Do you need to remind yourself, and your family, what this holiday season is all about? Think outside the (gift) box and give something – time, gifts, food, donations – to people in our local, and worldwide, community.

You, your kids, your family will not only remember that the world is a big, beautiful place, but you’ll probably also really enjoy doing it. We’ve rounded up some ideas for you to get started.

Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child delivers shoeboxes filled with gifts to kids around the world. This program offers a great opportunity to not only help someone else but to connect to people around the world, at least in spirit. Families can pack as many shoeboxes as they would like; ideas for filling them can be found on their website.

In Elmhurst, shoeboxes can be dropped off at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 142 E. Third St. Drop off between Nov. 14 and Nov. 21, and please include $7 per shoebox for shipping.

Feed My Starving Children

Get the family together, immediate and extended, and spend time working together, assembly-line style, to pack nutritious meal packs that are sent to more than 70 countries.  When you’re finished, you’ll learn how many meals you have packed, and how many kids will be fed from that.

There are locations in Aurora and Schaumburg, and during the holidays pop up locations have been added in Downers Grove, Lemont, Naperville and West Chicago.

Meals on Wheels Holiday Card Drive

Families can make homemade cards (or purchase one) for delivery to a senior with few family members or friends in the area. Cards should be non-denominational, and personal touches are appreciated. 

Cards can be dropped off or mailed to Meals On Wheels, 1111 N. Wells St., Suite 307, Chicago, IL 60610). Deadline is Friday, Dec. 16.

Pet-centric Holiday Giving

If you or your kids love furry friends, check out the wish lists of local humane societies and rescue organizations. Many of them are particularly in need of items during the holidays. Kids can consider hosting a holiday party and asking for donations from each guest.

Donation ideas include: kitty litter, dog and cat food, bleach, laundry detergent, paper towels, toilet paper, copy paper, and postage stamps.

Hinsdale Humane Society:

West Suburban Humane Society:

For a list of rescue organizations for specific breeds, check out:

Adopt a Family:

For families experiencing difficult times, such as homelessness, hunger, or financial difficulties, the holidays are particularly difficult. Many local organizations have organized a way for their clients to receive gifts, and for them to give a gift to their children.

Hesed House

Located in Aurora, Hesed House is the second largest homeless shelter in Illinois. Their website has posted a holiday wish list:  for people who wish to help make the holidays a little brighter for their clients. Or families can put together a Hesed Home Starter Kit (a package of household items given to someone starting completely over.)

People’s Resource Center

Helps more than 9,000 DuPage County families with food, clothing, rent assistance and offers resources such as literacy classes, job assistance and computer training, among others.

Their “Share the Spirit” holiday program ( asks people to donate an unwrapped gift for a child. Volunteers staff a “store” where parents can come and pick out gifts for their children. In addition to toys, all children also receive books, hats, and mittens.

Family Shelter Service

Family Shelter Service provides housing for women and children impacted by domestic violence. They hold a Holiday Shop (, which allows their clients to shop for free for their families in a welcoming and safe environment. They’re asking for donations of educational toys and games, Legos, blocks, arts and crafts, sports equipment, dolls, and more. They are always in need of grocery and big box gift cards.

Bridge Communities

Bridge Communities is an organization that serves homeless families in DuPage County by working to help them transition to self-sufficiency. They provide housing, mentoring, and supportive services.

Their Adopt a Family holiday program ( allows families in need to purchase their own gifts. They ask for gift cards or monetary donations. $25 buys a new toy for a homeless child, $50 buys boots, hat, gloves, and scarf, $100 provides extra food needed for families during the holiday break.

Gas cards and grocery cards are also needed. For kids or families with large coin collections, they are always looking for change to be used for laundry services (a typical family in transition spends $40 a month on laundry.)

Looking for ways to extend your giving throughout the year? Two organizations will help match you with a nonprofit that needs your help:

Giving DuPage

A clearinghouse that matches local organizations that need volunteers, donations or advocacy work with people who want to help.

Volunteer Match

Will help potential volunteers get in touch with a nonprofit in need of help.