Goodness Report

Thanks-for-Giving Edition: How We Can Serve Orange County this Holiday Season

November 20, 2023

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead 

No matter what holidays you celebrate, this time of year is a season filled with love, unity, kindness, and compassion. Acts of generosity during the holidays not only bring joy to those benefiting from those acts but also enrich the lives of those who offer their time and support. In this week’s Thanks-for-giving edition of the Goodness Report, we are sharing about how every one of us can serve Orange County this holiday season, whether through volunteering, in-kind donations, or daily acts of kindness and care towards ourselves and others. 

Volunteer Your Time

Volunteering is a powerful and rewarding way to give back to your community. Not only does it make a positive impact on the lives of others, but it also offers numerous personal and societal benefits. A study in the Journal of Economic Psychology revealed that individuals who volunteer can experience increased happiness, and are more likely to live longer, healthier lives. (1)  Volunteering can also play a vital role in building strong, resilient communities. According to the National Conference on Citizenship, areas with higher volunteer rates tend to have lower crime rates and better civic engagement. (2) If you are looking to engage in this type of work, there are many organizations that offer volunteer opportunities  year-round, as well as special programs during the holiday season. Here are some local programs with a variety of volunteer opportunities. 

  1. Aknin, L. B., Barrington-Leigh, C. P., Dunn, E. W., Helliwell, J. F., Burns, J., Biswas-Diener, R., & Kemeza, I. (2013). Prosocial spending and well-being: Cross-cultural evidence for a psychological universal. “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,” 104(4), 635-652). 
  2. National Conference on Citizenship, “Civic Life in America: Key Findings on the Civic Health of the Nation,” 2011 


The Idea Hall Team serving Orange County at the Second Harvest Solutions Farm!
The Idea Hall Team at the Harvest Solutions Farm.


Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County  

The Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, a member of Feeding America, provides access to nutritious food for all residents of Orange County facing nutritional insecurity. This year, Second Harvest distributed 36,285,023 pounds of food to the Orange County community, feeding almost 400,000 people through its 362 distribution sites throughout the county. Second Harvest offers many opportunities to volunteer and donate including: 

  • Harvest Solutions Farm – Plant, harvest, weed and maintain the fields of Harvest Solutions Farm, located just down the road from our food bank in Irvine, CA. This is an outdoor opportunity for individuals, families (children must be 7 or older), and teams. Click here to learn more! 
  • Irvine Distribution Center – Participants help with a variety of projects, including processing nutritious fruits and vegetables to be distributed to Second Harvest’s community partner network. If you prefer to be inside a cooled warehouse, this might be the best opportunity for you.  Click here to learn more!  
  • Community Food Distribution – Sometimes, Second Harvest’s 300 partner sites need additional volunteer support. Find an opportunity to support food distribution near your home or work location here.


Image courtesy of Unsplash.


Someone Cares Soup Kitchen 

Someone Cares Soup Kitchen provides nutritious meals to the less fortunate in our community. Every day, they serve a well-balanced meal consisting of vegetable soup, lettuce and fruit salads, hearty and filling side dishes, bread, muffins, dessert, milk, and water. Currently, the Soup Kitchen serves more than 300 guests per day, 7 days per week.  

On Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, the Soup Kitchen provides special meals and celebrations. Over 500 guests are served each holiday, and most of them are “first-timers” to the Soup Kitchen. 

At the Someone Cares Soup Kitchen volunteers ages 15 and up can choose to participate in food prep and service.  

To learn more about volunteering at Someone Cares Soup Kitchen or to sign up, click here: 


Bracken’s Kitchen 

Started in 2013 by Bill Bracken, a renowned chef, Bracken’s Kitchen is a nonprofit organization that engages in food rescue, culinary training, and community feedings around Orange County. Bracken’s Kitchen additionally provides meals every week to organizations such as Illumination Foundation, South County Outreach, American Family Housing, and various other charities to feed families in need of nutritious meals. 

At Bracken’s Kitchen, volunteers can engage in several ways: Click here to learn more.  

  • Kitchen Prep & Packaging 
  • Food Truck Events – with the famous food truck – Babs! 
  • Direct Meal Service @ Costa Mesa Bridge Shelter 

To sign up to volunteer at Bracken’s Kitchen, click here. 


Serve Orange County this Holiday Season
Image courtesy of Unsplash.


Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign 

A cause with more than a century of history dating back to 1891, the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign strives for every ring to make a difference. Every year, donations to the famous “Red Kettle” collected during the holidays provide meals, shelter, and Christmas gifts for those in local communities who would otherwise go without these comforts year-round. Volunteers can “Register to Ring” as either individuals, with a group, or virtually, allowing for an even larger impact of classic holiday philanthropy. After registering to ring at a specific date and time, volunteers simply arrive on location to find their Salvation Army Kettle & Bell and can begin “ringing with a smile,” while wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and thanking them for their donations to the Salvation Army.  To sign up to serve as part of the “Red Kettle Campaign” click here. 


In-Kind Donations

Donating gently used or surplus items to charity is an eco-friendly way to repurpose goods that might otherwise end up in landfills. By donating goods, you set an example for others, inspiring a culture of giving within your community.  


Serve Orange County this Holiday Season
Image courtesy of Unsplash.


Goodwill of Orange County 

As you clean out your closet during the transition from summer and fall to the winter season, take the opportunity to donate items you no longer need to your local Goodwill Donation Center. Goodwill accepts a variety of clothing and household items including:  

  • Clothing & Accessories  
  • Housewares 
  • Small appliances 
  • Large appliances (Santa Ana Corporate Campus Donation Center ONLY) 
  • Furniture (Store Locations Only) 
  • May not be broken, damaged, or soiled 
  • Items Goodwill can’t accept – cribs, carriages, strollers, high chairs, bassinets, car seats, wardrobes, or office furniture 
  • Mattresses (Santa Ana Corporate Donation Center ONLY) 
  • Goodwill cannot accept the donation of bed pillows 
  • Electronics – anything with a cord or battery – whether it is working or not 
  • Vehicles Call (800)324-8796 


Serve Orange County this Holiday Season
Image courtesy of Unsplash.


OC Social Services Agency  

Every holiday season, the Orange County Social Services Agency spreads cheer in our community through several different programs to benefit people of all ages, and in a variety of unique situations. An excellent example of strengthening community impact, any of these holiday operations are a convenient way to bring joy to those who need it most. 

Operation Santa Claus  

The County of Orange Operation Santa Claus program provides new gifts and toys to children who are abandoned, neglected, and/or abused and are placed in foster care in Orange County. In addition, Operation Santa Claus provides new holiday gifts to children of disadvantaged families who are receiving services from the County of Orange. Operation Santa Claus is a County of Orange Board of Supervisors-approved program and is the only official County holiday toy drive. Last year this program distributed over 16,000 toys and gifts, bringing joy and a message of hope to our most vulnerable children in Orange County who might otherwise have gone without. This would not be possible without the generosity and collaborative effort of County of Orange employees, churches, businesses, and individuals in the community who play an important role in collecting toys. 

Senior Santa & Friends  

Senior Santa & Friends is a program run by the Orange County Social Services agency that distributes gifts and special request items to low-income individuals who are elderly, severely disabled, and may experience isolation from their family and community. Each year the staff of OCSSA identifies clients who would benefit from having items such as household appliances, special medical equipment, nutritional supplements, and clothing. Items received through Senior Santa & Friends help to enhance the quality of life of these citizens, making life easier, more comfortable, or more independent.  

Angel Tags 

Your organization or businesses can request Angel Tags from: 

  • Operation Santa Claus at (714) 679-2438 or 
  • Senior Santa & Friends at (714) 825-3111 

These tags can be displayed on trees, bulletin boards, walls, etc. Angel Tags provides gift suggestions for a child or senior in need of a gift from “Santa.. An informational package will be sent with the Angel Tag order. 

During the month of December, in-kind donations can be dropped off at Operation Santa Claus located at 1505 East Warner Avenue, Santa Ana, CA 92705. Please call 714-679-2438 for hours of operation. Orange County Public Libraries and many County facilities also have drop-off boxes for your convenience. 


Fashion Island CASA Toy Drive 

If you are looking for a convenient way to do some good this holiday season, consider participating in the Toy Drive benefitting Court Appointed Special Advocates. Simply drop off an unwrapped toy or gift item to the designated area at the Fashion Island Mall, and they will do the rest! Fashion Island will be collecting toys and gifts from November 17th through December 15th. Click here to learn more. 


Serve Orange County this Holiday Season
Image courtesy of Unsplash.


Give Thanks to Yourself and Others

The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration, and togetherness, but it can also be a period of stress and overindulgence. Remember, self-care during the holidays is not selfish; it’s a way to ensure you can fully participate in the joy of the season and create lasting memories with loved ones. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be better equipped to spread holiday cheer and appreciate the moments that truly matter. Taking care of yourself looks different for everyone, but here are some ideas to help you get started: 

  • In between the hustle and bustle, set aside moments for yourself to unwind. Whether it’s reading a book, taking a bath, or simply enjoying a cup of tea, downtime is crucial. 
  • Reach out to your loved ones to tell them you appreciate them. 
  • Physical activity can be a great stress reliever. Go for a walk, practice yoga, or engage in other forms of movement that you enjoy. This will help you stay energized and manage holiday-related stress. 
  • Take time to make fun holiday plans to deepen your relationships with friends and family.    
  • While the holidays can be busy, make time to connect with family and friends. Meaningful connections and emotional support can be a source of strength during the holidays. 

We hope that you consider participating in some “goodness” this holiday season whether by contributing to philanthropy or through acts of kindness to yourself and those around you.  

From the Idea Hall Team, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! We are grateful for you!