News + Issues

3 ways to give back during the holidays


As I kid, it was a family tradition to participate in something called the “mitten tree” at our church. There was a Christmas tree decorated with paper mitten ornaments. Each had a first name of a child and his or her age. Our family would each choose a mitten, bring it home and then go shop for hats, gloves and scarves for the kids we chose. Then we’d bring the items back to church wrapped up with the paper mitten on top. I always chose a little girl so I could shop for something pink or sparkly. As a kid I enjoyed the idea of giving something to someone who really needed it but also the surprise of a little girl opening a package of new pink mittens.

The past couple weeks, I’ve seen news stories pop up about dentists buying back Halloween candy from kids. There’s a Halloween Candy Buy Back program where dentists pay kids $1 per pound of candy they bring in and often give out toothbrushes and other oral hygiene supplies. They take the candy and donate it to an organization that ships it to U.S. troops overseas. We can only hope a few toothbrushes get shipped along with the candy! It’s a sweet program [pun intended] and a great way to get involved in your community.

There are plenty of ways to give back all year round–individually or as an ASDA chapter. But this time of year seems to warm people’s hearts and inspire more than the usual charity. If you’re looking for a way to give back this holiday season, here are three ideas on how to do so:

  1. Give a gift to someone in need. Many of us will be giving gifts to family and friends this holiday season. Save a little bit of your gift budget this year to give a gift to someone in need. Whether it’s a local mitten tree like I explained above or you buy something through an organization like Heifer International, you’ll feel that much better when your January credit card statement rolls around. Heifer International is an organization that sells mostly animals for people in underdeveloped countries. You can buy a family a calf or a goat or even a bee hive. Heifer International then trains the recipients to use the animals to feed their families and also produce sellable goods to further support themselves. You can even purchase gifts to promote women’s empowerment.
  2. Tell people not to buy you anything this year. Dental school is expensive and student loans may prohibit you from giving a monetary gift to someone in need. Instead, talk with your parents and other people who would normally give you gifts this time of year. Instead of exchanging more stuff, see if your family or friends would be willing to go in on a gift from a charitable organization. If you can’t bear a holiday without gifts exchanged, cut it down to stocking stuffers only or make a rule of homemade gifts only. The time you spend with your family choosing a charity may just be the best gift of all.
  3. Give your time. If a monetary gift is just not in your budget this year, consider donating your time during the holiday season. Whether you stop in a local soup kitchen or spend your Thanksgiving serving dinner to your city’s homeless population, the gift of time can be just as valuable as a monetary donation. Better yet, round up a group of your dental school friends or participate with your family. Psychologists say that experiences, not things, leave a longer impression in people’s mind. So you might just find yourself more satisfied with your memories of volunteering than that new sweater.

If you’re an ASDA leader and looking for ideas for your chapter to get involved in giving back, download ASDA’s Community Service how-to guide. You can also search this blog for posts on what chapters have done in the past.

If you’re chapter has put on a successful event revolving around giving back during the holidays, consider blogging about it! Fill out this contact form and an electronic editor will be in touch with you.

So what will you do this year to give back? Does your family have a tradition that includes charity at the holidays? Tell us about it in the comments below.

~Kim Kelly, publications manager


You may also like ...


  1. Kim: Your recommendations are wonderful, and a great reminder not to get sucked into the craziness of consumerism during the upcoming holidays. We, too, have a mitten tree at our church and we always have someone on hand, ready to sell gift certificates to Heifer Int’l. The most memorable Christmas I remember was in my late teens when we lived in Phoenix and my mom wanted us to skip the gifts and have an “Alternative Christmas”… at the time I thought it was dumb (!!) but now it’s one of my favorite memories. We all went into the desert for a hike and then went up to the Grand Canyon for Christmas Eve. Those memories last long after the sweaters and pajamas wear out. Thank you for your message!

    1. Thanks, Vickie! That sounds like an amazing Christmas and wonderful memories 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.