Focus on your favorite causes
If you’re looking to help, luckily there is a fund or organization for virtually every cause. You might feel overwhelmed because so many are worthy, but you only have so much time or money to go around. Let your heart lead you and narrow your giving down to the causes about which you’re most passionate. If it’s still hard to choose, select a group that makes a direct impact. Whatever the cause, you can make a difference like the SoCal Honda dealers who are bringing Random Acts of Helpfulness to local communities for the 9th consecutive year as part of their Helpful Campaign across Los Angeles and Orange County. From seat upgrades at Dodger games to helping feed the hungry, working with TreePeople to preserve trees in the community and much more, the campaign is making a difference and so can you.

Animal Lovers
If you’re an animal lover, you might not know where to send your donation. Don’t be immediately swayed by heart-rending commercials or letters that come in the mail. Do some research and find groups that use money in ways you support. If you want to help stop pet overpopulation, donate to a shelter that runs a mobile spay/neuter clinic. You’ll know you helped prevent unwanted puppies and kittens from being born. Are you more passionate about pet adoption? Donate to a local rescue group or give cat or dog toys to the local shelter to cheer up the pets awaiting their forever homes. Even if you can’t give cash, you can foster pets, volunteer to walk shelter dogs, work on adoption day at a local pet store, or give your time and talents in a variety of other ways. It’s often more fulfilling to give time rather than money, because you’re giving a part of yourself.

One group that is helping out in this area is SoCal Honda, which hosts annual Helpful Honda Pet Adoption events with local shelters and rescue groups. The effort to help two-legged residents find new four-legged friends makes a huge difference. Partners range from Los Angeles Animal Services, Riverside County Animal Services, Inland Valley Humane Society & SPCA, Rancho Cucamonga Animal Services, and many more. To make a difference, the organization gives complimentary leashes, collars, sometimes food and more, compliments of the Guys in Blue at the events.

Help The Homeless Problem
The homeless population in Los Angeles is an ongoing issue that you can work with others to help make a difference. By bringing food to local shelters or donation centers, you’ll not only feel great about it, but will help out those in need. SoCal Honda helps those in need each year by donating over $50,000 worth of food to Southern California food banks, including Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, Second Harvest Food Bank of OC, Feeding America Riverside/San Bernardino and FOOD Share Ventura County. Regardless of the amount that you give, it can help feed those that need it most. During the holidays, you can contribute along with SoCal Honda’s Helpful Guys in Blue as they host Feeding the Homeless special holiday events for low income adults and children through local organizations such as Pasadena Union Station Homeless Services Adult Center, the District 43 Challengers in San Bernardino, Community Action Partnership of Orange County, Anaheim Indepedencia Family Resource Center, Boys & Girl Club of Hollywood, Ocean Park Community Centers’ (OPCC) in Santa Monica, Covenant House California and more. Providing everything from warm holiday meals to daily essential bags, complimentary bicycles and more are just a few ways SoCal Honda is giving back to the less fortunate over the holidays.

Get the whole family involved
Giving is good for your heart and spirit, and the dividends extend to your whole family. If you have children, get them involved. They can learn about giving in simple ways, like donating some of their toys to a women’s shelter or shopping with you to pick out holiday gifts for a less fortunate family. Perhaps they might all pitch in a bit of their allowance money to sponsor a child in another country. That gives them a personal connection, especially if they get an opportunity to choose the child and exchange letters and photos. The family can also toss change in a jar, then vote on where to donate it or rotate choosing a worthy charity whenever it gets full.

Contribute to the bigger picture
Giving feels especially meaningful when you know your small gesture is part of the bigger picture. For example, if you contribute to groups that support causes like protecting rainforest land, tutoring underprivileged children, or something similar, your gesture combines with others to potentially make a lasting change. Or, join SoCal Honda in their efforts to pick up litter in local parks and by volunteering at community clean-ups with local organizations like The Surfrider Foundation. If you can’t afford to contribute yourself, volunteer your time and talents for an even closer connection to your heart. It might be gratifying to write a big check, but imagine how much more proud you’d feel seeing a teen you mentored walk across the stage on graduation day as he looks forward to starting college.

These are just a few suggestions. The ways in which you can contribute are endless, as are the ways in which you’ll make a difference if you let your heart guide your giving.

Barbara Nefer is a freelance writer. More of her work can be found on Examiner.com. “

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