Top Ways to Give Back This Holiday Season

November 16, 2015

Here are some of our favorite ways for both adults and kids to get involved and give back this holiday season. For all the amazing freedoms and technology we have access to in this country, sadder still is the amount of people that are getting left behind. You can help!

Toys for Tots

One of the coolest ways to give back, and also teach your kids about the importance of giving back is the Toys for Tots foundation. The program is one where parents take their kids shopping to pick out a toy, not for themselves, but for children in need. The program goes one step further and the kids will help deliver the toys to the kids in need and get to see the smile on their face and the impact their kind gesture makes.

The best part of the Toys for Tots program is that children really respond since they are so much more involved in the act of giving back than they are in other typical charities. If your child brings in canned goods to school that their parent gave them, then they don't really understand or care why they are doing it, but seeing other children who may not receive a toy this season helps them realize how lucky they are compared to other kids. Your children might start asking why they are so lucky and why there is so much inequality in the world. These lessons and thoughtfulness brought on by the program makes it a win-win for both sides.

If there is not a Toys For Tots program in your area, a similar equivalent can be achieved by donating toys to another charity or nonprofit, then volunteering your time to deliver something such as holiday dinners to those in need.

Donate to a food bank

Food banks are a great way to allow your kids, just this once, to buy all those things they have been begging for every time you dragged them through the grocery store. Let them use a set amount of money to pick out some items to donate and help teach them about smart shopping, using coupons to stretch your dollar, and buying in bulk to get the best price per weight.

Care Packages for Soldiers Overseas

No one likes to be away from their family for the holidays and a great way to give back to those furthest away from home is to donate or help build care packages for soldiers overseas. Children and parents can work together to bake special holiday treats or cookies and write special letters thanking them for their service and wish them the best this holiday season.

Donate your time instead of your money

Monetary charitable contributions always spike during the holidays both because of the increased giving that occurs and due to the year ending for tax purposes. Instead of donating money, donate some of your limited and most valuable resource, your time.

Thinking outside the box can help you find new ways to use the time to benefit the organization of your choice. You can create some unique and easy artwork for a charity to hang on the wall, offer to do menial tasks like data entry, or even treat the hardworking and underpaid employees and volunteers of your favorite charity to a special night out or a family potluck. Small time contributions or unique gifts can put a smile on the face of a nonprofit employee and help keep the spirit of the organization high as they focus on their difficult but important mission.

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Interview with LA25 Member Lori Ford

November 16, 2015

LA25 Member, Lori Ford, opened Gum Tree with her husband Will 7 years ago. The couple jumped at an opportunity to establish the boutique and cafe when they stumbled upon a 1911 Craftsman house for sale on Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach. Gum Tree has become a go to local spot where one can enjoy fresh salads, sandwiches, and great coffee in the café, and then pop over to the shop to browse through the eclectic selection of gifts and home decor. Two years ago they added Gum Tree Kids to the family, it’s located just up the block on Pier Ave.

With more than just the desire to open a small business, Ford and her husband incorporated giving back to the community into Gum Tree's core philosophy when it established its roots. They knew that the South Bay schools would be their charity of choice, and being located in Hermosa, with kids in the school system, they were especially eager to support the Hermosa Beach Educational Foundation (HBEF).

"Many people think that downtown businesses can rely on tourist traffic, but our passion and goal was always to serve the local community," said Ford. "We really believe in what HBEF is doing, they fill the direct needs of the school district where state funding has come up short".
A signature holiday fundraising event that Gum Tree created 6 years ago, now takes place every year. The Annual Santa Photo Event has raised over $35,000 for HBEF since it’s beginning in 2009. The community is invited to take pictures with a real bearded, jolly Santa for two Sundays in November. Lauren Pressey is the local photographer who donates her time and talent, and HBEF volunteers help with check in and logistics. Each family receives a 5x7 print and digital file for $20. Every penny of that $20 goes directly to HBEF. Patrons enjoy complimentary mini muffins and hot cocoa as they await their meeting with Santa.

"Many children now associate Santa with Gum Tree," said Ford. "Some kids even believe the real Santa lives here!" It’s become a South Bay tradition, and that couldn’t make the team at Gum Tree happier.

This year, the event will be held on Nov. 22nd and 29th from 10am-4pm at Gum Tree, with proceeds continuing to benefit HBEF. As a member of LA25, Ford hopes to continue using her entrepreneurial efforts to give back to the community, and continue building and supporting events to keep furthering art education in the South Bay.

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