You’ve made your list, checked it twice, made five trips to the mall, placed several orders online, and wrapped all your purchases in colorful paper. Now what?
When your shopping is done, consider doing another kind of giving: Donate some time or money to worthy causes around the North Shore. Whether you’d rather play with puppies, shovel some snow, or engage with your elders, we’ve rounded up 12 ways you can give the gift of good in the coming year.
Go to the dogs
Do a little something for your furry friends by supporting your local animal shelter. Donations of money are always appreciated, but shelters are often in need of pet food, towels, feeding bowls, leashes, and even office supplies. If you are feeling ambitious, consider signing up to be a foster family for Salem’s Northeast Animal Shelter, providing a warm, temporary home for rescued animals before they are adopted.
Out on the farm
The North Shore is full of opportunities to engage in a little agricultural altruism. At Appleton Farms in Hamilton and Ipswich, you can volunteer to work with the livestock or greet visitors at the welcome center. Sign up for emails from the Boston Area Gleaners to be alerted when the group will be on local farms picking produce to donate to shelters and food pantries. Or help out at The Food Project, a nonprofit that teaches leadership skills to urban youth through farm work; the group’s farms in Beverly and Lynn depend on volunteers in the spring and fall.
Let your kindness snow
After the next snow storm, once you’re done shoveling your walk and cleaning off your car, take a look around. That elderly woman across the street? The family with the new baby next door? They’d probably appreciate a hand getting themselves shoveled out. If you’re ready to clear out a driveway or two but no one in your neighborhood needs your help, try contacting local elder services agencies and community assistance groups to offer your services to their clients.
When the temperature drops, paying for heat can be a considerable challenge for low-income families. In Beverly, you can give the gift of heat with a donation to Beverly Bootstraps, a community organization that will distribute the money to local families in need.
Volunteer at a food pantry
Today’s food pantries are much more than shelves of canned goods. Consider volunteering with Beverly Bootstraps’ mobile market, which distributes fresh produce to clients or at the The Open Door Food Pantry in Gloucester, where you can help them distribute healthy food through their food pantries, Community Meals, Mobile Markets or Holiday Meal Baskets. At Our Neighbors’ Table in Amesbury, you can get the kids involved decorating bags for children’s snack packs or packing candy bags for the group’s weekly meal service.
Push some paper
Not all volunteering is glamorous. Many charitable groups desperately need help with filing, envelope stuffing, and other administrative tasks, so grab a cup of coffee and settle in at a desk for some low-stress but high-impact volunteer work.
Respect your elders
It might be called volunteering, but when you work with senior citizens, you get paid with a treasure trove of living history. Elder services organizations in your town can match you with the opportunity that’s right for your skills and interests; consider reading books to seniors, delivering meals, driving them to medical appointments, or helping them manage their money.
Building your community
Don a hard hat and head to a Habitat for Humanity build site to help create housing for needy families. Hook up with one of the Habitat affiliates in Lynn, Westford, or Lawrence to learn more about specific opportunities. If swinging a hammer isn’t your thing, volunteer for a site selection or fundraising committee to do some good behind the scenes.
Be a role model
You’ve probably learned a thing or two over the years, so why not step up and impart some wisdom to a child or teenager who needs some guidance? Contact the Mass Mentoring Partnership to find opportunities ranging from hanging out with children via the Big Brothers Big Sisters program to helping ambitious girls prepare for college through Girls Inc. of Lynn.
Offer up some hospitality
There’s more to volunteering at a hospital than just delivering flowers to patients. At Beverly Hospital, volunteers greet arriving patients, man the gift shop, and care for young children whose mothers are attending a support group. Anna Jacques Hospital in Newburyport has volunteers in the cancer center, the emergency room, and the transportation and physical therapy departments.
What they really, really want
The holiday season is full of toy and clothing drives, but consider taking up a collection of something a little less common. Contact a local shelter, community group, or food pantry and find out what goods they always need but rarely get; socks, toothpaste and other toiletries, diapers and wipes, spices, and reading glasses are all useful items that rarely top people’s donation lists.
Keep the coast clear
The North Shore is nothing without its coastline, so offer up your time to help keep our waterfront and marshlands healthy and clean. Salem Sound Coastwatch’s Adopt a Beach program trains citizens to become beach keepers, cleaning up their favorite stretches of sand and monitoring for pollution, erosion, and invasive species. The Trustees of Reservations also organize regular clean-ups at Crane Beach in Ipswich and Coolidge Reservation in Manchester.