• Caroline Watkins

5 ways to give back this holiday season & beyond



It's hard to believe that Christmas is already around the corner. It feels like just yesterday we were celebrating Thanksgiving, whether it was through socially-distanced gatherings with friends and family or watching the eerie sight that was the Macy's Day Parade without any crowds.


The pandemic has made us get creative this year, especially when it comes to celebrating over the holidays. That is especially true when it comes to volunteering opportunities, which typically involve volunteer shifts at soup kitchens, organizing toy drives and more.


However, despite the fact that some of the more traditional ways of volunteering might be canceled this year due to COVID-19, there are still plenty of ways to give back to your community this season. Below, I have compiled five different ways that you can continue to spread love and holiday cheer, despite the circumstances.


1. Stock your car with care packages



One way to give back this season is to create care packages to give out to the homeless. This is a simple and easy way to help those in your community who are in need. Here are some ideas of items to include in your care packages:


  • Granola Bars

  • Trail Mix

  • Fresh Fruit (plan accordingly so they don't spoil in your car!)

  • Water bottles

  • Hand Sanitizer

  • Face Masks

  • Antibacterial Wipes

  • Toothbrushes & Toothpaste

  • Deodorant

Along with the care packages that I've created, I've also written a number of cards filled with information about local shelters and resources for people to access. I've also stocked my car full of fleece blankets (which go for around $3 at your local drug store or Walmart), which can be particularly helpful to the homeless community during these cold winter months. These care packages can go a long way for someone who might be lacking some of these basic care items during this time.


Tip: You can find many of these items in once place in the travel section of your local drugstore.


2. Donate to your favorite charities/ local organizations



This is a no-brainer, but even if you can't volunteer in-person as much this year due to the pandemic, your local charities and organizations still need your help! This year, also consider gifting people a donation to their favorite charity for the holidays. This is a particularly good gift for someone you think already has everything or is desperately trying to declutter from the aftermath that was 2020. Some of the charities that are close to my heart include:


  • The Malala Fund

  • Clear Thoughts Foundation

  • SHARE of McLean

  • Toys for Tots

  • Human Rights Campaign

  • ASPCA


Also, iIf you're looking for an incredibly unique and handmade gift for someone, check out @cardsforhumanity.jpg on Instagram. My talented friend Kun creates these beautiful handmade cards in exchange for $10 minimum donations to a charity of your choice. Every time I've gifted someone one of her handmade cards, they've been a huge hit!


3. Thank Essential Workers



Give thanks to the essential workers in your community who have been working tirelessly during this pandemic. Some of the ways that you can give back to essential workers include:


  • Donating food and other specific items

  • Writing them thank you cards and voicing your appreciation

  • Donating to an Emergency Relief Fund


You can learn more about how to give thanks to essential workers here.


4. Support your local businesses


It's no secret that local businesses are hurting immensely during this pandemic. Try your hardest to shop local this year when you can, whether it's buying someone a gift-card to get take-out from their favorite restaurant or handmade goods from one of your favorite local stores. If you need to take a break from cooking over the holidays, consider ordering carry-out or delivery from your favorite local restaurant over a chain restaurant whenever possible. Some of my favorite local businesses and restaurants/local restaurant chains in the DMV area include:


  • Pulcinella

  • The Greek Taverna

  • The Artisans

  • Filomena

  • Chesapeake Bagel Bakery

  • Pasa Thai

  • Forbidden City Express

  • Call Your Mother Deli

  • Moby Dick

I've also compiled a list of ways that you can support your local businesses during this time, which you can view here.


Especially during these winter months when fewer people are willing to dine outside, it's incredibly important to show your local restaurants your support during this time. And don't forget to tip!


5. Check on your elderly neighbors and community members


Here's a photo of me visiting my Grammy earlier this year. It's so tough not being able to see her, especially with Christmas approaching.


For elderly people, 2020 has been an incredibly tough and isolating year. Check-in with your elderly family members, friends and neighbors as often as you can, especially now during the holiday season. Phone calls, letters or even visits through a window are all ways that you can brighten their day and make them feel a little less lonely. If you know someone who is in an assisted living facility, see what you can do to support them. If you aren't allowed to visit them in person, see if you can deliver them packages or schedule a phone call. Simple acts of kindness can go a long way. My grandmother lives in an assisted living facility and it has been incredibly difficult for her and my family. Not being able to hug her or see her regularly has been quite the challenge, but we've tried to find creative ways to show her that we care for her and are still thinking of her. Click here to learn more about ways to support elderly friends and family during COVID-19.


I don't know about you, but I'm counting down the days until 2020 is over. Until then, I'll be continuing to find more ways to stay positive and help spread some much-needed holiday cheer.


Happy holidays & stay healthy,

Caroline