By Maria Milligan
Dec 14, 2014

Giving Back in the Season of Giving

Growing up with a father who loves service meant I spent a lot of time helping others. I remember sighing and finding my shoes when my father started a phone call with “what can we do for you?” because I knew it meant the call would end with “I’ll send my kids right over.” My brothers and I spent a lot of December days shoveling driveways, moving boxes, and delivering meals to families in our neighborhood.

One year, we were on the receiving end of this kind of service. Money was tight and my parents explained to us that Christmas wasn’t really going to be like we expected. Imagine our surprise when on December 13th we answered a knock at the door to find an anonymous gift. Every day for the next twelve days we received a package with much-needed clothes, shoes, and food mixed in with some not really needed but oh-so-desired toys and games. It remains one of my favorite holiday seasons ever because I saw the good a simple act of service could do.

Take advantage of this season of giving by serving others however you can. Here are some ideas for your troop, family, or Scout to give to others this holiday season.

Clothes and Toy Clean Out4112-03-20.mr5

December is a great time to sort through toys and clothes to find some that can be donated to Deseret Industries, Goodwill, Toys for Tots or a homeless shelter. Teach your youth that they can help other families who may not be able to afford gifts by donating some of their excess. You can also keep a donation box out all year so when kids outgrow things they can put them in the box to give to others. Can’t fill the box alone? Recruit some neighbors to help!

Book Drive

Give some of your old books a new home by donating them to the local county jail. The more the merrier, so ask neighbors, friends, and classmates to contribute books as well. Be sure to call your local jail first to find out what the rules on donations are.

The Utah County Jail welcomes book donations from all genres. Books must be paperbacks. You can drop off books at the visiting area on the east side of the building Monday through Friday from 9:00 – 11:00 a.m., 1:00 – 4:00 p.m., or 7:00 – 9:30 p.m.

Food Drive

You don’t have to wait for Scouting for Food to collect food for the needy. Help contribute to someone’s holiday meal by donating food to your local food bank.

See a need closer to home? If you know someone who won’t be able to afford a special Christmas dinner, consider putting together a gift basket for them with everything they need for a holiday feast. Everything will taste better because it comes with a big helping of love and kindness.

Christmas Tree Reef

christmas-17744_1280Looking for a post-Christmas service project? Help your community by recycling those leftover Christmas trees. Collect the trees after the holiday and sink them in a local lake to create a natural habitat for fish and other wildlife. This would make a great project as a troop or for an Eagle candidate.

To get the trees to sink to the lake bottom, cement their trunks inside plastic pots. Other trees can be tied to large cinder blocks. Once the trees settle, they’ll encourage algae growth to collect in a concentrated area, attracting small fish to the nutrients they need to survive.

As with any service project, please remember to contact the proper authorities beforehand to get permission and to ensure that you’re following protocol.

What will your troop do to serve this season?


Maria Milligan


Author: Maria Milligan | Grant Writer, Utah National Parks Council, BSA

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