Celebrate the Gift of Light This Holiday Season

The Gift of Giving   

Judging by all the sales and shopping excitement leading up to and during the holiday season, you might think that it's a time solely devoted to buying gifts and presents for friends, family, and even yourself. But the holidays are about much more than material gifts. As the season gets underway, there are lots of things you can do to celebrate the gift of giving and to make the season a little brighter for those around you, and a little more meaningful for everyone.   

Donate Toys   

For the past two decades, organizations across Central Florida have served as drop-off and collection points for the U.S Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program1. During the last three months of the year, the Marine Corps Reserve collects new, unwrapped toys from community members to give to less fortunate children2.    

You can donate to Toys to Tots in a few ways. You can find a place to drop off a toy or you can donate online. You can also sign up for your organization or business to become a toy drop-off site.   

Donate Food   

With the abundance of food and drink around the holiday season, it can be easy to forget that not everyone has enough to eat. Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida stores, collects, and donates food to more than 550 partners in six counties across Central Florida4.


During the holidays, and throughout the year, the organization offers numerous opportunities for people to get involved or donate. Depending on your schedule and ability to commit, you can organize an in-person food drive, collecting non-perishable food items from your work, school, or church. Another option is to run a virtual food drive, during which you collect financial donations to support the food bank.   

Sort or Serve Food   

If you'd like to take a more hands-on approach to giving back this holiday season, you have a few options in Central Florida. You can work with Second Harvest as a volunteer to help sort through donations and load up food items for transportation to the organization's partners.     

The Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida also has some volunteer opportunities, during the holidays and year-round. You can volunteer for dinner prep at the Men's Service center or volunteer to deep clean the kitchen and service areas at the Center for Women and Families.   

Volunteer at an Animal Shelter   

It's not only people who might be in need of some extra love and care during the holidays. Abandoned pets or stray animals also need a dose of affection. In 2018, volunteers donated more than 89,000 hours of time to the Pet Alliance of Orlando5.     

Volunteer opportunities with the Pet Alliance include being a Kitty Cuddler, a Bark Buddy, or an administrative receptionist. If you're looking to really commit to helping animals in Central Florida, you might consider becoming a pet foster parent.   

Support Seniors   

In Central Florida, one out of every six seniors faces hunger6. Many do not know where they will get their next meal. Seniors First help people over the age of 60 in Orlando and the surrounding area by providing food, medical equipment, and in-home care. During the holidays, you can get involved with the organization to help support older adults in your area.     

Volunteer opportunities include driving vehicles to distribute meals, sorting items for the food pantry, and helping out in the office. You can also participate in the organization's annual holiday gift drive.   

Memorialize a Loved One   

The holidays aren't just a time for giving, but also for remembering and celebrating your loved ones. On December 5, 2019, Parrish Medical Center will host the 28th annual Gift of Light tree lighting ceremony and fireworks show. The tree lighting will be at 5:30 pm and the fireworks show will take place at 6:45 pm.    

If you'd like to memorialize someone you love, you can place a light on the tree. Placing a light on the tree won't just help you remember the people you love. All proceeds from the tree-lighting ceremony will be donated to the Jess Parrish Medical Foundation.     

Along with the tree lighting and fireworks, the Gift of Light celebration will also feature face painting, balloon artists, musical performances, and plenty of free snacks and hot drinks.    

What will you do to give back to your community this holiday season?

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1. "Toys for Tots 2019 Registration Information," WFTV, https://www.wftv.com/community/9-family-connection/toys-for-tots-2018/858431830

2. Seminole, Orange and Osceola Counties: About Toys for Tots, Toys for Tots, https://orlando-fl.toysfortots.org/local-coordinator-sites/lco-sites/about-local-toys-for-tots.aspx

3. Orlando 2019 Toys for Tots Campaign, Toys for Tots, https://orlando-fl.toysfortots.org/local-coordinator-sites/lco-sites/Default.aspx

4. About Us, Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, https://www.feedhopenow.org/site/SPageServer/?pagename=about_us

5. Volunteer, Pet Alliance of Orlando, https://petallianceorlando.org/community-involvement/volunteer/

6. What We Do, Seniors First, https://seniorsfirstinc.org/what-we-do/

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