The holiday season is a mixture of many things: gift exchanges, dinner parties, fresh fallen snow, and “winter wonderland” getting stuck in your head at all hours. It is also the time to give back. Unfortunately a lot of people are not excited about the holiday season, as it might bring up harsh topics and political tension. Some might not have a safe home to stay in, or warm food to eat. The holidays can often cause anxieties and stress in many who are less fortunate than others. While being able to still celebrate this holiday and rejoice in the things and people you are grateful for, also take the time to give back.
Locally, in Maine, some places to donate that pertain to warm clothes would be, New Beginnings, a nonprofit that deals with runaway and homeless youth and teenagers to give them shelter and a new beginning. They are located in Lewiston, and compile the clothes and create gift boxes that are filled with sweaters, hoodies, socks and send it to people in need. As well as the group South Portland’s The Opportunity Alliance, an organization that deals with communities helping combating poverty, homelessness, mental illness, substance use, and domestic violence. The alliance gives out a particular list of items that one child needs, you would be assigned this list and shop or donate for one person. Lastly, Preble Street, a shelter and soup kitchen, food bank, located in Portland is always looking for general clothing donations. To reach these three organizations you find them online at: newbeginmaine.org, opportunityalliance.org, preblestreet.org.
When most people think of the holidays, they think of a feast. A large array of mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, green beans and squash, or large slices of beef and ham. However that normality is a privilege, and many will not get to encounter that luxury. Similar to the clothing drive, having a food drive and collecting canned goods or easy to eat foods can be a way to allow families and people to also share a warm meal. In Maine there are many local food banks and homeless shelters, such as: Bar Harbor Food Pantry, Midcoast Maine Hunger Prevention Program in Brunswick, and Preble Street and Wayside Food Programs in Portland. They can be found online at: barharborfoodpantry.org, mchpp.org, waysidemaine.org.
More specifically to hone in on the children and youth of Maine to give back to, the Maine Children’s Home is always looking for donations. On their website they have an “urgent needs lists” which can always be donated to and especially in the holiday season needs a lot of attention. Items should be dropped off or mailed, this information can found online. They also have an Amazon Wish list, found online at mainechildrenshome.org.
Another option this holiday season to give to could be the environment. Donating to local environmentally driven nonprofits in Maine could support the local community and the physical well being of the earth. REVERB is located in Portland and uses the music industry to educate and empower change on environmental and social issues, focusing on sustainability and carbon neutrality. Saltwater Classroom, also located in Portland, uses education based programs on children and youth to teach about the importance of our oceans and the ethics of how to treat and protect them. Online they can be found at: reverb.org, saltwaterclassroom.com.
For bigger organizations that deal with social issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement or any equality, and protecting and helping out the LGTBQ+ community donating funds. With more time spent with family, many people within LGTBQ+ community might not feel as safe to be in their spaces. Plus hosting political conversations and educating families on equality and the racial injustices in America can be very traumatic and taxing on many people, being an aid in this movement by donating can be a big help. The Human Rights Campaign, deals with both of these topics and is constantly striving for change working with those in political positions. The Black Vision Collective located in Minnesota focuses on leadership within the Black communities and empowering change across the country. The Trevor Project is about creating safe spaces for the youth of the LGTBQ+ community and breaking the stigma of mental health. These organizations can be found at: hrc.org, blackvisionsmn.org, thetrevorproject.org.
Whether it’s cleaning out your closet to give back, donating time to work in a food bank, or giving funds to local organizations, take the time to give back to your community this holiday season. Finding ways to get involved and give back will truly make a difference and change the way people look at this season. Within all of these organizations listed, there are other ways to get involved, such as sending holiday cards, volunteering and much more. In this season of give and receive, try to give a little more.