With the holidays fast approaching, it’s hard to know exactly how this year’s festivities will play out. You may be looking forward to celebrating with a big meal and your little family. Or maybe you’re going to share a drink with friends via video call… and show off the elf outfit you bought your dog. Whatever your plans, the holidays and gift giving are sure to be a little different in 2020.

Canada Post warns that if you want your purchases shipped on time, you better start thinking about buying online now. Big retailers aren’t your only choice though. You can look local to find options that support your community too.

But what if you’re struggling or can’t afford as much this year? Buying fewer things with more meaning makes sense. Buying picture frames or scented candles was fine before, but -- “Happy holidays, here’s a candle that represents the last flicker of your patience with 2020” -- might miss the mark now.

This year has been a struggle for most, so this is a great time to do things differently – give gifts that give back. There are a wealth of options right here in Niagara.

Socks for Change

This local charity stepped onto the scene in 2017 when founder, Sam Baio, heard a story on the CBC about how important warm, clean socks are for people living in poverty. He was moved by how something as simple as wool socks could improve health, honour dignity, and change a life. Since 2017 Socks for Change has donated almost 50,000 pairs of socks to those in need in Niagara. But they don’t donate just any used or low cost socks. Socks for Change purchases high quality wool socks and gives them to local community groups, including schools and shelters.  

This year, they’re offering new ways for people to support them so they can support people in need. You can now go online to sponsor a group or donate directly. You can also purchase a new pair of socks for yourself or someone on your holiday list and Socks for Change will donate 2 brand new pairs for you. Your purchase will be dropped off to you and your donations will reach people in need across Niagara throughout the winter. That’s a gift that will warm both your feet and your heart.

Community Care St. Catharines and Thorold

Families across the world are struggling in 2020. From food and housing security, to medical programs and other services, Community Care St. Catharines and Thorold works to meet the needs and preserve the dignity of thousands of people right here in Niagara. As part of that mission, they offer great holiday programs every year. In 2019, over 13,000 people were assisted with the Adopt a Family and Adopt an Angel, Teen, or Senior programs. This year the programs will accept gift card donations instead of hard goods to make holiday wishes come true. Whether you donate as an individual, family, or office, your gifts and support will help everyone enjoy the magic of the season.

Niagara Toolbox Project

“We’re supposed to take care of each other, so I try to help wherever I can,” says James Symons. That’s what the Niagara Toolbox Project is all about. Symons launched this initiative four years ago to help homeless men or men living in poverty across Niagara. This year you can find collection bins to donate new socks, toiletries, healthy food items, and thoughtful gifts at PenFinancial’s Fourth Ave and Fonthill branches, as well as other locations across Niagara. Your donations will be bundled in nylon bags and given out across the region this winter. You can also reach out to James at jamessymons79@gmail.com to make a donation in the name of someone you care about to show you care about men in need Niagara.

Gift Cards for local artisans and businesses

It’s no secret that local businesses have struggled in 2020. Instead of buying from a global business this holiday season, consider purchasing from local artisans and shops. The options are endless. Bench, Breakwall, Oast House, or Silversmith for the beer aficionado in your life. Itty Bitty Pie Company for the sweet tooth on your list. Big B Comics or The Book Outlet for your book lover. By buying items or gift cards from local business, you’ll be spreading joy to those you like, love, and live with in Niagara.

Gillian’s Place

Love purple? Want to help women and children escaping abuse? Then buy a purple scarf or tie to support Gillian’s Place and the Wrapped in Courage Campaign. Wrapped in Courage is an Ontario-wide campaign to raise awareness and funds to end violence against women. Gillian’s Place is part of this campaign again, reminding Niagara that it takes a community and not just the courage of a woman to address this devastating problem. As Graeme Dargavel, Manager of Community Development at Gillian’s Place, notes:

“This year, more than ever before, the support from our generous community is vital. We know that because of the burdens caused by the pandemic women and children are at profoundly greater risk of being abused. Showing your support by wearing a Wrapped in Courage scarf or tie this year, not only helps Gillian’s Place respond to the demands on our services, but it shows women and children facing heartbreaking and dangerous scenarios that their community cares and supports them.”

As with many things this year, the need is even greater, and the way to give is a little different. You can text the word ‘COURAGE’ to 41010 to donate to women’s shelters across Ontario. You can also purchase your purple scarf or purple tie online. Then you can pick it up from the PenFinancial Fourth Ave branch or Gillian’s Place in Beamsville on November 25th – giving you plenty of time for wrapping and giving hope this holiday season. And when the Wrapped in Courage campaign wraps, consider donating to Gillian’s Place to directly support a family in need this holiday season. Together, we’re stronger.

Given the hardships this year, many people don’t have the budget for big gift giving or charitable donations. That makes it a great time to give the gift of your time and service to help local charities. Consider volunteering with any of the charities listed above. And if you have the means, consider supporting these in-person and ecommerce options to support your community too.


Kerry Ould

Written by Kerry Ould

Kerry is our Chief Marketing Officer and a relatively new arrival to the Niagara Region. When she's not out exploring local wineries, cafes and conservation areas, you're likely to find her enjoying time in the country with her horse.