The holidays often devolve into a flurry of wrapping paper and bows, but in the midst of all the hustle and bustle the real reason of the season often becomes lost.
The winter holiday season should encourage us to take stock in what we have, reflect on how we can help others, and reach out to who have helped our lives. Community helpers should always be remembered during the holidays.
Does this mean we should run to the nearest Target and snap up even more gifts? No! While I’m sure that everyone appreciates a thoughtful, wrapped gift, genuine notes of appreciation and a plateful of homemade goodies can do just the trick.
Many community helpers work through the holidays to ensure the safety of the community. This means that they sacrifice time with their family and friends to provide crucial services. While we’re shopping for friends and family members, perhaps we can add a few community helpers to our lists to thank them for the amazing services they provide in our communities. Check out this list of community helpers and suggestions!
1. Local Police
In addition to a holiday card of thanks, consider taking in several plates of baked goods to share among the staff at your local precinct. Since police work in shifts, see if you can organize several families to help bake enough to cover everyone working at your local precinct.
This time of year, volunteer firefighters often respond to house fires triggered by holiday decorations, as well as traffic accidents. Many firefighters serve long shifts at the firehouse. While they prepare and eat meals there, snacks—especially pre-wrapped snacks that can be consumed quickly or on-the-go—are always appreciated! Granola and protein bars are a great option! However if you’re up to it, perhaps you could organize a group to cook a meal for the brave men and women who volunteer when the community most needs them.
3. EMTs and Paramedics
EMTs or Emergency Medical Technicians are on the front lines when it comes to saving lives. Most Firehouses retain EMTs, but across the United States, many EMTs are purely volunteers — they are not a paid staff position! According to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, there were 248,000 registered EMTs and paramedics in the U.S. Most firehouses host firefighters as well as EMTs who accompany ambulances during a medical emergency. Beyond a note of thanks, baked goods are always appreciated!
Often a thankless job, nurses see us at our worst: when we’re scared, in pain, or just plain at a loss of what to do. Surprise nurses serving a local hospital with a basket of baked goods and a note of thanks can mean the world. Since nurses are constantly on the go, something quick and crumble-proof would be ideal. Midwives and doulas may work independently or together; but if you’ve ever used their services, remember them this holiday season!
5. Crossing Guards
If your child walks to school, or your school employs crossing guards to ensure the safety of all students, acknowledge all they do with a card and mug with hot chocolate mix! Gloves and hats are always a winning, small gift to show appreciation for everything they do. It’s often a thankless job—especially in the rain and snow!
6. Local Park Rangers
If you frequent a park, or have enjoyed taking your children to a local nature center, consider writing a note to the park or center acknowledging their hard work this holiday season. We recently stayed overnight at a state park, and will sending a holiday card to thank the rangers who took the time to show our daughter how to spot animal tracks! Their dedication keeps our local, state, and national parks pristine, allowing all generations to relax and enjoy everything the natural world has to offer.
7. School Staff
While we all may be purchasing something small for the teachers in our children’s lives, remember to celebrate the front office, janitorial, and cafeteria staffs who keep the school running for our kids. Organize several parents to create baskets of goodies to drop off in the front office and for the janitorial and cafeteria staff who work hard to create a culture of community at the school. Handwritten cards from the students is a must!
8. Mail Deliverers
Whether a postman or postwoman delivers your mail, it gets there rain or shine, wind or snow! Consider leaving a note of thanks with a goody bad as a surprise in the mailbox.
This list is by no means exhaustive! Many more community helpers exist than are listed here. For example, your community may host a 911 call center, or an amazing non-profit that works with an underserved population.
Celebrating these individuals can be a wonderful experience for the whole family. Whether you take an afternoon to make cards, bake delicious goodies together, or wrap a few small gifts, the act of recognizing others who help their community exists as an important moment for all. (Just remember when baking goodies to include a list of ingredients for those with allergies.)
Make it a teachable experience by encouraging children to brainstorm as many community helpers as they can, as well as brainstorming what to write in a holiday card. You can even vote as a family whether to drop off the card and creations anonymously!