The holiday season is quickly approaching and visions of shopping, cooking, cleaning, and prepping for family to descend are all dancing in our heads. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the craziness that ensues this time of year and forget that the holidays are really a time to be thankful, reflect on the past year and give back to the less fortunate.
No one is better suited to talk about giving back during the holiday season than Scary Mommy founder, Jill Smokler. A mom of three and owner of one of the most popular parenting destinations online, Jill makes giving back an annual holiday affair—one that both her own family and the extended Scary Mommy community get behind to make a real impact for families in need.
The Scary Mommy Thanksgiving Project, now in its fourth year, helps families afford a celebratory meal during the Thanksgiving holiday. Since kicking off in early October, this year’s effort has already raised more than $45,000 and matched 900+ families with meal support. More many families in need are on the waiting list awaiting matches. This year, in addition her online fundraising efforts online, Jill is also donating a portion of proceeds from the newly released “Scary Mommy’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays” to help families in need during the holidays.
Interested in getting your family engaged in giving back this holiday season? Jill Smokler gives four tips to get you started:
- Pay attention to the needs of those around you. There are people in need in every community. Jill’s inspiration for her Thanksgiving Project started organically. She noticed that a large number of individuals in her blogger community were not able to afford Thanksgiving dinners and readers began volunteering to help them. What started as a small plan to help a few families has blossomed. The project has helped 4,500 families receive a holiday meal since its inception in 2011.
- Make it a family affair. Find something that your kids can relate to and that you can do together. For example, an important aspect of the Thanksgiving Project is that it connects families with other families in need. Once it’s personal for your children and hits close to home, they are more likely to be invested.
- Take the opportunity to show (not tell) the importance of giving back. Families in need are just like us, but for whatever reason, just can’t make ends meet. Try to show your kids that only circumstance separates us from the less fortunate. The Pick a cause that allows you to really show your children the impact they have. For example, supporters of the Thanksgiving Project can actually read the personal story of the family they are helping.
- Make giving back an annual tradition. It’s easy for kids to lose perspective during the holidays. According to Jill, “We celebrate Hanukkah and by night four or five, I’m ready to call the whole thing off as the kids have already forgotten about the first night’s gifts. It’s overwhelming to get bombarded with presents for a week straight or have presents magically appear under a tree! We need to balance that insanity with some reality.” Establishing an annual ritual allows kids to get excited to give back every year and focus on what is really important.
Jill is the first to admit that she had no idea what she was getting into the first year of the Thanksgiving Project; she just knew something needed to be done to help these families. If you are unsure of how to get your family involved in a holiday giving back project, don’t be afraid to try something new. You just may be surprised by the impact you make.