organizations that need your help. You can find them at unitedwayglv.org or by calling 610-807-0336.
The Lehigh Conference of Churches’ Ecumenical Soup Kitchen is located at Alliance Hall, 534 Chew Street, Second Floor, Allentown, PA 18102. This organization not only feeds people, it also offers medical care. If you are interested in helping, see lehighchurches.org/what-we-do/soup-kitchen or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 610-433-6421.
Local Hospitals. Spend time transporting patients, working in a gift shop, delivering flowers to patients’ rooms, or greeting patients in the ER, plus many other opportunities. Hospitals in the Lehigh Valley have volunteer opportunities for adults, teens and college students. For more information, contact St. Luke’s at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 484-526-4600; Lehigh Valley Health Network at lvhn.org/become_a_volunteer or call 610-969-2850; or Sacred Heart Hospital at shh.org/community-services/volunteer.
In addition to experiencing the joy of helping others, you’ll benefit personally from volunteering at a hospital by meeting new people, acquiring new skills, learning more about the health care field, and making a difference in the lives of those around you.

The Cancer Support Group of the Lehigh Valley
This group needs people to help cancer patients with the requirements of daily living, as well as to perform administrative jobs. Volunteers are needed to clean the homes of cancer patients, provide afternoon office help answering phones and greeting visitors and participants, doing computer data entry, and working at special events and health fairs. For more information, see cancersupportglv.org.

Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels is a national organization with local chapters that deliver healthy meals to seniors age 60 years up. Qualified recipients are our parents, grandparents, veterans and neighbors who struggle to shop or prepare meals for themselves because of physical limitations or financial difficulties. For more information on Meals on Wheels of the Greater Lehigh Valley, go to mowglv.org or call (610) 691-1030.

Work with Children with Special Needs
Camp Camelot for Children in Allentown is a non-profit organization providing year-round social and educational opportunities to children with disabilities and chronic or terminal illnesses. Camp Camelot offers a supportive, developmentally appropriate, enriching environment in order to make the magic of childhood accessible to children with unique needs. To learn more about volunteering, see camelotforchildren.org/get-involved/ or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 610-791-5683. For more volunteer opportunities in the Lehigh Valley, see volunteerlv.org/current-volunteer-opportunities.

Your Place of Worship
Churches, synagogues and other religious organizations operate a variety of charitable activities. From serving on a meal team for shut-ins to participating in a missions trip to a third-world-country, you can find a multitude of opportunities to serve others in a religious organization. If teaching is your gift, almost any organization of faith can use help with children’s education.

Animal Rescue
Animal rescue groups are working harder than ever to save the lives of dogs, cats, horses and other animals. All need volunteers to help with feeding, walking, cleaning and fund-raising. If you’re an animal lover, you can easily find a rescue organization where you can help provide love and care to animals that have been abandoned or mistreated.

You can work a weekly shift on location or foster a pet while she waits for someone to adopt her. Check out the following organizations and more: Lehigh Valley Humane Society, Allentown, PA - (610) 797-1205 lehighcountyhumanesociety.org, The Sanctuary at Haafsville, Breinigsville, PA – (484)-285-5445 thesanctuarypa.org, The Center for Animal Health and Welfare, Easton, PA – (610)-252-7722 healthyanimalcenter.org.

Therapy Dogs
This volunteer group’s primary objective is to provide comfort and companionship by sharing their personal dogs with the disabled, the handicapped, the ill, and the general public. Their dogs help increase emotional well-being, promote healing and improve the quality of life. Each volunteer has trained their dog and had it evaluated and registered as a Therapy Dog. For more information, see lvtherapydogs.org or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more volunteer opportunities in the Lehigh Valley, see volunteerlv.org/current-volunteer-opportunities.

Volunteer Independently
You don’t have to go far to find someone who can use your help. Right in your own community -- or even on your street - you’ll find someone in need.

Help a Neighbor or Friend
Look around and you are likely to find a neighbor or friend who can use help in some way. Older people especially need help with household chores, grocery shopping, and running errands. Many seniors will hesitate to ask, as they may feel that asking for help with something they’ve always done themselves signals a loss of independence. A hand-written gift certificate may include an offer to rake leaves, shovel snow or give someone a ride to the grocery store or a medical appointment. Or you can make a hot meal for a friend who is ill. For the younger set, you might offer child-sitting for an evening, while parents take a break for a date night.

Give a Child the Gift of Reading
Love children? Both public and private schools utilize volunteers to read to young children. The main requirements are willingness and a security clearance. Check with your school district for opportunities in your community.

Give Experiences Instead of Presents
Teach Kids a Skill or Hobby
If you’re a gardener, spend some time taking cuttings, dividing perennials, or packaging seeds from your garden. Bundle them up with instructions for planting, and you might inspire a young green thumb to begin gardening. Give a neighbor’s child or a relative’s youngster a head start with the joys of baking. A “cookie in a jar” gift delights them with a sweet treat but also helps them become more comfortable in the kitchen.

Take a Child to the Zoo
Give a young family season passes to the Lehigh Valley Zoo, and enjoy a day there with them.

Donate
Almost every non-profit and charitable organization welcomes monetary gifts, which don’t necessarily have to be cash. And remember - most donations are tax-deductible.

The value of giving to others was one of the themes used by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “King noted,’… personal greatness and service to others are intertwined.’” In King’s moving words, “Everybody can be great, because everyone can serve.” (Psychology Today). During the holidays, remember that many charitable organizations have scheduled their volunteers far in advance. But go ahead and sign up. Your service will be greatly appreciated throughout the rest of the year.

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