by Nina Mitchell

During the holiday season, it’s so easy to become distracted with endless to-do lists of shopping, decorating and preparing for the holidays. In the end though, it’s the simple acts of kindness that allow us to truly acknowledge and appreciate the holiday spirit.

This season, instead of planning an office party or gift exchange, plan a volunteer opportunity with your colleagues. It’s a great way to give back to your community and coworkers, while engaging in a team-building activity.

Check out these four ways you and your team can build morale and pay it forward this holiday season.

  1. Host a food drive. This is a great way to help those in need and also clean out your own pantry (make sure items are nutritious, clearly labeled and not expired). Many organizations will also welcome volunteers to sort and organize the food for families.
  2. Sponsor a family in need. Many churches and organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters have families that could use extra support during the holidays. Sponsoring a family means you could help by paying for a holiday dinner or purchasing children’s gifts, household goods or clothing.
  3. Visit the elderly. Planning a trip to a nearby nursing home is a great way to give back. Some residents may not have any family … or their families can’t travel during the holidays. Having your team stop by to play a game of cards, sing Christmas carols or just have a conversation can turn a senior’s day around.
  4. Volunteer at an animal shelter. Most animal shelters are run by volunteers. During one of the busiest times of the year, their time may be more limited. Your team can help by volunteering for the day or by providing supplies for the animals.

Sometimes when we feel overwhelmed with too much going on, we have to stop ourselves, take a step back and shift our focus as a way to reorganize our priorities. Helping others makes us feel good, reduces stress and builds our social circle.

What are some ways your organization has paid it forward or contributed to your community? We’d love to hear your ideas and stories – tell us below!