Giving Back with Joy This Christmas Season

By: Hope Hefright

Somewhere in Honduras during late December, a young girl opens a box that changes her life. A collection of toys, hygiene items, and school supplies have been gifted to her by a kind stranger from a different country, at little cost to them. She has her first personal toothbrush, first doll, and first pair of brand new sandals. She gets to experience Christmas the same way any child in a privileged country can, thanks to a little extra thought given by someone like you!

This mission has been accomplished for years by Samaritan’s Purse and their program Operation Christmas Child. Operation Christmas Child is a Christian-led organization where boxes (following guidelines) containing gifts and supplies are shipped to children affected by war, poverty, natural disaster, famine, and disease, or those living on Native American reservations in the U.S. The boxes are delivered by trained pastors who spread the story of Jesus to communities that might not have heard it before.

Operation Christmas Child is a heartwarming organization, but it isn’t the only way to be charitable this time of year. If you and your family are looking for a secular way to give back, there are plenty of things you can do that allow you and your loved ones to help others during the festive season.

The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation is a charity whose mission is to collect new unwrapped toys and distribute them to less fortunate or economically disadvantaged children during the Christmas season. You can donate to Toys for Tots online at their website,, or find your local toy drop off location by searching for campaigns on their website. There are drop off points in the Warren and Chautauqua area.

The Salvation Army giving tree is another program aimed at bringing toys to children in need. Local businesses and retail locations host Angel Trees that allow donors to adopt “angels” by selecting a tag with the needs of a local child. The donor fulfills the Christmas wishes on the tag by selecting age-appropriate gifts of toys and clothing and returning the unwrapped gifts to the location on the tag. Angel Trees can be found throughout Upstate New York, Central New York, the Capital Region, Northern New York, the Finger Lakes Region, the Southern Tier and Western New York. They can be found in many local businesses and are a wonderful opportunity to give to someone else during Christmas.

Other ways to help in your community include volunteering at homeless shelters or donating clothes/hygiene products, and visiting nursing homes and spending time with the residents to spread Christmas cheer. At Eisenhower, you can give back by contributing towards the holiday food drive, which helps provide food for a holiday meal to students and local families in need. Taking action in ways like these may seem insignificant or a waste of time, especially during Christmas, when all you want to do is eat cookies and receive gifts, but by sending a box, toy, or even visiting a stranger, you can make somebody’s holiday one to remember.

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