Traditionally the holidays are synonymous with giving gifts and gatherings, but like everything in 2020, this season is proving to be a little different. Even if Santa is making a stop at your home this year, we encourage you to explore the true spirit of the season and consider giving in the ways that matter most.

Although it’s been a tough year for everyone there are those who especially need our help, now more than ever. In our post, Five Ways to Practice Gratitude, we explain how having a giving spirit can help both others and ourselves. When we take the time to recognize the blessings we do have and the ways we can be of assistance to those in need, we experience a greater sense of purpose and perspective.

In keeping with the spirit of giving, we’re sharing five ways that you can give back and spread some holiday cheer. Read below for ideas that don’t involve spending money, some of our favourite northern organizations that are doing amazing things and ways to get the whole family involved.

5 Ways to Give Back This Holiday Season

1. Give Your Time

Volunteering can be especially impactful at this time of year. There are so many organizations that could use an extra set of helping hands. Consider giving your time in-person following safety protocols or online with administrative, marketing and even design help.

It only takes a few minutes to search causes that you’re passionate about and reach out to ask if they could use a few hours of assistance. Here are some great organizations in the North that are in need right now:

  • The YMCA of Northeastern Ontario is looking for volunteers to help in North Bay and Sudbury. There are many ways to get involved including volunteering to help with programs, fundraising, events and policies. Visit the YMCA website to learn more.
  • The North Bay Food Bank is always looking for volunteers. They’ve included a number of ways to support from simply spreading the word, to starting a workplace collection bin at your place of business, or even participating in a reverse advent calendar with your family. Visit the North Bay Food Bank for more ideas!
  • The West Muskoka Food Bank operates mostly on a volunteer basis and is currently looking for volunteers to assist with tasks such as shopping, picking up and sorting food, and marketing to the community. To assist with any of the above, please contact Kristen Thompson at 705 646 3997.

2. Give Some Love

While many of us are sad to hear that large gatherings will not be permitted this holiday season, there are many who do not have family or friends at all. As we plan the holidays on a smaller scale with virtual components, why not consider giving some love to others? Send a card, handwritten note, or children’s drawing to a long-term care home or women’s shelter!

Here are some great options:

  • Huntington University is looking to send a “Sleigh Full of Love” to LTC Homes in the North. Contact [email protected] to learn more and receive a sponsor to send some love to.
  • The Sudbury Women’s Centre is looking for messages of strength, hope and resiliency to share with survivors of gender-based violence. Send your love and positivity by email to: [email protected] or call the front desk to learn more about how you can help: 705-673-1916 x100.

3. Give For A Chance to Win

Our hospitals are working harder than ever to keep us safe and healthy. And while government funding is essential to keep our healthcare system running, there are so many needs that require community fundraising.

One way that hospital foundations in the North are raising funds are through 50/50 lotteries. They are a win/win: give a monetary contribution that will be used to purchase much-needed items and get a chance to win the lottery prize. These prizes can be quite substantial, even reaching over $200,000 for monthly winners!

Here are some northern 50/50 Lotteries to check out:

  • The Sault Area Hospital Foundation: From the website, “This monthly electronic and online 50/50 draw helps purchase medical equipment for Sault Area Hospital! Now with weekly early bird prizes; buy early to be included in each “$1000 Thursday” draw as well as the grand prize at the end of the month. The last two months have had grand prizes over $250,000!”
  • Health Science North HSN 50/50 Cash Lottery for the North: From the website, “When you purchase a ticket, you are directly supporting the highest-priority needs of Health Sciences North, through the work of Health Sciences North Foundation, NEO Kids Foundation, Northern Cancer Foundation and Health Sciences North Volunteer Association”. The current prize is estimated at over $130,000!

4. Give Up a Little

Times are tough for many and money is tight, especially around the holidays. For many of us however, our strapped bank accounts and credit are still much more than those facing insecurities around basic needs. Consider giving up a little in order to give back to a cause that supports our communities.

It could mean forgoing a drive-thru coffee; suspending your cable TV or streaming service for a month; or even wearing last year’s holiday outfits instead of buying new ones. Using that money to give to a charity will certainly feel good and make an impact to those who need it most. Every little bit counts. Here are some of our favourite causes to donate to:

  • The Sudbury Infant Food Bank: Part of the Pregnancy Care Centre of Sudbury, the Infant Food Bank serves over 800 families with young children living in poverty. They provide babies and young children with necessities such as diapers, baby food, formula, clothing, car seats, cribs and much more. The annual “All We Need for Christmas” campaign is accepting both physical and monetary donations. Visit to donate.
  • One Kids Place: This organization provides community-based rehabilitation and related support services for children and youth and their families living in the Districts of Muskoka, Nipissing and Parry Sound.

5. Give Old Items

Just before the holidays can be a great time to sort through items at home and purge things to make room for the new items that will be unwrapped on Christmas day. What may not be used by you or your family any longer, could be so helpful to others.

Here are some ideas:

  • Items for Warming Centres and Homeless Shelters: Donations of gravity chairs, blankets, socks and warm clothing are accepted by the downtown YMCA, Off the Street Emergency Shelter at 200 Larch St. and the Homelessness Network Day Centre at 19 Frood Rd. in Sudbury.
  • Items for Animal Shelters: Donations are desperately needed in shelters to help to continue saving the lives of animals. Pet Save in Sudbury is always in need of old towels/sheets/blankets as well as clumping cat litter, laundry soap, Javex, “paw blankets” from the Dollaramas, marrow bone treats for dogs, canned cat food, Canadian Tire Money and more. Contact Pet Save or your local animal shelter to drop off items that could be useful.
  • Winter Clothing: In North Bay, Operation Warmth hands out more than 2,000 winter coats every year. Donations can be dropped off at Lakeshore Missionary Church, 656 Lakeshore Dr., North Bay, Tuesday to Friday from 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
    In Sudbury, everything from warm children’s hats and snowsuits to gently used winter clothing for adults and boots for all ages is being accepted at Palladino Auto Group locations as part of the Coats for Kids Campaign for Better Beginnings Better Futures.
  • Toys: A fun learning experience to share with your children could include an annual toy donation where items that they’ve outgrown are shared with other girls and boys.
    In Sudbury, toys, clothing and item donations are accepted at the YWCA for the women and children that will be in the shelter during the Christmas holiday. This helps to ensure that every woman and child in the shelter have presents to unwrap on Christmas morning.
    In North Bay, toys, clothing and other item donations are accepted at the Crisis Centre and Nipissing Transition House.

How are you planning to give this holiday season? Do you have a favourite cause or worthwhile organization that you support in the North? Please let us know!

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