Seven ways to do good this holiday season

Volunteers serve the community meal at St. Paul’s Episcopal church

Do you hear that sound? It’s like a mixture of turkeys gobbling, sleigh bells ringing, winter wind blowing, carolers caroling, and old Santa Claus himself laughing that semi-maniacle laugh he always does. It’s the holiday season, sneaking up on you like a ninja.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and after that, well, you know how it goes. It all happens pretty fast from now until New Years.

This time of year always seems to bring out the best in folks, and we’ve noticed several local businesses and organizations hosting food drives and other community-oriented initiatives, plus we always get requests for places to volunteer around the holidays.

Here’s a quick list of seven ways to help out in and around Fayetteville this year.

1. Participate in a local food drive

With the increased demand this time of year, local food banks are always looking to stock up around the holidays.

That’s probably why we’ve noticed several local businesses holding food drives for various local pantries this time of year.

Southern Food Co. is collecting non-perishable food items for the Full Circle Food Pantry during the entire month of November. Patrons that bring in an item will receive a free appetizer or pastry from the restaurant for their donation. Patrons are welcome to call ahead and ask about what items are in need. Southern Food Co. is located at 3575 W Wedington Dr, Suite 3 in Fayetteville.

Grub’s is collecting food items for the NWA Food Bank from Nov. 15-Dec. 15 at all of their Northwest Arkansas locations. The restaurant is offering 10% off on food orders for anyone who brings a donation for the drive. Grub’s has restaurants at 220 West Ave in Fayetteville, 3467 Shiloh Drive in Fayetteville, 3001 Market Street in Rogers, and at 8302 Phoenix Ave. in Fort Smith.

Another Fayetteville restaurant and watering hole, Bear’s Place, will be hosting a food drive for Life Source and 7 Hills Homeless Center every Wednesday night through Jan. 3. Bear’s Place is located at 504 E 15th St.

First Security Bank is hosting a food drive at all their NWA locations through Nov. 20, seeking specific items such as peanut/almond/sunflower butters, canned fruit/vegetables (with a pop top), granola/protein bars, dry pasta, dried beans/lentils, brown rice/quinoa, cereals/oatmeal, nuts/seeds/dried fruit, beef jerky and crackers. Here’s a map of First Security Bank locations.

These are just the local drives we’ve come across so far. Feel free to let folks know about others in the comments below.

2. Donate directly to a local food pantry

If you’d rather donate directly to a local food pantry, there are plenty around the region that accept items. Here are a handful of the larger ones, with their physical location to give you a few options to start with.

Life Source International Inc.
600 S School Ave,
Fayetteville, AR 72701

Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Campus Food Pantry
324 Stadium Dr,
Fayetteville, AR 72701

Northwest Arkansas Food Bank
1378 June Self Dr,
Bethel Heights, AR 72764

The Salvation Army of Northwest Arkansas
219 W 15th St,
Fayetteville, AR 72701

7 Hills Homeless Center
1832 S School Ave.
Fayetteville, AR 72701

3. Fill a Little Free Pantry

Since Fayetteville resident Jessica McClard started the first Little Free Pantry at her church at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church last summer, her “take-what-you-need-style” roadside pantries have become a movement around the country.

There are now about 26 of handful of them in Northwest Arkansas, and hundreds more around the country.

Anyone can stop by and stock them up at any time. Here’s a map of some of the Little Free Pantry’s currently established and accepting donations around the world that you could stop by and help restock.

Better yet, you could also head to the hardware store and build your own.

4. Volunteer at a community meal

There aren’t many better ways that we can think of to connect with someone than to share a meal with them. There are several community meals that happen in Fayetteville throughout the week, and the organizations that host them are always seeking donations and volunteers to keep these vital programs running.

Salvation Army hosts large Thanksgiving day meals at both their NWA locations from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Also this year, local resident Quinn Childress raised over $5,000 on a GoFundMe campaign to create a Thanksgiving community meal for 7 Hills Homeless Shelter.

In addition, St. Paul’s Episcopal hosts meals at noon every Monday and Wednesday in their Parish Hall. Central United Methodist Church on Dickson Street hosts meals every Tuesday and Thursday at 11:30 a.m. 7 Hills at 1832 S. School serves a meal every Friday at 11:30 a.m., and Genesis (205 W. MLK) serves dinner every Thursday night at 6:30 p.m.

5. Donate to a local organization

There are hundreds of non profits and charitable organizations in Northwest Arkansas, and nearly all of them rely on donations from businesses and individuals to carry on their various missions.

We aren’t going to list them all here, but consider this a reminder that your favorite local charity could no doubt use a little bit of help.

Giving Tuesday, which falls on Nov. 28 this year, is a good day to mark your calendar and plan to donate to the cause that’s near and dear to your heart.

6. Help out some local kids

The holiday season can me magical for children, but it can also be heartbreaking for folks who are struggling to make ends meet.

There are several local organizations that accept donations of toys or needed items for children this time of year.

The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program comes to mind. Walmart Stores around the region will host Angel Trees this yearHere’s a list of participating locations. For those aren’t familiar, here’s how it works. Local families in need sign up with the program, “angels” are placed on a Christmas tree in participating retailers listing the items local children want or need. Members of the public can take down and angel, purchase the items, wrap them up, and they’ll be given to the families for the holidays.

Local police departments around the region participate in their annual Shop with a Cop programs this time of year.

There’s also the Toys for Tots program, locally administered by Life Source International.

7. Attend an alternative gift market

If you’re not looking to stand in line at a big box store on Black Friday shopping for the latest and greatest gadgets and other mass-produced materialism, maybe an Alternative Gift Market is the way to go for your gifts this year.

The biggest local one that we know if happens on Dec. 3 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and in lieu of objects, you can purchase items in someones name, such as “food for the hungry, care for the sick, shelter for the homeless, renewal for our endangered planet and other meaningful alternatives to the usual holiday gifts.”

Here’s a bit more info about St. Paul’s annual alternative gift market.

This article is sponsored by First Security Bank. For more great stories of Arkansas food, travel, sports, music and more, visit