December 4, 2014 4:05 pm
Updated: December 4, 2014 4:20 pm

How to help people in need during the holidays

In this file photo, volunteers load a pallet with assembled food hampers at the Salvation Army toy and food drive distribution centre.

The Canadian Press Images / Mark Spowart
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TORONTO – The holiday season is reminder for most of us to try and reach out to those in need, whether it’s a family member, friend, a neighbour or a stranger.

There are many ways to help but if you are not sure where to start, here are some ways you can brighten up someone’s life this Christmas.

Give a special gift to a senior


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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.

READ MORE: 5 ways to give back to your community

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.

Help the homeless

One of the most direct ways to help the homeless is to give money. Another option is to make a few extra sandwiches when you go out and offer them to individuals who may ask for change.

Donating clothing, groceries and other items to a homeless shelter are other ways you can help. Through the Salvation Army, you can help give a homeless person Christmas dinner and a friend to share it with.

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

Each holiday season, Covenant House in Vancouver provides homeless youth with a Christmas backpack filled with new clothing, toiletries and small gifts.

Through the Street Kids Gifts catalogue, you can help at-risk and homeless youth by giving them a full week of food, clean clothes and a warm bed to sleep in or three nutritious home cooked meals for one day.

Send a letter or parcel to a solider oversees…

If you have a family member or friend currently deployed on an overseas mission, you can send parcels for free at any Canada Post retail outlet until January 16, 2015. Letters (up to 500 grams) to deployed troops can also be sent free of charge until Dec 31, 2015.

If you do not know any soldiers personally but wish to send a letter to someone, you can address your letter to “any Canadian Forces member” (note: postage will be required).  Click here for more information.

…Or reach out to a veteran locally

Wounded Warriors is an independent not-for profit charity that supports Canadian soldiers and their families. It is primarily a fundraising mechanism that supports existing programs that tend to injured soldiers with both visible and non-visible wounds.  Donations can be made here.

Canadian War Hero Fund is a charitable organization dedicated to supporting Canadian military personnel and their families by providing post-secondary scholarships to the children and spouses of fallen Canadian soldiers.

Donate toys to children

Many organizations across the country accept unwrapped toys each year to distribute them as gifts to underprivileged children.

For instance, Canada’s third largest municipal police service, Peel Regional Police, serves the needs of financially disadvantaged children in the area, while local women’s shelters may also accept gifts for any young ones.

READ MORE: Want to avoid toy overload this holiday? 5 alternative gift ideas for kids

Give a food hamper to a family

In a typical month, food banks in Canada now provide food and other supports to more than three quarters of a million separate individuals or 841,000 people.

Donating food to a shelter or providing food hamper to a family in need is a great way to give back.

Visit a friend, family member or neighbour

Decorating the house, planning Christmas dinners and buying gifts makes it easy for our schedules to fill up quickly. Call up a family member or friend you haven’t spoke to in awhile or visit a neighbour who you haven’t chatted with in some time. They might appreciate the gesture more than you know.

© 2014 Shaw Media

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