4 ways to give back this holiday season

The holidays are here and one thing Texans know how to do is donate to their communities. Texas was ranked No. 5 as the most charitable state, gifting an average of $1,380, according to a February 2016 report of filed tax returns by the National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute. (Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, and Oklahoma snagged the top four spots.)

To help ensure we surpass the mark this year, Brilliant found a few unique ways you can give back to children and animals in need this year.

Give to your local animal shelter
While donating to your local animal shelter is an obvious way to give back, sometimes pet owners want a deeper connection with their donation. Some animal shelters make it easy for people to donate in memory or honor of the people and pets that shaped their lives. For example, the Harris County Public Health’s animal shelter in Houston, Texas allows you to make a general donation online, start your own pet supply donation drive, or purchase goods online by browsing their online wish list. As of December 1, Harris County representatives state they are in urgent need of bath mats, laundry detergent, newspapers, and canned pet food. Or if you can’t donate goods, consider giving your time and volunteer to clean cages, walk dogs, or foster a pet this holiday season.

If you live in north Texas, the SPCA of Texas, which has facilities in Dallas and McKinney lets you give a general, one-time donation, schedule a monthly gift, donate in memory or honor of a loved one (including pets), or even add them to your long-term financial plans, such as your will. If none of those sound interesting, visit their (or any shelter’s) Amazon donation request list to see what supplies their pets need the most.

Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation
At Brilliant we are huge animal lovers, and that’s not limited to dogs and house cats. We love animals of all species, but since our employees tend to own cats and dogs, the majority of our blog content reflects that as well. However, we want to bring your attention to a different kind of animal charity this December: the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation, which is the charitable branch of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. 

You may donate online or by mail to one of 10 different initiatives, or to the specific state park of your choice. In addition to hunting education, conservation education, and general support, the Foundation offers animal-first support programs, including Texas State Parks, Native Wildlife and Endangered Species, Texas Game Wardens, Inland Fisheries Management, Coastal Fisheries Management, and Priority Land Conservation Acquisitions.

Cars for Kids
By now you’ve heard the jingle featuring a pint-sized band playing out the tune that it’s easy to donate your vehicle to a local charity. While the jingle is new, Cars for Kids has actually been around since 1992. The Texas branch benefits the Texans Can! Academies of Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. Texans Can! Academies has 13 schools across Texas, and its mission is “provide the highest quality education for all students, especially those who have struggled in a traditional high school setting, in order to ensure their economic independence.” All vehicle donations support the academy, and provides at-risk youth basic necessities and child care while they work on earning their high school diplomas.

Cars for Kids is available 24/7 to process a donation, and 100 percent of the net proceeds go to the charity. They offer free towing on all cars. Trucks, vans, motorcycles, RVs, campers, jet skis, forklifts, and trailers are also accepted, but there may be towing costs.

Rainbow Room
This time of year you’ll find local news stations and businesses promoting their annual toy drives for disadvantaged children. But have you heard of the Rainbow Room? These specialized rooms stock clothing, diapers, baby formula, school supplies, and more for children who are victims of abuse or neglect. Child Protective Services caseworkers shop from the rooms to ensure every child placed in a foster or adoptive home receive everything they’ll need to start a fresh and welcoming chapter in their lives. Their motto is "Abused and neglected children do not deserve abused and neglected things."

There are 11 volunteer regions in Texas where you can donate your time or supplies. Browse the Texas Council of Child Welfare Boards region map for contact details in your area, or visit the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Child Safety Volunteer Portal for more information.

Bonus: Shop Online
If don’t know how you want to give back, inquire if your favorite charity has an AmazonSmile account. You just link your Amazon account to the charity of your choice, and every time you shop via url smile.amazon.com, 0.5 percent of your qualifying purchase will be donated to said charity. It’s that easy. (With the holidays here that donations can add up really fast!)