Sharing the love at Christmas time is the true meaning of the festive season

Giving to others, especially those less fortunate, can go above and beyond a donation.

Community spirit

Vulnerable people – such as the homeless, disabled, ailing, elderly and refugees – need your help. In the lead-up to Christmas, visit the Community Kitchens website and sign up as a volunteer at a kitchen in your area.

Meals on Wheels is another great volunteer initiative, which primarily helps the elderly and those with disabilities who live independently. The service is also available to those who may not be able to cook for themselves for a variety of reasons, including ill health or after surgery.

Homelessness remains a major issue in Australia, with one in 200 people sleeping rough across the country every night. Organisations such as Streetsmart Australia, Share the Dignity, Mission Australia, the Lighthouse Foundation and Magic Moments Foundation’s Basket Brigade are just some of the initiatives raising funds to house and support homeless people.

You can also give generously of your time and efforts by contacting local community or church groups, hospitals and nursing homes to find out if they need volunteers or support during the festive season.

Gift with a difference

Help children or communities in need by buying a gift from charity organisations such as Oxfam or UNICEF Australia.

You can choose to donate a gift on your family member or friend’s behalf – such as 150 measles vaccines (for $74) from UNICEF Australia, a water pump ($557) or a bicycle ($190) – which will be given to communities in developing nations such as Angola.

Oxfam Unwrapped charity gift cards will find your loved ones donating chickens (from $10), setting up veggie gardens (from $55) or helping build wells (from $135).

Oxfam also sells ethical products and gifts, which can be bought online or in store.

Sustainable presents

Head to One Night Stand for the sleepwear gift that keeps on giving. Every item you buy equals a meal delivered to a young person in need (through food rescue and delivery service Ozharvest) plus 50 per cent of the profits are donated to employment and shelter projects.

Good Spender is an online marketplace connecting social enterprises with customers who want to make a difference. You’ll be able to buy hand-woven scarves, homewares and Christmas decoration while supporting social enterprises that fund causes including disability, disadvantage and the environment.

Food drive

Every year, over the festive season, The Salvation Army provides food hampers and gifts to families in need. The Salvation Army Christmas Appeal enables you to volunteer, host a fundraiser or be involved in its food and toy drives. To help fill those hampers, buy non-perishable foods and visit the website for drop-off details.