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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Spring Break: A Guide to Donating Your Time

Tick. Tick. Tick.

You’re staring at the hand on the clock inching closer to 3:00 pm. It’s almost spring break and you’re ready to pack it up and travel somewhere warm with a beach or just stay local and relax with friends at home. Either way, this spring break you may want to give back any way you can, no matter where you are in the world. Spring break gives you an opportunity to catch a breather and get a chance to donate your time to causes you’re passionate about.

Alternative Spring Break

Instead of opting for a traditional spring break at the beach, some of you may prefer an alternative spring break. Many organizations offer students the chance to serve communities by donating their time in a meaningful way, helping others domestically or internationally. Two examples of popular alternative spring break programs are Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge — friends (old and new alike) band together to build or repair homes for families in need and United Way’s alternative spring break, where past projects have included reading books to children in early childhood education centers, beach cleanup, assembling essential items for the homeless and working one-on-one in high schools to prepare students for college interviews.

Traditional Spring Break

If your heart is set on going to the beach for spring break (self-care is the best care), there are countless ways to do your part while on vacation. The Sea Turtle Conservancy’s guide on simple actions you can take to help marine life encourages that you reduce the amount of single-use plastics you use. Instead of using a plastic bag to carry your sunglasses, sunscreen, and other belongings, invest in a tote bag that you can reach for again and again! Another easy tip is to use coral reef-friendly sunscreen. Studies have shown that the chemicals in sunscreen, specifically, oxybenzone and octinoxate, harm the corals’ DNA and prevent them from reproducing. These chemicals also contribute to water pollution and rising sea temperatures.

Staying Local

No beach? No problem! Staying local doesn’t mean you can’t find great causes in your area to help support. A quick search online will point you to local animal shelters, homeless shelters, food banks, and other volunteer opportunities. There are even charities like United Way that have a charity locator. Feeding America also has a food bank locator searchable by zip code for potential volunteers.

If you can’t make it to a food bank or shelter, do some spring cleaning during the break and donate clothes and household items you no longer use. Any clothes that you haven’t worn -- or even thought about -- for the last six months are all great contenders for a donation. Give a new life to household items like linens, appliances, cutlery, dishes, pots and pans, electronics, toys, sports equipment, and even tools. Donating your household items to charities not only gives them a second life, but it helps a family in need and reduces environmental waste.

Also, there’s plenty of charities that will pick up your items directly from your front door. Organizations like AMVETS National Service Foundation and the Lupus Foundation of America accept a myriad of items, from clothes to makeup to even exercise equipment. You fill boxes, schedule a pickup date and time, and just leave them on your doorstep. It’s that simple! If these two charities don’t operate in your neighborhood, tools like Donationtown.org make it simple to find charities that offer free donation pick up.

Make Your Spring Break Count

Mix self-care with community-care this spring break. Whether you’re traveling or staying local, there are countless ways to give back and do your part. Comment below with what you plan to do over the break or if you happen to take photos of your volunteer experience, tag us (@CharityNav) for a chance to be featured on our Instagram!

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