On the Tuesday after Thanksgiving in the United States, many people have begun to celebrate a day of giving known as Giving Tuesday (#GivingTuesday). Founded in 2012, Giving Tuesday is a direct response to the rampant consumerism and commercialization of the holiday season. Disturbed by the lack of empathy and compassion demonstrated by US citizens during such events as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the 92nd Street Y and The United Nations Foundation launched Giving Tuesday in the hopes that the entire world would be inspired to launch the holiday season with an emphasis on giving and charity rather than self-enrichment and exchanging of material goods with those who don’t truly need them.
By 2016, just four short years after its launch, Giving Tuesday had been honored with $168 million donated in its name worldwide! Parks Realty fully endorses the theme of giving and compassion, so in honor of Giving Tuesday, here are 9 ways you can get involved this year.
1. Gather your gently-used books and donate them to your local United Way or Family Center.
2. Fill gallon-sized Ziploc bags with travel-size toiletries like toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, deodorant, and hygiene wipes. Deliver them to local homeless shelters, shelters for victims of domestic violence, or elementary schools that serve underprivileged children.
3. Make a donation to your local animal shelter. They are always in need of food, toys, blankets, towels, and flea medication. If you have more time than extra cash, consider volunteering as a dog-walker; it’s a great way to get some exercise and contribute to the physical and mental health of a dog in need.
4. Contact Hands on Nashville or your Parks agent to find out about opportunities for giving back in your local community. Even if you can only volunteer a few hours each month, Hands on Nashville will help coordinate an avenue for you to maximize your impact on the people around you who need you most.
5. Pack a bag filled with canned goods and other non-perishables and deliver it to your local food bank. The most-needed foods at food banks are canned fish, beans, peanut butter, canned meals like chili and stew, healthy canned low-sodium vegetables and fruits packed in their own juice, olive or canola oil, special holiday items like stuffing and canned yams, and whole grains like oatmeal and rice.
6. Using the social media tag #GivingTuesday, ask your friends and family to gather their gently-used winter coats and donate them to a local shelter. Remember, children and infants are homeless, too, and need coats desperately as we move into the coldest part of the year!
7. Perhaps more than at any time of the year, people who live alone can feel forgotten and ignored. To combat their loneliness, consider preparing a warm, home-cooked meal and delivering it to an elderly person in your neighborhood who you know spends the holidays alone. If you have time and your company is desired, try to set aside a moment for some warm tea or coffee and a quick chat. Your friendly face is sure to bring joy!
8. If you have children, get them involved in Giving Tuesday, too! They can donate directly to children in need by choosing St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Make-A-Wish of Middle Tennessee, or No Kid Hungry. In addition to connecting your child to their peers who need their help, this participation teaches gratitude for their health and their great fortune in being well-fed and cared for.
9. Enlist your whole family to serve the community through Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee or a similar organization. Second Harvest involves children as young as 6 in serving the hungry and indigent population at their Family Night event. 1 in 5 children and 1 in 7 adults in Middle Tennessee go hungry; your family can make a real difference with their time and their donations. Let your children experience the joy of giving back directly, and show them the great satisfaction you yourself feel when you’re able to serve your community.
Remember, this holiday season is the perfect opportunity to choose service, compassion, giving, and community over commercialism and cynicism. Tennessee needs those who have to choose to help those who have not, and this is the time of year to keep this trend of giving going strong.