Your Guide to Giving Tuesday: The best ways to give this holiday season


Now that we've surpassed Cyber Week, it's time to talk about something much more important-- and really what the entire holiday season is about and that is giving. I've posted this for the past four years, and it is still very relevant. I really think that this day should come before Cyber Week because it's truly more important. Which, is why this year, I've been doing a Service Sunday themed post each Sunday throughout the holiday season. My goal with Service Sunday is to introduce you to Summer Wind readers who are doing good in the world and who also can teach us and bring light to great organizations we otherwise would not have known about.  I've updated all of the information as it pertains to 2019 and am linking to past Service Sundays for you to check out.

- Ronald McDonald House and Tracy's Dogs
- Plaid Pajamas Project
- GiGi's Playhouse
- Amen to Action 
- TAPS

Giving Tuesday is a day dedicated to giving. Give your time, your money, your love--whatever you have to give. It shouldn't just be today, but it's a worldwide effort to remind people to be generous. 

I've rounded up quick and easy ways (and not so quick and easy ways) to spread holiday love and cheer. How will you give this holiday season (and all year long)? Here are just a few ideas to get you started! 
Spread Love and Happiness:

Pay for someone's coffee or toll ticket behind you. It's harder to pay for the toll now that EZ pass is so prevalent, but coffee is so easy to do in line at the drive-through at Starbucks! 

Make packed lunches and hand them out to the homeless. Blankets/hats/gloves are other great items to hand out, too.

Volunteer to clean an elderly person's home. It can be challenging for the elderly to get around and many don't have the money for the help. You can also volunteer to drive them around so they are able to do their holiday shopping. Many don't/can't drive so even something as simple as this can be very helpful... bonus points if you take them out to lunch, too

Tip your waiter/waitress your full bill amount. Servers are often people who work the hardest, show them your appreciation this holiday season.

Hosting a holiday party? Most people bring small gifts for the host/hostess. In lieu of that, let everyone know that donations to ______ charity will be raised in honor of the holiday season!

Do you know someone going through a rough time? Send them a surprise that you know they would personally like to help them through their rough patch. Whether it's homemade dinner and a movie or even just a bouquet of flowers, simple gestures like this show you care and remind them that you are there for them

Say a prayer. Regardless of your religion or faith, saying a prayer for someone else. It is free and can help so much.

Take baked goods/hot coffee/hot chocolate to your local hospital/police/fire station on Christmas Eve/Christmas day. Nurses, doctors, firefighters, and police are some of the most important people in every community because they keep loved ones healthy and safe and many don't get to take the holidays off. Show your appreciation with this small gesture.

Instead of mass printed photo cards, think about sending out handwritten notes to your loved ones letting them know why you are so happy to have them in your life. It's time-consuming and extra work, but handwritten letters mean so much! We did Christmas cards this year but you better believe I wrote handwritten notes!!!!

If you have an Amazon account, remember to shop through Amazon Smile which automatically donates to the charity/cause of your choice.

Recognize those who help you on a day-to-day basis. For example, mailmen/UPS/FedEx/etc., coaches at your local gym, your neighbors, valet, doormen, etc.

Help businesses you love in your community by going online and reviewing them... whether it be on Yelp or Facebook, etc. It helps a lot and will support your local economy! Plus it only takes about 5 minutes of your time.

Be a mentor to someone. Whether it's professionally or personally, be someone that can help a person pursue their goals and dreams and guide them in the right direction. I have so many great mentors in my life and am so lucky to have them. I'm also a mentor to several and it is so much fun to cheer someone on while they are pursuing their dreams.

Do you know a family who just had a baby? Offer to babysit (for free) so that they can get their errands done and have some adult time (or even just so they can take a nap!).

Take on an in-kind project. For example, if you are a web designer and have some extra time, help design a struggling startup's website. Or if you're an accountant and know a family that is struggling, offer to help them create a great budget.

Give to Organizations:
Me, Dani, Kassy, Aly, and Will volunteering at Ronald McDonald
Ronald McDonald House
In the past few years, the Ronald McDonald House has really hit home for me. My fiancé's brother passed away from leukemia when they were growing up. To hear of the amazingness that came from the Ronald McDonald House is incredible and I donate to this cause several times per year. The goal is to provide families who have sick children in the hospital a place to stay for an extended period of time. This is so they can keep their other worries to a minimum so that they can focus on their child's health. At the house, meals are served daily, there are common rooms/playrooms for children, as well as each family gets their own private bedroom. The locations are very close to the hospitals, too.

Tracy's Dogs
I could sing Tracy's Dogs praises all day every day. They brought me my Henry and I will forever be grateful for that. Their website says, 'Over the last six years, TracysDogs has focused our rescue efforts on saving those dogs in South Texas with the greatest need - dogs in shelters with high euthanasia rates. Most have suffered some level of neglect, abuse, and/or abandonment. More than 4,500 dogs have been saved, rehabilitated and placed in loving homes throughout the country.' This is another organization that I feel very strongly about and donate several times a year. The work that they do is inspiring and to think Henry was ever in a situation of neglect, alone in a scary shelter, etc. brings me to tears any time I think about it.

I am a huge supporter of anything that provides warmth to those less fortunate. There is nothing worse than being cold during the winter and in Pittsburgh, the cold is unbearable at times. No one should ever have to be freezing. Another great idea is to bring your gently used outerwear to homeless shelters or places like Goodwill so those less fortunate can be warm this winter. Another great idea is to help a family less fortunate than you pay for their electric/gas bill in the winter months. Project Bundle-Up has helped 275,000 children and seniors since 1986!

Shriners Hospitals for Children
The organization raises money for children's Shriner hospitals around the country who provide care to children with no cost to the families, specifically burn care, orthopedics, cleft lip and palate, and spinal cord injury treatment and care. My dad and grandfather are both Shriners! They've helped over one million children in need.

Pittsburgh Food Bank
You'd be shocked to learn how many people in your own city are hungry. A super simple donation can save lives. You can even start your own food drive. For international donations, Lauren Bush Lauren's foundation, FEED, help those in need in other countries.

Washington Area Humane Society
This is a no-kill 501(c)(3) animal shelter and where we saved Mac, our Australian Cattle Dog- he passed away almost 2 years ago (I can't believe it's been that long), but he was the absolute BEST. I'm a huge dog person. If I could adopt all the dogs in the world and give them safe, warm, happy homes, I would. Since I can't, and most can't do that, adopting just one dog can help! If a dog is not for you, you can also donate your time or money to help! Another shelter in the Pittsburgh area is Animal Friends, which is also no-kill.

I am a huge advocate for pet adoption. There are SO many dogs who need good homes and giving the gift of a wonderful life for a pet is so selfless and wonderful. Although, adopting Henry was the best thing I have ever done and I'm pretty sure I benefitted even more than he did. When you adopt from any organization or shelter around the world, you are actually saving 2 dogs. You save the dog you adopt and the dog that gets that open spot in a shelter. If you go through an organization like Tracy's Dogs, you end up saving 3 dogs because you open a spot at the organization, too.

Meals on Wheels
This serves older Pittsburghers and those who are unable to prepare nutritious meals for themselves. It's a great organization and you can help by donating your time, money or in-kind donations such as food and/or kitchen supplies. Do you have elderly people in your life who could use the extra help when it comes to preparing meals? Cooking things like casseroles, pasta, etc. in big batches and separating them out into individual portions with cooking instructions on top can be a major help to those who are unable to provide for themselves.

Goodwill
I am constantly donating gently used clothing to Goodwill. There are many locations in Pittsburgh and Goodwill makes it very easy to donate. There are so many people out there who need warm clothing during the winter, and this is a great way to help your local community and even easier for you to get rid of the stuff you have just lying around.

Children's Hospital
One of the worst things is having something happen to one of your loved ones. It's truly heartbreaking. If you are a Pittsburgher, consider donating to Children's Hospital. There are Children's hospitals all over the country, so be sure to look up one near you if you are not in the Pittsburgh area.

American Red Cross 
They're always there when disaster strikes. Donate your time, money, blood, food, anything you can to help. You can even choose what you donate to.

Dress for Success
This is one of my favorite charities that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women. You can donate money, clothing or volunteer your time. You can drop off clothing with this information. Not only that, but they accept things like unused makeup, shampoo/conditioner and other personal care products.

United Way
There are so many ways that you can help the United Way of Allegheny County and there are so many ways that the United Way helps so many of the people in your local community. From children to adults to senior citizens, there are programs that support every member of the community.

Donate Your Old Smartphone
The Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh collects old cell phones that can help women who have been victims of intimate partner violence. Your old phone is probably sitting in a drawer somewhere and could be a big help to someone in need! Check out the Pittsburgh drop-off locations here.

Toys for Tots
Looking back on Christmases growing up, my sister and I were so fortunate to always wake up to gifts from Santa under our tree. Many are not that fortunate. Toys for Tots provides gifts for kids that may not have otherwise received any gifts for Christmas. I participated in this in college. One day I got to go pick up a child from his elementary school, and take him out for lunch and to shop! We went to Target and picked up all sorts of things that he wanted. When I found out he had a brother, we had fun picking out surprises for his brother, too! It was such a fun day and so enjoyable to see how excited he was!

If you are part of a charity or hold a specific philanthropic organization near and dear to your heart, leave the details in the comments so others can see and learn more! 

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