5 ways to give back to your community

WATCH: How a movement of giving back to the community is picking up pace after a weekend of consumption. Minna Rhee reports.

TORONTO – Just as Black Friday kicks off the holiday shopping season, Giving Tuesday is the opening day of the giving season. The global movement encourages charities, companies and individuals to join together to “share commitments, rally for favourite causes and think about others.”

Now in its second year, more than 3,000 businesses, charities and organizations have come together with hundreds of thousands of Canadians from coast to coast to celebrate giving back.

READ MORE: Gifts that make a difference: 4 charitable holiday gift ideas

“Whether it’s raising awareness, volunteering or fundraising, Giving Tuesday was created to inspire everyone to get involved and rally around the causes that are meaningful to them,” said Marina Glogovac, president and CEO of CanadaHelps.

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According to a report from TD Economics, 84 per cent of Canadians donate to charity each year and the value of donations is in excess of $10 billion.

Are you strapped for cash this holiday season but still wish to give back? Here are some ways you can donate without spending a dime.

Donate surplus food

Playing a role in the cycle of food rescue is a great way to give back and many local programs exist across the country.

Second Harvest in Toronto takes excess fresh food from restaurants and delivers them to those in need around the city. The organization can provide regular reports based on your food donations that can help your organization reduce surplus and reduce costs.

Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton is a non-profit organization established in 2009. Volunteers collect fruit grown in the city on private property and redistribute it within communities. The “rescued” food is shared with owners, pickers and charitable organizations such as Edmonton’s Food Bank.

READ MORE: 5 common myths about food bank use in Canada

Share your expertise or knowledge

Do you have specialized training or expertise that your colleagues, seniors or youth, like students, can learn from? Offer to host an off work-site workshop for coworkers or share some of your knowledge in person one-on-one, over a coffee or meal.

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Spend time with a neighbour or friend

Those who wish to give back don’t necessarily have to reach out to strangers. When was the last time you reached out to a neighbour, colleague or friend and asked what they needed help with? Often just giving your presence (over presents) can come a long way for those who are especially lonely during this time of year.

Volunteer at a shelter

According to the report from TD, almost half of Canadians aged 15 and over volunteered in 2010, giving the equivalent of $5.1 billion in unpaid hours.

Volunteering is a great way to help people in need during the holidays. This time of the year, charities like food banks and shelters are often inundated with requests for help.

READ MORE: How to choose a charity this holiday season

Donate clothing and gifts

The holiday season is a great time to donate unused clothing, toys, toiletries and other items that you no longer use or need. Email or call a local church, shelter, hospital or other group and ask what items they need. Most organizations are often more than happy to accept donated items.

If you are able to spare a few extra dollars, the Be a Santa to a Senior program is a great way brighten up the holiday for a senior citizen. Initiated by Home Instead Senior Care, the annual program partners with local non-profit and community organizations to identify seniors who might not otherwise receive gifts this holiday season.

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Volunteers collect and distribute holiday gifts for thousands of isolated and lonely seniors throughout a given city. The seniors that are served may live at home, in a long term care facility or be in hospital over the holidays. Find out how to help an underserved senior here.

If there is no Be a Santa to a Senior program where you live, Home Instead Senior Care encourages you to contact an organization in your community dedicated to helping seniors during the holidays.

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