If you’re planning to help the less fortunate this holiday season, you already have a gold star in our book. But before you deliver 12 brand-new Barbie Dreamhouses to your local charity drive, we’ve got a few pointers. Here, eight items donation centers are almost always in need of.
1. Diapers, size 2 and up. When you think of babies, chances are you think of little babies. Which is why charity drives are flooded with newborn and size 1 diapers but are often short on ones for bigger children. Go with size 4 or above if you really want to help a family in need.
2. XXL adult sizes. The typical clothing drive donations? Apparel in sizes small, medium and large. Since people come in all shapes and sizes, shouldn’t your donations follow suit?
3. Shelf-stable milk and 100 percent juice drinks. A giant can of garbanzo beans is never a bad idea, but most food drives report a dearth of healthy drinks for kids (that won’t go bad in a few days’ time).
4. Bike helmets. Bikes and trikes are a popular choice at toy drives, but most folks forget about the crucial follow-up gift: a head-protecting helmet. Donate a child-size one in a cute color and it’ll definitely go to good use.
5. Toilet paper. It may not be a fun purchase, but homeless shelters are always, always in need of TP. (The average one goes through 20 rolls a day.) Call in advance before you show up with a 48-pack, but chances are they’ll take you up on your offer.
6. Gift cards. Call your donation center to see where they stand, but several we talked to reported a preference for store gift cards as opposed to physical toys. (That way they can shop for specific requests or toward the needs of the people they’re serving.)
7. International calling cards. If you’re looking to help an immigrant community, remember how important it is for them to sustain their connections back home. Load a couple cards with a few hours of talk time, and you just might give the gift of a Christmas Eve phone call.
8. Money. Think a cash donation is boring? Think again. If it helps to keep the lights on at a women’s shelter or pay the salary of a tireless nonprofit employee, you’ve more than done your share. (Plus, it’s tax deductible.)