Smile Politely

Six ways to be a better community member this holiday season

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It’s almost Thanksgiving, which means it’s almost time for the holiday season. For many, this is a time for reflection, and if you are able, to give back to the community.

The last few years have been particularly difficult. While we may no longer be in a pandemic (you should still get those boosters though), global warming is prevalent, wars rage on, and a very ugly election season is upon us next year, so the state of the world doesn’t really look any better for most. This list won’t solve any of those problems, but it can make our community a little brighter, and offer some assistance to those most vulnerable.  

Giving back doesn’t only have to come in the form of monetary donations, although if that’s how you want to give, we have some suggestions from a few years ago. You can also donate your time, winter gear, or do other little things that can make a big impact on those around you. Here are six ways you can be a better community member as the year comes to a close.

Donate blood

Donating blood is a lot easier — and involves a lot less pain — than most people think. There is currently a nation-wide shortage, so it’s a critical time for donations. If you’ve never donated before, our Food and Drink Editor Alyssa Buckley donated blood earlier this fall and you can read about her experience here. If you are unable to donate blood but still want to support the cause, Impact Life also accepts volunteer help and monetary donations.

Shovel your walk, clean the storm drains, and keep your sidewalks clear

When the weather turns gross, please take the time to shovel and ice your sidewalk  — and don’t forget about the walkway to your front porch. Even if you rarely use your own front door, your local delivery driver will appreciate it.

If you want to help others shovel, you can sign up to volunteer for the Snow Angel Sidewalk Snow Removal Program. If you are tight on time but not money, you can also hire the University of Illinois rowers to shovel your snow for you.  

Do a quick check before the weather turns too cold and help clear the storm drains near your house as well. This helps prevent street flooding and property damage (and flooding from heavy rain is a major problem in Champaign-Urbana in particular).

On that note, even if we don’t get a ton of snow or heavy rain this winter, this is a friendly reminder to keep the sidewalks clear of your cars as well. Blocking the sidewalk that connects to your driveway is a hazard for kids walking to school, and for those out for a neighborhood walk, especially those with mobility issues or people with strollers who may not easily be able to move onto a soft surface like the grass. Park in the street, if it’s allowed, or pull up a little farther so people can walk on the sidewalk without having to take a detour over the curb and into the street.

Help feed people in the community

Consider donating your time or money to help feed the community. McKinley Church and Foundation in partnership with Garden Hills Elementary School is once again raising money for their Thanksgiving Basket Ministry. Not sure how much to give? $25 is enough to provide a family with a turkey and $55 provides an entire basket.  

Daily Bread Soup Kitchen is entirely volunteer-run and feeds people in C-U daily. Consider making a financial donation or volunteering

Jubilee Cafe has been feeding more people since the start of the pandemic; you can learn more about donation and volunteer opportunities on its Facebook page and website. With students gone during holiday breaks, they are often in need of more volunteer help.

Donate winter gear

GREAT Start at the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District is hosting a winter coat and boot drive for children. They have an Amazon wish list, which makes it easy to purchase and have your donation sent directly to them. Please note they are only accepting new items at this time.

Strides Shelter is also doing a Cold Weather Drive. You can purchase items off their wish list or donate your gently used winter gear through January 1st at 70 E Washington Street in Champaign. 

Cunningham Township is also hosting the Enoch Miller Sr. Winter Donation Drive, with three locations available to drop off your donated goods. 

Get involved

We are fortunate to live in an area with tons of free community programming — craft nights, book clubs (here too), the new PostMark events, and more. Programs like these rely on community support and participation. So, participate! Not only is it a great way to get you out of the house, which is good for your own mental health, but you can meet new people, and help ensure these programs stick around.

Take care of yourself

Yes, this is supposed to be about helping others, but let us remind you of that airplane rule about putting on your own oxygen mask first: You can’t really give of yourself if you don’t have anything left to give. You can read some of our suggestions for winter self-care here, and remember that life can be hard and it’s okay to prioritize your own health and wellbeing — that also makes you a good community member.

The Editorial Board is Jessica Hammie, Louise Knight-Gibson, Julie McClure, Patrick Singer, and Serenity Stanton Orengo.

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