Give Presence: How to Save Money and Make a Difference

December 11, 2018

Every holiday season, our wallets take a hit. This is the time of year we dole out gifts and donate to charity. A survey by Harris Poll found that three in five Americans donate to charity in the last two weeks of the year, while a survey by Experian found that the average American spends (a rather whopping) $864 on gifts each holiday season—an amount that’s more than what 43% of Americans actually feel comfortable spending.

It raises the question of whether this kind of spending is the best way to show we care. Maybe not, as the majority of Americans would gladly forego receiving gifts and spending money in favor of spending quality time with loved ones, according to the same Harris Poll survey. 

If you’re a member of the silent majority playing holiday gift-giving chicken, maybe instead of presents, you could share your presence with friends and family. By volunteering together you’re sure to make memories you’ll cherish more than an unneeded trinket or gizmo—plus, you’ll get to meaningfully contribute to your community without pulling out your checkbook.

Here are five ways you can give the gift of your time this holiday season without spending a dime. Find more at

Help the Homeless: The Dolores Project

Choose to serve or cook meals (with the option to prepare food offsite), run errands, or clean-up for the Delores Project. This shelter provides a safe space and personalized services for unaccompanied women and transgendered individuals experiencing homelessness. Find more information and sign up here.

Care for the Elderly: Snow Buddies

Be a good Samaritan to your elderly neighbors by signing up to shovel their walks after snowfalls of more than one inch. The Colorado Volunteers of America organizes this program. Learn more and sign up here (a $25 fee is required to cover a background check).

Welcome Refugees: Lutheran Family Services

When refugees and asylum-seekers join our Colorado community from far-away places, some of the biggest challenges for individuals and families can be things that are totally mundane to U.S. natives—such as sorting through mail, navigating a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles, or just speaking English. That’s where LFS comes in. If you can make a six-month commitment, sign up to be a cultural mentor to help newcomers with these day-to-day challenges by completing the organization’s orientation course and getting paired with a family. Can’t commit for the long term? There are a variety of short-term volunteer opportunities, too. Learn more here.

Build Community Health: Resolution 5K

Resolution season is almost here! Support your community in getting healthy by volunteering at Denver’s annual Resolution 5K run on New Year’s Day. You’ll help with things like registration, set-up, race monitoring, or clean-up (and, of course, cheering on the runners). Learn more and sign up here.

Support Kids and Families: Ronald McDonald House

For families caring for seriously ill children, helping hands and companionship can make a world of difference. You can support parents and kids facing the toughest health battles of their lives by cooking meals, helping keep free housing close to hospitals clean and running, or just spending time with parents and kids who could use a good laugh among new friends. There are 10 Ronald McDonald locations in Colorado, plus two mobile care units. Contact the location nearest you to see how you can help.