We all know that one person that is impossible to buy for during the holiday season. Whether it's because they have everything or they refuse to cough up their Christmas list, you're always left stumped on what to leave them under the tree. A family friend of mine, has a neat way to combat this frustrating situation, and to make sure that she isn't just spending money on useless things. She takes that money she would spend on a gift, and makes donations to charities on the behalf of who is receiving the gift or on the behalf of someone they love. When I first heard this idea, I was in awe. It was such a simplistic yet beautiful thing. It embodies the true meaning of this holiday season and it brought so much joy to my heart, as I know it brought joy to those receiving care as a result of those charities. So this holiday season, I encourage you to help out the less fortunate and to give a gift that really matters. Instead of buying candles, and mittens, and all those other cliché Christmas gifts for coworkers, friends or that person you thought of reading the first sentence of this article give to a charity or a ministry that has its sights set on bettering the world. Listed below are a few charities that are easy to donate to and have some really cool missions that would appreciate your holiday donation.

Heifer International

Heifer International uses the “to teach a man to fish” philosophy to empower families that struggle with hunger. Heifer International works to bring sustainable food and commerce to areas with longstanding histories with food insecurity. Countries impacted by Heifer International include Africa, Nepal, Haiti and even projects here in the United States. Heifer works by allowing families to donate money to purchase livestock-goats, cows, buffalo, and chickens- that are then donated to families in impoverished areas. These families can use the animals for food, agricultural work, or use their direct products, eggs or milk, as a source of income. Families then take this training and experience and pass it on to another family with the firstborn of their livestock. To help Heifer International and their mission of sustainability check out their website https://www.heifer.org.

Pay Away the Layaway

Many retailers offer the option of paying for items during the season through a process called layaway. Customers can place items that are too expensive for purchasing at once on layaway, and pay for the item over a period of time. Families can pick up their layaway items once the price has been paid in full. Pay Away the Layaway and their team of “Layaway Angels” partner with stores to pay off families’ layaway carts and surprise them with these gifts during the holidays. Many professional athletes have teamed up with Pay Away the Layaway to help relieve the financial burden of Christmas presents for families. To donate money towards a families layaway cart you can visit Pay Away the Layaway’s site at http://www.payawaythelayaway.org.

St. Jude

Well known for its mission to end childhood cancer, St. Jude is one of the leading research centers for the study and treatment of pediatric cancer and other life-threatening illness. St. Jude operates at no cost to families of patients thanks to individual donations. Christmas is an extremely hard time for families of children with illness, many residents of St. Jude will stay in their facility over the holiday. Donating to this wonderful foundation and research center not only gives money to fund research but also helps in giving these families free treatment and the most enjoyable stay possible during this holiday season. When donating you can also opt to send a Christmas card to a child in the center. To donate to St. Jude you can visit their website at https://www.stjude.org.

Salvation Army

Do you remember the first time you went shopping during the Christmas holidays and heard a bell ring outside of a department store? You glanced over to see a volunteer, maybe Santa, standing next to a red kettle being filled with change from shoppers passing by. You wondered what that was all about? This holiday memory is thanks to The Salvation Army. While The Salvation Army has hundreds of ministries and ways to help those in need, their red kettle project has been one of the most successful in fighting to end hunger during the holidays. Since 1981 when Joseph McFee set out the first red kettle in the Oakland Ferry Landing in San Francisco, this project has grown to help over four-and-a-half million people receive a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner during the holiday season. To help the Salvation Army fund this initiative or for more information on the other ministries they provide check them out at http://www.salvationarmyusa.org,

Toys for Tots

Sponsored and run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots' mission is to provide the message of hope to less-fortunate children through a new toy at Christmas time. Many cities and towns have local level Toys for Tots programs in which new toys can be donated, many of these programs are run by veterans or local law enforcement. To find where you can donate toys in your local level or to make an online donation visit their website http://www.toysfortots.org/Default.aspx.

Cure International

Cure International is a faith-based charity striving to help children with disabilities in countries where, often times, medical assistance is unattainable and unaffordable. The children Cure work to help are those who are least protected, under fed, and not included in social activity due to their disability. They also work to provide spiritual help and support to these children who grow up in cultures that often believe their disability is due to a curse and deems them unworthy of love. Currently Cure has ten hospitals in places like Niger, Uganda, Ethiopia, the Dominican Republic, and Afghanistan where they provide life-changing medical care. Cure International allows you to donate one time on the behalf of a child in need, or monthly for multiple children. If you are unable to give monetarily at this time, their website provides the option to send a get-well soon card to children recovering in their hospitals and clinics. I encourage everyone to visit them at https://cure.org to send a card and consider donating.