people unloading wrapped raw turkeys from the trunk of a car Thanksgiving 2020 Arizona
A family donating dozens of Thanksgiving turkeys at the St. Mary's Food Bank gets help from volunteers to unload their vehicle, Monday, Nov. 23, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Here are some ways to help those hurting from the COVID-19 pandemic still have a happy holiday season. 

Arizonans—and the rest of the world—are wrapping up year two of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The pandemic has brought about not only sickness and death, but in many cases, job loss and financial strain. 

Things are looking better as a whole—initial unemployment claims are down in Arizona by nearly 60% compared to last year—but many individuals are still struggling. According to Bloomberg, nearly 20% of the US population had their savings wiped out over the pandemic. Black and Latino households, as well as those making less than $50,000 a year, were harder hit. 

For those who are in a position to give time or money, here are some ways to help people who could use some extra resources this holiday season. 

Make a Food Donation

Food banks are in great need this time of year. St. Mary’s Food Bank alone distributed nearly 16,000 turkeys, holiday food boxes, and dairy and produce bags to Arizonans in Phoenix, Surprise, and up north for Thanksgiving. 

Find the closest food bank and information about how to donate here. Some grocery stores also make it easy to donate to food banks either by having drop-off boxes upfront or by offering pre-packaged donation bundles for purchase at check-out. 

Another option is to send meals to essential workers who can’t be home on the holiday. Contact a local hospital, fire station, or other facilities and ask if they accept meals. Then, order the food and have it delivered there. 

Playing Santa by leaving out snacks, drinks, or other gifts for delivery drivers is another good way to make someone’s day during their busiest time of year. 

Want to make a food donation that outlasts the holidays? Sponsor a family in need with a monthly grocery box through Family-to-Family.

Buy Some Toys

Winter budgets are usually tight due to gifts, decorations, big meals, travel, and other expenses. For some families, that means foregoing toys for their kids. 

To help share the magic of Christmas morning, send either money or donations to a local Toys for Tots fundraiser or contribute gifts through Donate a Toy, which matches each item donated. 

Contribute Funds to Those in Need

To share money with those in need, search the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits’ directory to find a cause, or consider mutual aid networks like Leveler.info that help individuals directly. Also consider leaving service workers extra large tips. 

Being conscious about where gifts and other items are being purchased can also help. Instead of contributing to organizations where workers are striking, look to small businesses instead. Local First Arizona offers a business directory and an online marketplace to make shopping local just as easy as shopping on the giant platforms.  

Volunteer Time

Want to help but don’t have much to spare? Consider donating some time. 

One idea is to write and send thank-you notes to healthcare workers, first responders, people isolated in nursing homes, and others impacted by the pandemic. 

Because people are more likely to be spending time apart this year, it’s also a good idea to connect—by video call, phone, text, letter, or whatever medium works—with anyone living alone or isolated due to high COVID-19 risk. 

RELATED: Here Are 7 Ideas for Giving Gifts Without Breaking the Bank

While volunteering is traditionally seen as an in-person activity, there are still ways to make an impact digitally. Try editing photos for a nonprofit, providing language skills, or supporting a crisis text line. 

For those comfortable volunteering in person, check with local soup kitchens or Meals on Wheels to see if they need help distributing food. 

Another option that can be done year-round—and is sorely needed—is donating blood

And remember—choosing to have a safe Christmas is good work in itself. By getting vaccinated, social distancing, wearing masks, and following other US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, you are not only protecting yourself from the virus but your community members and loved ones, too.

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