11 Ways to Serve Others This Christmas

Young Hispanic family volunteering to serve food in soup kitchen
Steve Debenport / Getty Images

Christmas is the season of giving. Because our schedules offer so much flexibility, homeschooling families often have the availability to give back to their community during the holiday season. If you and your family have been considering service opportunities, try any of these 11 ways to serve others this Christmas.

1. Serve meals at a soup kitchen. Call your local soup kitchen or homeless shelter to schedule a time for your family to go serve meals.

You might also inquire if they are low on any specific supply needs. This time of year many organizations host food drives, so their pantry may be full, but there may be other items that need to be restocked such as bandages, blankets, or personal hygiene items.

2. Sing carols at a nursing home. Gather your family and a few friends to go sing Christmas carols at a nursing home. Ask if it’s okay to bring baked goods or wrapped candy to share with the residents. Spend some time before you go making homemade Christmas homemade cards to deliver or buy a box of assorted cards to share.

Sometimes nursing homes are overwhelmed with groups that want to visit during the holiday season, so you may want to see if there are other ways that you can help, such as visiting during the residents’ recreational time and playing games with them, reading to them, or spending some time with residents who don’t have regular visitors.

3. Adopt someone. Choose a child, grandparent, single mom, or family who is struggling this year and purchase gifts or groceries or deliver a meal. If you don’t know someone personally, you can ask local agencies and organizations that work with needy families.

4. Pay someone’s utility bill. Inquire at the utility company to see if you can pay the electric, gas, or water bill for someone who is struggling.

Due to privacy factors, you may not be able to pay a specific bill, but there is often a fund to which you can donate. You might also check with the Department of Family and Children’s Services.

5. Bake a meal or treats for someone. Every year, we bake a little box of goodies for the neighbors and the mail carrier. It’s win-win because we get a little sampling of treats for our home without being overwhelmed and we get to share with those around us.

We always leave a little snack bag in the mailbox with a note for our mail carrier. I’ve also seen an idea for leaving a basket of snacks, soft drinks, and bottled water on the porch with a note inviting delivery people to help themselves. That’s sure to be a greatly appreciated gesture during the busy holiday season.

In our area, there is a group that takes lunch to the ICU waiting room every day. Call your local hospital and see if you could deliver a meal or snacks and drinks if someone isn’t already doing that. Some hospitals have hospitality rooms for families of seriously ill patients. Perhaps you could bring snacks to be left in those rooms

6. Leave a generous tip for your server at restaurants. We sometimes hear of people leaving a tip of $100 or even $1000 or more.

That’s fantastic if you can afford to do that, but just tipping above the traditional 15-20% can be greatly appreciated during the holiday season. I like to tip 50% when I can. That’s usually a reasonable amount for my budget and an unexpected surprise for the server.

7. Donate to the bell ringers. The men and women ringing bells in front of stores almost always greet me with a cheerful smile and wishes for a Merry Christmas. Often the individuals who man the donation kettles are recipients of the services offered by the organization for whom they’re collecting.

The donations are typically used to operate homeless shelters and after-school and substance abuse programs and to provide meals and toys to needy families at Christmas.

8. Help the homeless. Recently, my oldest daughter told her younger siblings that if she had enough money she might buy them a couple more Christmas presents – or that she might go buy gloves and scarves to give to the homeless people near where she works.

Her sister immediately said, “Do that!” It was a proud mama moment.

Consider making bags to give out to homeless people. Fill a gallon-size storage bag with items such as: gloves, a beanie, small juice boxes or water bottles, non-perishable ready-to-eat food items, lip balm, facial tissues, restaurant gifts cards, or prepaid phone cards. You might also consider giving blankets or a sleeping bag.

Perhaps an even better way to help the homeless community is to contact an organization that works directly with the homeless and find out what they need. Often, these organizations can stretch monetary donations farther than we could by purchasing in bulk or working with complementary organizations.

9. Do housework or yard work for someone. Rake leaves, shovel snow, clean house, or do laundry for someone who could use the extra help. You might consider a sick or elderly neighbor or a new or single parent. Obviously, you’ll have to make arrangements to do housework, but yard work can be done as a complete surprise.

10. Take a hot beverage to people working in the cold. Police officers directing traffic, mail carriers, bell ringers, or anyone else working out in the cold this Christmas season will appreciate a cup of hot cocoa, coffee, tea, or cider. Even if they don’t drink it, they’ll enjoy using it as a hand warmer for a little while. I’m not a coffee-drinker, but when it’s cold, I’m always happy to hold my husband’s coffee and warm my hands up!

11. Pay for someone’s meal at a restaurant. Paying for someone’s meal in a restaurant or the car behind you in the drive-thru is a fun random act of kindness any of time of year, but it’s often especially appreciated at Christmas when money is tight for many families.


I like to look for someone dining alone, but anyone is fair game. I know some people will give the drive-thru cashier some cash and ask her to pay for as many cars behind them as it will cover. If I’ve got a restaurant gift card and don’t use all of the money that’s on it, I’ll sometimes use the extra to pay for someone’s meal. 

Whether you're investing your time, your financial resources, or both to serve others this holiday season, you'll likely find that it's you and your family who are blessed by serving others.