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.

Some of the organizations listed below have been highlighted in our Lakeland Gives Back series – click the links to learn more about how you can support these local non-profit groups that serve our community both at the holidays and year round.

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 (list at bottom!)
  • 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


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 or call (863) 519-8900 ext. 214.

Florida Baptist Children’s Homes and One More Child

Serves: Children in need in: the foster care system, the children’s home, The Porch Light program for victims of sex trafficking, or their Compassion Ministries.

Donation needs:

  • New toys for school-aged children
  • New 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}

Salvation Army Angel Tree

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

How to donate: You can pick a child’s wish list off the Angel Tree at Lakeland Square Mall (starting 11/13), pick one up at the Salvation Army office at 2620 Kathleen Road, or call 863-853-2214 to request an Angel wish list by email. You can also drop toys and other gift items at their office. Deadline for return of gifts is Dec. 5th.

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

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 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. 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 or by calling (863) 834-8200.

Christmas giving Lakeland toy donations


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: Families in their Compassion Ministries program

Donation needs – Holiday meal baskets include:

  • 1 turkey
  • 1 box of stuffing
  • 2 boxes of cornbread mix
  • 1 box of mashed potatoes
  • 1 canned gravy or 2 gravy mix packages
  • 2 boxes of macaroni and cheese
  • 2 canned cranberry sauce
  • 4 canned vegetable items
  • 1 canned sweet potatoes or yams (32 oz.)
  • 1 pumpkin or sweet potato pie

Non-perishable food donations are accepted year round.

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

{See above for toy donations}


VISTE Thanksgiving Meal Delivery

Wednesday, November 21 beginning at 3pm
Join VISTE for the 22st Annual Thanksgiving Meal Delivery event! This year, volunteers will be needed to deliver 1,800 meals to our local seniors – a record number! Many of these clients may otherwise spend the holiday alone, or would not prepare a meal for themselves.

Where: The RP Funding Center, 701 W. Lime St., Lakeland, FL 33805 – go to Entrance #2 on the NW side of the building.
Who: Anyone with a vehicle who can spend the afternoon delivering meals to a few clients and spend time visiting with them. Children are welcomed and encouraged.
Details: VISTE will give you some meals and addresses to the client’s homes and you’re on your way! No registration is needed. Anyone interested in volunteering to deliver Thanksgiving meals should simply arrive at The RP Funding Center at 3pm on Wed. Nov 21.
Questions: Facebook event page or contact Ashley at VISTE at 863.284.0828 x6.

VISTE Thanksgiving Advanced Prep

Help is needed in advance to decorate placemats and cards, bake pumpkin break and dessert, and snap green beans. Click here to see details on these opportunities.

Volunteers in Service to the Elderly (VISTE)

VISTE also has 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!

KidsGiving at Explorations V

During the week of Thanksgiving, Explorations V is hosting kid-friendly volunteer opportunities.

Monday, November 19 from 3-4pm –  prepare swan food packages
Wednesday, November 21 from 1-2pm – make cards for elderly in nursing homes
Monday – Wednesday from 9am – 4pm – pick up trash around downtown. Gloves and trash bags will be provided.

Catholic Charities Holiday Pack a Sack Event

Saturday, December 15 from 8am – 12pm
Join Catholic Charities for the Pack a Sack event at Resurrection Catholic Church – volunteers are needed to sort, pack, and load holiday food bags that will be given to local families in need. Kids are welcome to attend and will be in charge of decorating bags! Get more details and register on the Facebook event page.

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. Please email 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.

Christmas giving Lakeland toy 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)

GiveWell Foundation GiveCard 

If you are interested in making a donation in lieu of a gift for someone, this is a new and unique way to do it while supporting local non-profits. You purchase a GiveCard, give it as a gift to the recipient, and they get to redeem it in the form of a donation to the non-profit of their choice. A list of eligible non-profits can be found here. (The list is HUGE!)

Newspaper with a Heart program

Each year Newspaper with a Heart gives direct assistance to several hundred individuals and families in need, people whose incomes have been disrupted because of severe illness, injury or other misfortune. No money goes directly to the people helped, but rather to landlords, mortgage holders, utilities and other creditors. Besides cash, contributions often include gifts such as cars, equipment for the handicapped and other items. Checks must be made payable to United Way of Central Florida – note Newspaper with a Heart in the memo portion. Checks may be sent to P.O. Box 1357, Highland City, FL 33846. Gifts are tax deductible. Donations may be made online at Look for the Newspaper with a Heart box.

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.


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

Furniture, home accessories, building materials and appliances

Habitat for Humanity ReStore – Donated items are re-sold to the public at a fraction of the retail price and proceeds support Habitat for Humanity. Drop off at 1317 George Jenkins Blvd. Lakeland, FL 33815.

Household Items, Towels & Blankets

Florida Baptist Children’s Homes and One More Child – they will be used for foster care children or teens in their One More Child program. They especially need kitchen supplies, as well as toddler beds and sheets. Drop off M-F from 8:30am-4:30pm at Harold Clark Simmons Compassion Center– 1015 Sikes Blvd., Lakeland, FL 33815.

Donate to the SPCA – they are always in need of used towels & blankets. They can also use dog & cat treats, dog & cat food, cleaning supplies, peanut butter. (Every dog there gets a kong at night filled with peanut butter.) If you’re thinking of getting a pet as a holiday gift, think adoption first! Drop off donations at 5850 Brannen Rd S, Lakeland, FL 33813.

The Dream Center of Lakeland operates a community co-op which provides non-perishable food, clothing, and home goods to those we serve, at no charge. Donations can be made on Tuesdays from 10:00am – 7:00pm to our Outreach Center at 704 W. 5th Street, Lakeland.

Toys, Books, Children/Teen Clothing, Stuffed Animals

Florida Baptist Children’s Homes and One More Child – they will be used for foster care children or teens in their One More Child program. Drop off M-F from 8:30am-4:30pm at Harold Clark Simmons Compassion Center– 1015 Sikes Blvd., Lakeland, FL 33815.

Peace River Center’s Thrift Shop – donations are used in one of their domestic violence shelters or resold in their thrift shop to support the cause. Drop off at the Thrift Shop at 2934 S Florida Ave, Lakeland, FL 33803.

SAFE Chapter (Stuffed Animals for Emergencies) – new and gently used stuffed animals are collected, cleaned if needed, and donated to local organizations that can use them. Contact James at (813) 300-5769 or on Facebook for drop off times and location.

Answer the Call Polk – Collecting jackets, hoodies, jeans (plain/no decoration), or khakis. Can be new or gently used, Elementary or middle school sizes. Answer the Call was created to meet the needs of children in Polk County through a partnership with local schools, teachers, and administrators. They can drop off at: Community Fitness (Shepherd Rd), Sunbelt Title (S Fla Ave) or Lakeland Barber Company (S Fla Ave). Donations will benefit 7 Lakeland elementary and middle schools. Email or FB message for any additional info.

The Dream Center of Lakeland operates a community co-op which provides non-perishable food, clothing, and home goods to those we serve, at no charge. Donations can be made on Tuesdays from 10:00am – 7:00pm to our Outreach Center at 704 W. 5th Street, Lakeland.

Take them to a local church or preschool/daycare.

It might take a little more effort to find somewhere your donations can be used instead of simply dropping them off at a thrift store, but keep these ideas in mind when you have like-new items you’d like to see re-used instead of re-sold.

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.