Every year at this time we begin the exciting season of kindness, compassion and giving. At United Way, we are fortunate to witness the generosity and love of so many of our neighbors providing Christmas gifts through Sub for Santa and our other Christmas assistance programs.

Most families who are looking for opportunities to give want their families to have good giving experiences. They want to help those most in need, and they want their gift to be lasting.

Many families have their giving traditions, but I also often get asked, “How can I help more?” And more recently I’ve been frequently asked, “How can I help someone beyond the Christmas season?”

These are wonderful questions, and at United Way we have been working on ideas that can turn the Christmas giving passion into longer lasting help. Let me offer three different ways to take your desire to help at Christmas and turn it into year-round help.

Let me start with Sub for Santa+, which is designed to allow us to help many families that are helped at Christmas to get back on their feet and find financial stability throughout the year. Frequently these families will need help with basic necessities even after the holidays are over.

Another idea is giving new, quality books to low-income families. We all are aware that children living in poverty don’t have the same access to books as other children, and that can greatly affect their educational opportunities. I love the tradition of some families of buying each family member’s favorite book, talking about their books as their families gather for the holidays, and then sharing them with the community through our programs.

A third idea is to turn your commitment to serve at the holidays into a longer term volunteer activity. It could be tutoring, mentoring or serving through one of our great nonprofit partners.

During the holidays especially, we don’t want our neighbors to be suffering or alone, and it adds to our holiday spirit to be involved with spreading our own holiday cheer to others. The individuals we are trying to help during the holiday season likely also need help throughout the year and in different aspects of their lives.

We are constantly amazed by the generosity in Utah County at Christmastime and are so grateful for all the giving that takes place. We would hope that all of the giving traditions continue and that we might add a little more to what we are already doing by considering some of these additional giving ideas to make the holiday giving spirit last all year long.

For more information on donating or volunteering, contact us at United Way of Utah County by dialing 2-1-1.