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Send a Holiday Care Package

Holiday care packages are boxes of sunshine sure to brighten someone’s day. They’re often unexpected and appreciated. And the holiday season is the perfect opportunity to prep a package that prompts a smile.

Construct care together
You can send a package to loved ones far away or down the street, at college or in recovery. Once you’ve written a list of names, add a theme: favorite snacks, favorite activities or even favorite color. Then tie the whole thing together with a custom card or letter—it can be much bigger than the greeting that typically accompanies a gift, if you need more room to express yourself.

When preparing more than one package, share the work and spread the joy at the same time by inviting your family or friends for a packing party. Set up markers or pens with an easel (or some floor space) for people to draw poster-sized cards or letters. Share food with participants as they make the care packages and decorate the boxes. As you near the end of your packing party, you can add one last poster to your easel: one that gives the packers a chance to write about the experience.

Improve lives worldwide
Many women around the world lack necessities that we often take for granted: first aid supplies, medical equipment and basic classroom materials to educate their children. By packaging and sending these essentials through organizations like MADRE’s Helping Hands Campaign, you’re giving a lifeline to families and communities.

Another approach to the traditional care package is a “care bag” for children in need: Decorate a fabric bag or fill one you find with a mix of essentials and fun items, such as toothpaste, soap, toys and crayons. The Care Bags Foundation distributes the bags through child-service agencies across the country; other bags are hand-delivered to displaced, abused and disadvantaged kids worldwide. When you visit their website, click on “About Us” and then “What You Can Do.”

Help kids facing cancer
If you know of a child dealing with cancer, pay her or him a visit—and take along some healthy (and doctor-approved) treats and activities. Try checkers, chess or other board games—and bring some cards, too!

You can also make a care package or ask The Cool Kids Campaign to send a package. The campaign is devoted to improving the quality of life for pediatric oncology patients and their families. Packages for kids (assembled specifically for their age and interests) are sent directly to their homes to make their day a little brighter. Be sure to personalize packages as much as possible!

Reach out to troops
Care packages are practically a military tradition at this point because they’re always welcomed as gestures of support. If you know a military member, check on what to send and how to send it. After you ship your package, expect that it may be several weeks before the person receives it and has a chance to respond.

Want to make it an event? Check with local veterans’ organizations and schools to find out if you can join in on community packing for military members or local families. If there isn’t one, you could choose to organize a care package drive with your school, place of worship, business or other community group.

You can also send a care package to help military dogs and their handlers, who spend the holiday season abroad. K9s and their partners in Iraq and Afghanistan benefit from this collection and donation, which is organized by police officers who know the value of K9s firsthand.

Another option is to write letters to troops and enclose them in care packages that other people have prepared. There are a few guidelines to get you started writing your letter or starting a campaign.

Put it all together
Get your friends, family and coworkers together to find a volunteer opportunity near you.

Helping others experiencing homelessness

Try connecting with a local shelter or coalition and offer to make and bring packages for people who are experiencing homelessness. Ask the shelter if they house individuals or families and what to include, such as snacks, toiletries, hand warmers, caps or scarves.

Even more ways to help military members

Check out Operation Paperback, a non-profit organization that helps volunteers collect and ship books to troops, both in the U.S. and abroad.