Help out during the holidays

By Jennie Bragg, producer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- We are right in the middle of the most spectacular display of economic activity all year -- holiday shopping season.

With all this getting, consider giving a little back to make your hometown a better, brighter place this holiday season.

Most of those holiday gifts will put a hole in your wallet, but the gift of time won't cost you a cent.

Community service

Add a community service project to your family's extended holiday to-do list.

You don't need any experience to pitch in at your local soup kitchen, homeless shelter, hospital or nursing home. Most organizations will give you on-site training and let you know how you can be of service when you arrive.

Check out VolunteerMatch.org or ServeNet.org to search for projects and charities in your local area in need of assistance.

These sites allow you to search for group and kid-friendly projects, so get the whole family involved.

A family community service project is a perfect chance to teach your little ones the importance of giving. It is also a great opportunity to establish new family traditions.

Help from home

If your family can't commit to a project outside your home, don't fret.

Get together and clean out the closets!

The more space you clean out now, the more peaceful and organized life will be in 2011. Oh, and you will have room for your new gifts!

Donate anything that is still in good condition to a good cause. Your local Salvation Army or Good Will will accept everything from clothing and furniture to old movies and cooking pans.

Be sure to get a receipt for everything you donate. Donations are tax deductible, and you will need that receipt come April.

Can't tear your kids away from the computer?

Head to FreeRice.com and test your vocabulary skills together. This non-profit site run by the U.N. World Food Programme will donate 10 grains of rice to help end world hunger for every answer you guess correctly.

Give back at work

Lots of companies put a major focus on community outreach this time of year.

If your company already has programs in place, hop on board. And if they don't, feel free to suggest a few.

Some businesses many even offer you and your team a little time away from the office to complete a volunteer project together.

Or consider projects that folks can easily participate in at the office.

Organize a Red Cross blood drive, a toy drive or a clothing drive.

You might even be able to get your company to donate directly to help out your cause.

Talkback: Have you volunteered for charity this year? Are you planning to do any next year? To top of page

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