According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 45 million Americans live below the poverty line. With the holiday season upon us, it’s a great time to think about the thousands of families across the country who struggle daily to procure basic items like food, clothing and household products.
As you clean and declutter your home to prepare for a steady stream of parties and guests, or make visits to your local storage facility to dig out your holiday decorations, take a moment to consider how you could share what you have to benefit families in need this season. You may be surprised by how much you have that could easily brighten another family’s season.
5 Items That Charities Need (and you probably have) This Holiday Season
1. Nonperishable food items
The Bread for the World Institute reports that one in ten households in the U.S. currently live with hunger or at risk for hunger.
While there is a great need for food year round, the holidays are an especially urgent time to provide families with meals, notes Suzette O’Brien, volunteer services manager for United Way of Buffalo & Erie County.
“On a recent visit to a pantry, I was told the need for food items this holiday season has gone up by eight percent,” O’Brien says. “Any nonperishables like soups, canned meat, cereals and boxed meals are especially helpful for families facing challenges during the holidays.”
Whether you have an emergency food stash in your storage unit or one too many soup cans piling up in your pantry, consider donating these supplies to Feeding America. This organization works with a nationwide network of food banks and have a location near you. Giving away items save you space and help give back to families during the holidays.
2. Household Appliances
Charities and thrift stores value gently-used household goods and furniture. Buffalo City Mission in Buffalo, N.Y., for example, accepts household appliance donations and uses the proceeds to further provide meals and shelter for families.
Cheryl Smith, office manager for Habitat for Humanity of Buffalo, explains that some common household appliances offered for donation include dryers, air conditioners, heaters, microwaves, televisions and refrigerators.
“Donating household items to charity can give new life to your useful goods,” says Smith. “Our wish list is full of household appliances and construction tools that often sit around. Why not put them in the hands of people who need them?”
Ditch the dumpster and donate your items instead. Goodwill works to keep billions of household items out of landfills and into the homes of families who need them. Next time you’re giving your storage unit a look-over, take those old household appliances you’ve stored and ignored (those in working condition, of course) to the closest Goodwill instead of tossing them out.
3. Children’s Toys
The National Center for Children in Poverty reports that more than 44 percent of children in the U.S. live in low-income working families.
AnnMarie Taft, Community Relations Coordinator for Salvation Army of Greater Buffalo, has seen that donating new or gently used toys can make an entire family’s holiday season.
“Toys are a big percentage of our donations,” Taft says. “Last year we received and distributed almost 27,000 toys to children, families and veterans. These children long for something they can show ownership for, and you can help.”
Taft recommends the following toy ideas for the 10-12 age group:
- Craft items
- Balls and sports equipment
- Gently used books and reading material
- Old electronic games or iPods
Has your attic or garage become the designated dumping ground for old sports equipment? Do unused electronics sit in your son or daughter’s childhood room, collecting dust? Declutter your space and look into Salvation Army’s two ways to donate: Scheduled pick-ups and drop-off locations. Additionally, Toys “R” Us just announced the launch of its 11th annual fundraising campaign to help bring holiday joy to some of the 14.7 million U.S. children living in poverty. Stores nationwide are accepting unwrapped toys.
4. Warm Clothing
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that Americans throw away more than 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person per year. Ask yourself: are there clothes in your closet that could change someone’s life?
During the cold winter months, it’s a top priority to provide families with coats, hats, boots, gloves and more.
“There are several winter clothing drives happening through December in the hopes of bringing warm clothes to every person who needs them,” Taft says. “It takes a quick sweep through your wardrobe and you’re already helping a child.”
Some common clothing items include:
Visit the Salvation Army’s full clothing donation value guide for price details.
Clothing donations to Goodwill can help reduce the stress that comes with a cluttered home. Lorie Marrero, creator of The Clutter Diet: The Skinny on Organizing Your Home and Taking Control of Your Life will help you declutter your life and transform clothes into items that will benefit families and leave a social and environmental impact.
5. Toiletry Products
“It may sound strange, but the basic toiletry staples that we take for granted such as toilet paper, soaps and razors, are out of reach for many families,” said O’Brien. “Our shelters provide as much as we can, but these types of non-food donations are critical.”
Some toiletry items you can donate:
- Laundry detergent
- Napkins/Paper towels
- Razors and shaving cream
- Extra toothbrushes/toothpaste
Do you have extra toiletry products taking up space on your shelves? What about all of those hotel shampoos you just had to have (hello, freebies) yet haven’t been opened? The Ronald McDonald House Charities suggests collecting unused hotel toiletries and donating them.
“This is a valuable way for individuals, business travelers and airline employees to help out these families,” said Connie Grammens, Ronald McDonald House director of Montana.
According to National Philanthropic Trust, there are over 1.5 million charitable organizations in the United States. Chances are you have a location near you. Before you shop for gifts this season, see what gifts you already have (that are likely taking up space) and make a world of difference for a family in need.