The holiday season is full of incredible stories of ordinary people being extraordinary by giving their time to help those most in need. What makes these acts of kindness and generosity so special is that sadly many of us don’t do it enough and often because we simply don’t know where to begin.

Whether you’re looking for a way to give back or already volunteer and are looking to do more, here are some easy ways to make a difference this holiday season.

1. Give to a Winter Coat Drive

Every year, many Canadians living paycheque-to-paycheque struggle to afford the essentials for staying warm in the winter weather. So with another cold Canadian winter looming, now is the perfect time to go through your closet and gather up all your gently used winter gear to donate.

2. Reach out to a Neighbour

Do you know of a neighbour that lives alone or is new to the community? Why not reach out and invite them to join your family’s holiday dinner or meet and celebrate with other neighbours at a holiday party?

3. Visit a Senior Living Facility

Sadly many residents of senior living facilities may not have any visitors at all over the holidays for a variety of reasons. See if there is a program for visitors at your local facility or plan a stop during regular visiting hours.

4. Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen

Shelters across Canada are regularly in need of volunteers to help prepare and serve meals during the holidays. Smaller shelters may have limited capacity for volunteers so check with the organizations in your area to see where help is still needed.

5. Donate to a Food Bank

Did you know that 13% of Canadians live in a state of food insecurity? What this means is that millions are unable to access safe and nutritious food on a regular basis. Food banks help to address this need by serving over 850,000 Canadians a month which means every individual donation counts.

6. Donate Blood

Cold weather and icy driving conditions can keep regular donors from visiting their local clinic. The unfortunate effect of winter weather is a dropping off of blood supplies at a time when the need is as great as ever. Please take the time to make an appointment and donate right away.

7. Wrap Presents

If you consider yourself a maestro of wrapping gifts, why not share those talents with those in need? Many charities use this time of year to make sure even everyone has a present to open which means they need legions of volunteers to help wrap them.

8. Volunteer at an Animal Shelter

People aren’t the only ones in need of support this season, our four-legged friends can use some love too. Volunteering your time at an animal shelter or even offering your home to foster a furry or feathered friend can go a long way. If you suffer from allergies, consider making a donation of blankets and toys.

9. Write Thank-You Cards

Make a point of dropping off thank-you cards at your local community centre or non-profit. This simple, kind gesture can mean a lot to the unsung heroes that work tirelessly all year long to make our communities better places for all.

10. Give to a Toy Drive

There is no substitute for the look on a child’s face when they open up a present. Many community groups serve a wide range of ages with varying interests for the holidays. Take some time to find out what local toy drives are most in need of in your area.

Please remember that while making the time to do any one of these suggestions during the holidays is great, the need for many of these worthwhile causes exist 365 days a year. If you can, consider making a commitment to volunteering throughout the year. It may end up being the most important gift you give this year.