By Nicole Martin
It's that special time of year when there's a holiday party or gathering going on every weekend from your job, church, special group club to close family and friends. The spirit of giving is in the air and one element that most of these parties have in common is a gift exchange like Secret Santa or white elephant.
Of course most people love giving and receiving gifts, myself included, but I have to admit I often don't need or even use the gifts that I receive at these parties- another scarf, wallet, body wash/perfume set, tasty treats to tip the scale, etc. In the true spirit of giving I recommend swapping these old gift exchanges for gift donations at local charities.
Your group of coworkers, family, friends, or church members could bless so many people this holiday season from children, to seniors to the homeless or needy. You can donate new, unwrapped toys to low-income families through Toys for Tots or Children's Healthcare of Atlanta for those kids & families stuck in the hospital this season.
Don't forget about the seniors in long-term care facilities who don't have family or friends to visit them. The "Be a Santa to a Senior" program partners with local organizations to identify seniors who might not otherwise receive gifts this holiday season. Through this program volunteers can select a "Christmas tree bulb" that has the name and wish list of a senior citizen, purchase a gift and either drop it off in a designated box or delivery gifts personally.
Yet another option that your group could do instead of the traditional secrete Santa or white elephant exchange is donating to food charities like Hosea Williams Feed the Hungry where hundreds of homeless or low-income people in our community can get a hot meal, clothes, toiletry items and access to services like a haircut, dental, vision or health exam. With all these great alternatives your group can spread love & care to others then share their stories of giving at your special holiday celebration.