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Celebrate the holiday season with charitable giving

(BPT) - The holiday season is about more than picking the fullest tree, listening to nostalgic carols and planning the perfect family photo. Between addressing holiday cards and toasting the New Year, it's a great time to incorporate charitable giving into your traditions. No matter your time constraints, there are many ways for you to spread goodness, in addition to good cheer, this holiday season.

* Lend a hand:  Many organizations are in need of helping hands. Transport disabled or needy patients to their medical appointments or religious services, deliver meals to homebound seniors or visit a children's hospital or rehabilitation center. Make a difference in your own neighborhood by raking leaves, shoveling snow or hanging holiday lights for an elderly neighbor. Picking up trash at a local park or painting over graffiti is always appreciated by city services.

* Volunteer your services: Food banks tend to have the highest usage during winter months. Get involved collecting food donations, spend time stocking shelves at a local food pantry or work directly with families in need via a holiday sponsorship program. Do you play a musical instrument? Are you good at fundraising, office organization, public speaking, party planning or writing newsletters? Offer your specific talent to an organization that could utilize it.

* Purchase gifts that give back: Many companies offer charitable incentives with a special purchase. For example, Hickory Farms, well-known for its delicious gift baskets, will donate $5 to Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign with the purchase of every Party Planner gift box sold during the holiday season.

* Support the military: If you have a family member or friend serving in the military away from home this season, Hickory Farms offers free shipping on certain gifts for military personnel delivering to APO/FPO addresses. Consider the Home for the Holidays gift box which includes a wonderful combination of beef and turkey summer sausages, creamy cheeses, flavorful mustards and crackers. It will bring a taste of home and a warm smile to the face of your loved one. Visit hickoryfarms.com or the company’s kiosks and storefronts nationwide.

* Make a monetary donation: The end of the year/holiday season is also a good time to make monetary donations to your favorite nonprofit organizations. Any donations made prior to the last day of the year can also be counted as deductions for 2012 taxes. Many organizations rely on this holiday season to raise much-needed funds to be used throughout the year. If money is tight but you'd still like to contribute, subscribe to a payroll deduction service for 2013 to donate little by little throughout the year. Check with your workplace to see if it will match charitable contributions, because many do.

Combine good will and good cheer to make this a season to remember. Establish a meaningful connection with a charity or organization and turn your seasonal good deeds into year-round endeavors.

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