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“Paying it Forward” with my family & ways to give this holiday season (and beyond!)

Earlier this afternoon my family and I dropped off bags full of new clothing, new toys and some extra clothing that my kids have outgrown. We dropped them off at our county’s collection site which not only serves families in need in our community, but also families that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Families which were once financially stable now find themselves homeless and without so much as a change of clothes, let alone gifts for their family.

My family is far from rich. In fact we struggle to keep our “heads above water”. We’re not even sure how we’re going to afford much for our family this year. Even so, we know that there are families in our community that are A LOT worse off than we are. At least we have a roof over our heads, food in our pantry, heat, electricity, a closet full of clothes and the ability to buy our kids at least a little something this holiday season. That is a lot more than other families in our community.

When we were dropping off our donations we were speaking with the lady in charge. She said that normally they service 300+ families providing them with food and clothing. She said this year, with all the families that lost everything during Hurricane Sandy that number has nearly doubled. Thankfully there has been a generous out pouring of donations from people, but even so there is still so much that people need.

When we were there we noticed that they were in dire need of adult size clothing. They seemed to have ample amount of children and toddler sizes, but we didn’t see much as far as teen and adult sizes.

One family that is in serious need has a 9 year old daughter and 11 year old son. We had dropped off a barely worn Winter coat and a Winter vest of our son’s. We hope it will fit that little boy. My daughter donated a lot of her clothing. She wears a women’s size small. That might be too big for a 9 year old but maybe there are a few pieces she can wear.

A couple of weeks ago I received a $250 gift card to Kohl’s. Kohl’s is the only place where I can find jeans for my daughter. She’s petite in height and they usually have jeans that will fit her. My son also wears clothes from Kohl’s. My husband has also picked up a few things here and there.

We went to Kohl’s to do some shopping with the gift card except we didn’t buy anything for ourselves. Instead we bought clothing and toys to donate to people in our community.

We are big believers in random acts of kindness and “paying it forward” where you do something unexpected and good for others in hopes they will turn around and do the same for someone else. If everyone committed one random act of kindness daily, and paid if forward by doing something nice for someone else when someone does something nice for you, our world would be a happier place.

I belong to a local Yahoo group for people in my community. One lady posted that she was looking for a Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robot game for her son. He really wanted one but her family couldn’t afford it for him for Christmas. It’s a shame too since the game was only around $20. We had a Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robot game, but it was used and not in great condition.

When I told my husband he said “Let’s go buy one”. So we went to the toy store and picked up the game. Then I e-mailed the lady and told her that I had one and I’d be happy to drop it off at her house. She gave me her address and my husband and I brought it over to her. She was expecting a used game. She was totally in shock to find that we went out and purchased the game for her son. The tears of joy and happiness in her eyes was “payment” enough for us. Knowing that we did a kind thing for someone else made our hearts smile.

We went crazy in Kohl’s. There was so much that we wanted to buy. We ended up buying a few new Winter coats, plenty of toys and several outfits (tops and bottoms) in various kid sizes.

The shopping cart was overflowing with stuff!

Kohl’s was having a lot of sales store wide when we went so we were able to get a lot with our gift card. We actually went about $27+ over the gift card amount, but that is OK. I paid the difference.

Kohl has some wonderful charitable books and matching plush toys available as part of the their Kohl’s Care program. They are the gifts that give back.

Here is a little more about the books and plush.

This holiday, Kohl’s offers exclusive hardcover books featuring American classic stories such as The Wizard of Oz, The Night Before Christmas and The Velveteen Rabbit along with coordinating plush toys for just $5 each through the Kohl’s Cares cause merchandise program. Also for $5, Kohl’s Cares merchandise brings shoppers a Good Housekeeping cookbook, a holiday CD of greatest hits and seasonal notecards. Under this program, Kohl’s donates 100 percent of the net profit to children’s health and education initiatives nationwide. Since 2000, it has raised more than $208 million for children’s health and education programs in local communities across the country.

My original plan was to buy several of the books and matching plush, but apparently they were very popular because they were almost sold out.

I was also going to buy a few music CD’s and anonymously give them to people. Who wouldn’t like a little unexpected holiday cheer this year?

I had also planned on buying the cook book and making one of the cookie recipes in the book and anonymously leave the cookies and the book at a nieghbor’s door with a note asking them to “pay it forward” by making some of the cookies found in the book and giving them to others. Unfortunately I ran out of $$$ to buy the music CDS and cookbook. That is OK though. We had plenty of toys and clothing to give to those in need.

In addition to the Kohl’s Cares plush and books, Kohl’s is also going to give up to $500,000 to Toys for Tots. For every new person who “Likes” Kohl’s Facebook page from this Nov. 23 – Dec. 24, Kohl’s will donate $1 to Toys for Tots, up to $500,000. That is awesome! All you need to do to help is simply “like” their Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/Kohls.

We felt SO GOOD getting all the toys and clothes from Kohl’s that we used two other gift cards that we had at two other stores to pick up more toys and some gloves, after all, if you have a new Winter coat you’ll need new gloves to go with it too. :-)

Check out everything we picked up that day. All the clothes are from Kohl’s, including the Winter coats (not the gloves). All the toys on the left side of the table are from Kohl’s (except the Dot-to-Dot and other games sets and the checkers set).

Six outfits, two cute fleece sweatshirts and four pants/lounge pants in various sizes. Both boy and girl clothing.

Boy and Girl Winter coats from Kohl’s. Gloves (small children and larger child sizes) from another store.

All these toys are from Kohl’s with the exception of the Dot-to-Dot and other games activity sets (lower right) and the checkers set (upper right). The tins are an assortment of puzzles and other games.

To find a Kohl’s location near you visit www.Kohls.com. They are also on Twitter (@Kohls).

My husband and kids also went through their clothes and picked out things they no longer fit or want and we donated them too, along with the new clothes and toys. I had already gone through my clothing a few months ago and donated them. There was no much left in my closet for me to donate.

In the end we had several bags stuffed with toys and clothing to donate.

About a week ago we donated food, litter, blankets and pillows to our local animal shelter and I also purchased food to donate to Girl Scouts collecting to feed the hungry.

When we were talking to the lady who runs the local organization we dropped all the goodies off to we found out that they need volunteers every Wednesday from 7:00 – 8:30 PM and the food pantry that runs out of the same church needs volunteers on Thursdays at the same time. We’re going to have our children help out and volunteer. I think it would be good for them.

On a side note, one of the place we picked up some more toys from (those pictured on the right side of the table) had a bear you could get for $4.95 if you spent $50 (which we did). I didn’t want to put the bear in a bag so I kept it on my lap. As we were driving around I would have the bear wave at people when we were stopped at a traffic light or stop sign. The bear waved to other drivers and people on the side of the street. We got a few strange looks from people but most people smiled and laughed. Some even waved back!

It sounds silly, but it was fun. And seeing people smile, laughing and waving back totally made it all worth while. For all we know that might be the only laugh or smile those people had that day. Maybe they were having a rough day and really need a bit of silliness in their life at that moment in time.

When we stopped by the coffee shop (I was in need of coffee!) my husband continued to have the bear wave at customers who walked into the coffee shop. He said just about everyone he waved to smiled and waved back and a few of them even started to laugh. :-)

We were going to donate the bear too but after all the fun we had using him to make people laugh and smile we kept him. We plan on taking him out with us from time to time and waving at people as we travel around town. It’s hard not to smile with a super cute bear waving hello to you.

A nationwide coffee house currently has coupon books for sale ($12 for 10 FREE large cups of coffee). Their initials are DD and I rave about them all the time :-). I am going to pick up a couple of the coupon books and randomly give people a coupon for a free coffee who are on line with me at the coffee place. I also plan on giving a free coffee coupon to the people who stand outside in the freezing cold for the Salvation Army.

Doing something nice for others, whether it’s donating brand new toys and clothing, anonymously baking some cookies for a neighbor, dropping off warm blankets for the animals at the shelter or simply finding unique ways to bring a smile to someone’s face is something we can all do. You don’t need to spend a lot of $$$ to help someone who was struck by a natural disaster, unemployed or facing health issues. Everyone can use some cheer this holiday season and beyond.

I hope you have been inspired by this post to commit daily random acts of kindness and “Pay it Forward” by doing something good for others when someone does something nice for you. If you have the funds to purchase items that are in need – great! If you don’t have much money you can still help out by donating clothing you no longer fit or want, donating blankets and towels to the local animal shelter so animals have something warm to sleep on or simply find a way to bring a smile to someone’s face.

I would love to hear about what you to do “pay it forward” or what kind of random acts of kindness you do or have done. Has someone done something totally unexpected for you? I would love to hear about it. Feel free to comment and tell me more about your experiences. I love to hear from my readers.

Kimberly

*I received a free Kohl’s gift card in order to purchase items to donate. The other gift cards I used were mine and I used them on my own. I also paid out of my pocket for amounts over the gift cards (around $100). There was no compensation. All the opinions and actions were entirely my own and were not influenced in any way. 

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About Kimberly

Kimberly Vetrano resides in the suburbs of New York City with her family, five cats, dog, a tank full of fish and snails. She is also a freelance writer and photographer.

Comments

  1. That is a wonderful story. We used to be able to do this in the past but haven’t been able to do so lately. Before we had kids we would pick a name or two from the giving tree at church when we lived in New Jersey. Now my husband and I are both disabled and struggling. We have three grandkids that we try to help out with items they need. My son doesn’t make much money so when the grandkids need sneakers, coats or clothes I try to help them out. I try to help others when I can. I do enter contests and some of my winnings are donated to people who may need some of the things I win. I had about 100 downloads of music and someone was going to buy them from me. Then she said she couldn’t as her boyfriend lost his job. I sent her the email and all the codes – she was so happy. I do this quite often throughout the year. I love entering contests as a hobby and love to share when I can.