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It takes a village – giving back to the community during the holidays and all year round


Every once in a while I stop and take a moment to look around me. Around my sometimes very messy kitchen, around my still not perfectly decorated formal living room and around the family room.

The family room with its storage ottoman stuffed with games, educational toys, DVDs, puppets and dress up; with its stunning, solid upcycled doll house; with its shelf filled with magazines, learn to read series books, Tag readers and Disney classics and with the drawers filled with beads, lacing crafts, stickers, markers, paper and many more tools to make any day filled with fun.

And I think, “What do these girls need? They want for nothing. They have more than they need. But there are many who don’t.”

Does this resonate with you? Do you feel like you are SO LUCKY and others aren’t?

How to give year round

You see it all over social media, more and more kids are understanding philanthropy, becoming media savvy and recognizing that others are much less fortunate and they want to help. Some organizations, like the Ottawa Food Bank, are smart and understand this growing trend and are organizing themselves to help provide tools and fun ways to give. Vancouver even has a new Virtual Food Drive option where you can donate online to provide consumables. Expect more and more organizations to follow suit as we move through 2015.

Here are our suggestions for giving in your community this Christmas and all year round:

  • #UsedHelps; now you can buy and sell items on your local site and donate the proceeds directly to your favourite charity or non-profit organization
  • Look at the wanted ads on your local site. At this time of year, the need for assistance, can increase
  • Visit Charity Village, a formidable resource for Canadians looking to help
  • A great option for young people is the grassroots initiative Do Something
  • Talk to your local food banks and ask what they need. Some have seasonal adopt-a-family initiatives or simply require non-perishable items and warm clothing for their visitors
  • Forgo Christmas cards and instead donate the money saved to charity or if you love to send paper missives, buy charity cards
  • Give charitable gifts. Many local charities offer gift options at Christmas and year round in their thrift stores and through national chain stores
  • Give charitable donations in lieu of Christmas and birthday gifts; examples include sponsoring an endangered animal, sponsoring a child, or one-off donations to provide necessities to those in need here and abroad

Our giving experience

Let me tell you about something our family decided to do this year. This year, we decided that celebrations like birthdays were less about getting things and more about celebrating our good fortune. Our health. Our family and friends. Our love. And, at four years old, my twins were excited to give instead of get.

Here’s what we did. We signed up for the Ottawa Food Bank KidsZone birthday party. We downloaded a free printable birthday party invite and instead of the expected gift-getting, we asked the children coming to bring donations to the food bank, to help those in need.

And it was AWESOME.

My girls gathered a big bin filled with food to bring and drop off and on top of that, raised $115 in cash to donate. In addition, I decided that in lieu of spending money on loot bags, each child would get one balloon from our decorations, a sheet of inexpensive stickers and then I would donate an additional $5 each to add to the total. That made it $165 total to the food bank. My girls were featured on the Ottawa Food Bank website (and posted to Facebook and tweeted etc.), much to their delight.

“We’re always so grateful for all donations – but there is something so special about receiving donations from children,” says Samantha Ingram, communications coordinator at the Ottawa Food Bank. “Children are our future philanthropists, donors and supporters – our KidZone is there to show kids how they can make a difference for those around them.”


Find out more about the work does in our communities, including information on #UsedHelps, which offers you the chance to donate proceeds from items sold on our sites.


Mom of twin toddlers, social media strategy gal, public servant, athlete when there’s time, amateur sommelier and lover of food. Passionate about life. Twitter: @usedottawa | @paminottawa

5 Responses to “It takes a village – giving back to the community during the holidays and all year round”

Ottawa Food Bank

Thank you for writing this post. It’s so great and we were so appreciative of your, your daughters’ and your daughters’ friends support!

Keep up the excellent work. Thank you!



    Thank YOU Ottawa Food Bank for not only thinking of great ways to get people involved in giving, but for helping me to teach my daughters compassion, appreciation for what we have, and pride in doing something good for others. Great initiative!

Joanne Hardy

My family did something very similar this Christmas. I spoke to my children (aged 14 & 10) and we decided to donate £10 worth of food to a local Foodbank. It was amazing how much basic food and toiletries you could buy for this small amount of money. I also put a box at work and colleagues made donations for us to take.
The kids appreciated the good they had done and we have agreed to donate every month.



    Joanne I love that idea. I might steal it. I could totally find time in our weekends here and there to take them shopping for essential supplies for others. Love it!

    Amber R Bosma

    All this is very inspiring. I think we will do something similar and make up some basic needs bags.

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