Reach out to those in need

Throughout the year, many look forward to the Christmas season. It is a holiday that brings smiles and laughs as families gather around luxurious trees and outstanding meals. Christmas is a cherished holiday with extravagant lights, luminous decorations and magnificent gifts. However, during this season, individuals should take a step back and remember what Christmas is actually meant for.

Christmas is a time for giving to family and friends, but more importantly, Christmas is about giving to others who may not have as much as you. There are many families who are not able to celebrate Christmas due to financial limitations. Some parents may struggle to buy one gift for their children or even display a tree in their living room.

There are many organizations that allow people to give to less fortunate families by donating gifts or helping wrap presents.

The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve hosts the Toys for Tots Program, a foundation that donates toys, books and other gifts to less fortunate families.

Toys for Tots began in 1995 and today has distributed over 512 million toys to over 237 million children. Their mission is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to children in the community in which the campaign is conducted, their website said.

In high school, my Spanish teacher hosted a Toys for Tots drive at our school during December. She bribed her students to donate by offering extra credit points for every 10 toys students brought in. Knowing I could help my grade just by buying a few toys. I started out by bringing in 10 toys but then was hooked. I loved the cause so much that I went back and bought to more toys.

No matter the size or price, donating could bring big smiles to children as they wake up Christmas morning and see a present of their own under the tree.

I also volunteer at Operation Blue Santa, a nonprofit organization put on by the Austin Police Department. Operation Blue Santa provides families with a holiday meal and toys for each child in their household. The nonprofit began in 1972 and this year will serve over 5,000 families, according to their website.

Through volunteering with them, I have been involved in sorting out donated gifts into age categories, wrapping the toys and packaging the toys with a meal in the warehouse.

While I am not able to see the direct impact that my donating and volunteering will bring families, I enjoy knowing that I am making an impact in someone else’s holiday.

During Christmastime, it is easy to forget that there are families who don’t have decorations or nice meals to gather around on Christmas day.

Volunteering and donating has made me appreciate all I receive at Christmas. Imagining a little boy’s face as he opens his new truck or race car and the parents’ looks of relief that they were able to give their child a present makes me want to continue giving.

When volunteering or donating, be sure to research the charity, as there are some that do not give all of the proceeds to the recipients.