3 ways to give back for the holidays in the GTA

Does your family want to donate to or volunteer for a charity this holiday season, but you don't know where to start? Here's some helpful information on how you can give back

Every year, it seems, parents struggle with how commercial the Christmas season has become. It doesn’t sit right with a lot of us, and we want to make sure we’re giving something back.

“There’s lots of organizations that do more around the holidays, such as making special meals, delivering Christmas packages and adopting families,” says Maggie Leithead, president and CEO of CharityVillage.com, a Canadian resource guide for charities.

But, with more than 80,000 charities registered in Canada, choosing can be difficult. One way to simplify your giving plan is to keep it local. Consider helping out your neighbours in need right here in the GTA. Here’s what you need to know.

Toy drives

A variety of organizations and businesses collect toys to disperse to needy families for Christmas morning — and with the closure of the City of Toronto’s Christmas Bureau this year, the need is even greater this year.

How to donate: Some organizations specify the age and gender of the recipient you’re buying for, while others will take whatever toys — including gently used ones — you drop off.

How to volunteer: You can help with shopping, sorting, gift-wrapping or delivering the toys.

Finding organizations: While some exist solely to round up Christmas toys, many churches, community groups and a growing list of local businesses are also getting involved in the effort. You can also hold your own neighbourhood drive and take the collected gifts to the organization of your choice. Here are a few GTA options to consider:

CP24 Chum Christmas Wish
CTV/Salvation Army Toy Mountain
Yonge Street Mission
Toronto Fire Fighters and Toronto Police both hold toy drives throughout the city
The Drake Hotel Warming Hearts Holiday Drive

Adopt a family

It’s not just kids who can use a spiritual boost during the holidays. So some charities consider the whole family, providing Christmas baskets that address the needs of struggling parents, too.

How to donate: Organizations provide a selection of families, such as a single mother and child, or two parents with two children (a basket costs roughly $100-$200 for a family of four). Typically, baskets will include non-perishable food (or food vouchers), household items (such as linens or kitchenware), clothing, along with toys for the kids as well.

How to volunteer: You can participate with receiving, assembling, wrapping or delivering the baskets.

Finding organizations: Local missions and churches may sponsor families, as well as organizations set up specifically for these programs. Here are a few options in the city:

Society of St. Vincent De Paul
Hope for Children Foundation
Toronto City Mission
Holiday Helpers

Christmas meals

Many don’t have the option of a full table at Christmas; consider providing food for needy families, shut-ins, the elderly, the homeless or others in crisis situations.

How to donate: You can donate a turkey to a family either by giving money to a food organization, such as a food bank, or you can buy one at a participating grocery store. You can also help a mission or shelter host a free Christmas dinner for people in need by donating to them directly.

How to volunteer: You can participate by delivering turkeys (or other holiday food), serving meals, or decorating halls.

Finding organizations: Food banks, charities that address hunger, shelters for the homeless, abused women and runaway youth, as well as grocery stores. Options in the city include:

Second Harvest (donate a turkey)
The Scott Mission (free Christmas dinners meals)
Lawyers Feed the Hungry (free Christmas dinners)
St. Francis Table (free Christmas dinner, serving Parkdale)
The Stop Community Food Centre (delivering food baskets through its Gifts That Matter program)
Toronto’s Daily Food Bank
Good Shepherd’s Ministries

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