There are SO MANY options for giving / donating / doing a good deed during the Holidays. In hopes of making it simple for you to GIVE BACK, we’ve compiled a list of a variety of ways you can make a difference this holiday season. They range from things you can do for free, such as giving compliments or making Christmas cards, all the way to “adopting” a child or family to make their holiday special. Whether you have $1 or $100 to give this holiday season, every act of generosity matters. We are firm believers that every little bit of happiness passed along helps make a difference in this world.

Random acts of kindness:

  • Make Christmas Cards and drop them off at a local assisted living facility
  • Give someone a compliment
  • Leave a small treat in the mailbox for the person who delivers your mail
  • Offer to return someone’s shopping cart to the store
  • Let someone go ahead of you in the checkout line
  • Do some winter cleaning and donate gently used toys where they can be reused (see a list of donation locations)
  • Make a thank you card for someone who might not normally receive many thanks
  • Pay for the coffee of the person behind you
  • Make cards for hospitalized kids
  • Coupon queens and stockpile shoppers, donate your extra household products and toiletries to a family in need
  • Mow the lawn/weed the yard of a neighbor working multiple jobs
  • Babysit for a single parent so they can have some alone time or even get some Christmas shopping done
  • Supply freezer meals to a mother who just had a baby, a family who lost a loved one, or a neighbor who is sick
  • Smile and look for opportunities to encourage others with your words
  • Leave a nice waiter or waitress a generous tip
  • Take a treat and/or thank you note to the janitors at your school
  • Sing an employee’s praises to a manager or on a comment card — a little recognition goes a long way
  • Sing Christmas Carols, play board games, or just visit with senior citizens at a nursing home
  • Take flowers to the nurse’s station at the hospital – the nurses will know who needs them most
  • Make Blessing Bags – bags of food and hygiene products for the homeless
  • Paint and hide rocks as part of the “Lakeland Rocks” trend
  • Hide $1 with an anonymous “Merry Christmas!” note in the Dollar Store
  • Drop off {store bought} cookies at a local fire station or police station
  • Donate stuffed animals to police and fire departments to use during emergencies to help calm frightened children
  • Give Blood – check to see where you can find the Big Red Bus to make a donation

DONATE TOYS / CLOTHING FOR CHILDREN

Rudolph Round-Up – Heartland for Children

Serves: Local children in the foster care system

Donation needs:  Become a RUDOLPH CHAMPION and commit to making a difference in the life of a child this holiday season by:

  • Sponsoring an individual child by purchasing gifts on his or her wish list
  • Sponsoring a toy drive individually, through your business, organization, school or faith community
  • Making a monetary contribution to help purchase items off a wish list
  • Donating toys for a child, in lieu of an office or family gift exchange

For more information or to find out what they still need, email Heartland for Children at rudolph@heartlandforchildren.org or call (863) 519-8900 ext. 214.

Salvation Army

Serves: Thousands of children in need in the Lakeland area from struggling families

How to donate: Bring joy to a child this Christmas. Angels are available for adoption. Please call 863-853-2214. or email Kayla.titchenell@uss.salvationarmy.org

Drop off donations at: The Salvation Army – 3804 Kathleen Road, Lakeland, FL 33810

Ring the Salvation Army Bell: You can also register to ring the bell at a location near you – https://www.registertoring.com/.

Toys for Tots

Serves: The mission of the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to distribute toys as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community in which the campaign is conducted, so all toys will be given to children in the Polk County area.

Donation needs: NEW, UNWRAPPED toys

Drop off donations at: Any Toys for Tots collection box. CLICK HERE to find a box near you.

Cops for Kids – Lakeland Police Department

Serves: Approximately 400 local children whose families have applied for the program

Donation needs: New, unwrapped toy donations for children up to 12 years of age.

Drop off donations by December 11 at:

  • Lakeland Police Station / 219 N. Massachusetts Ave.
  • Lakeland Libraries (Main & Jackson Branch) / 100 Lake Morton Dr. and 1700 N. Florida Ave.
  • City Hall / 228 S. Massachusetts Ave.
  • Lakeland Electric / 501 E Lemon St.
  • Kelly Recreation Complex / 404 Imperial Blvd.

Lakeland Fire Department Toy Drive

Serves: The toy drive will benefit the Children’s Home Society of Florida and the Dream Center of Lakeland, who will distribute the collected gifts to Lakeland’s children in need. Donations accepted November 14 – December 14.

Donation needs: New, unwrapped toys

Drop off donations at:  Any of LFD’s 7 fire stations or the Fire Administration Building. Station locations can be found at http://www.lakelandgov.net/lfd or by calling (863) 834-8200.

Florida Baptist Children’s Homes and One More Child

Serves: Children in need in the foster care system, the children’s home, single moms, or their Compassion Ministries.

Donation needs:

  • New, unwrapped toys for school-aged children
  • New, unwrapped clothes for infants, toddlers and school-aged children

Drop off donations at: Harold Clark Simmons Compassion Center – 1015 Sikes Blvd., Lakeland, FL 33815

{See below for their needs for food & personal care items}

Christmas giving Lakeland toy donations

DONATE FOOD

Volunteers in Service to the Elderly (VISTE) 

Serves: Lakeland, Bartow, Mulberry and Ft. Meade. Established in 1983, the primary goal of VISTE is to enable frail elderly persons to continue living independently and safely in their own home.

Donation needs: Non-perishable food items to provide supplemental boxes of groceries to 1500 clients monthly

  • Canned Tuna
  • Canned Chicken
  • Peanut Butter
  • Cereal
  • Beans
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Oatmeal
  • Instant potatoes
  • Stuffing
  • Canned goods
  • Beans
  • Soups

Drop off donations at: VISTE’s office Monday-Friday, 8am-4pm, located at 1232 E Magnolia St, Lakeland, FL 33801

Florida Baptist Children’s Homes and One More Child

Serves: To sustain our Child Hunger and Family Support Services program and provide for families, the following items are needed every day:

  • Child and adult clothing of all sizes
  • House-hold items (especially kitchen supplies)
  • Toddler beds, pillows and sheets
  • Birthday kits for teens and children to include a cake mix, candles, gift, “happy birthday banner” and party supplies
  • Additionally, our food needs include:
  • Healthy, yet kid-approved, cereals (i.e. Honey Nut Cheerios).
  • Fruits to include apples, Cuties, peaches and bananas
  • Canned vegetables and fruits
  • Oatmeal
  • Peanut butter and jelly
  • Sliced bread and English muffins (wheat)
  • Yogurt
  • Canned meats (to include tuna, chicken, etc).

Drop off donations at: Harold Clark Simmons Compassion Center – 1015 Sikes Blvd., Lakeland, FL 33815

{See above for toy donations}

VOLUNTEER

Volunteers in Service to the Elderly (VISTE)

VISTE has holiday and year-round volunteer needs. You and your children can decorate birthday bags, bake birthday cakes, deliver groceries, or deliver hot meals to seniors living in their own homes. Click here to learn more about becoming a VISTE Volunteer!

Ring the Bell – Salvation Army Red Kettle 

The entire family can ring a bell for the Salvation Army Red Kettle, it’s a great volunteer opportunity to do with children. Call (863) 853-2214 for available times/locations.

Florida Baptist Children’s Homes and One More Child

There are many ways to be involved at Florida Baptist Children’s Homes during the holidays and year round, Volunteers are needed weekdays from 8:30am to 4:30pm and we can accommodate Saturday groups by request. Typically, our age minimum is 14 years old but under-aged children are welcome IF they are accompanied by an adult. You can also go straight to the volunteer application, submit and someone will contact you! Click here for the volunteer application.

Polk County Parks & Recreation

Volunteers needed for Holiday Events for Kids. Click here to see current openings. Great opportunities for teens ages 14+ and adults.

Volunteer Polk

Volunteer Polk has a huge variety of volunteer opportunities, both during the holidays and year round. Click here to see a full list of current opportunities. Call (863) 534-5580 for more details.

FINANCIAL DONATIONS

Salvation Army Red Kettles

You’re bound to come across the signature Red Kettles and Bell Ringers regularly in the next few weeks, make a point to put cash or change into one this holiday season. For the times you don’t put money in, it’s ok! Keep this in mind:  “When you see someone ringing the bell for The Salvation Army this season, it’s okay to make eye contact. You do not have to duck and run. We volunteer to help where we can, not to judge. Say “hello,” “Merry Christmas,” or “thanks for volunteering”. I don’t put money in the bucket EVERY time I walk by either. It’s okay!” (posted by a wise friend on Facebook)

Community Organizations

We couldn’t begin to make a full list of organizations that need financial donations. There are NUMEROUS organizations meeting needs in the Lakeland community, and we want you to give towards something you are excited about. If you are looking to make a financial donation to a local non-profit but aren’t sure which one, contact us directly and we can help you find an organization that matches your passion.

GENTLY USED DONATIONS

Are you doing any last minute purging of toys and household items before you have company for the holidays? If so, we’ve got an entire article with a list of places to take your gently used items!

Do you know of another organization accepting donations or volunteers? Whether the need is specifically at the holidays or year round, comment below or send us a note through our contact us form so we can make a note for next year and any other features we do about donations and volunteering.