This is one of the happiest times of year for a lot of people, but one of the hardest for others. It’s easy to get swept up in the pressures of party planning and gift buying during the holidays and forget about people who can’t afford to buy presents, or who suffer from chronic illness, or those don’t even have a roof over their heads this year. If you’re looking to give back this holiday season, here are some great options.

The Daily Bread Food Bank
This is one of the busiest times of year at the Daily Bread, and they desperately need volunteers to help sort food and get it ready to go for the people who need it. Or, even better, run a food drive with your holiday party this year!

United Way
There are a number of ways to get involved with United Way. You can donate, work as a volunteer at events, do a United Way campaign at your workplace, or get involved with the GenNext program, geared at people in their 20s and 30s who want to make a positive difference in their city.

The Salvation Army
This is also the busiest time of year for the Salvation Army, so volunteer if you have the time. The Salvation Army does a huge amount for the community, from providing clothing, food, accommodation and counseling, to street youth services and addiction services, a Young Parent Resource Centres and more. If you volunteer, you can be assisting in anything from office work, to sorting food or clothes, or raising money by ringin’ a bell at one of their Christmas Kettles.

Child’s Play
This is one of the sweetest charities around. Child’s Play works with Children’s hospitals to purchase toys, games, books and cash. Hospitals like Sick Kids have a wishlist you can purchase items from that will go directly to kids in the hospital, or you can give money through Paypal., written up in Time‘s 50 Best Websites of 2009, is a way to lend money to people in developing countries. Kiva links people like you or me to “micro-peneurs” in the developing world, and you can lend as little as $25 to the Kiva applicant of your choice. Kiva has a 1% default rate so you can count on getting your money back and donating to someone else in need.

Toronto Humane Society/SPCA
So the Humane Society has gotten a lot of flack this year in terms of misspending donated money, but that doesn’t mean needy animals should suffer. Donate to the SPCA, or if you’re planning on getting a pet, please, adopt one who is in need! There’s also no reason why you shouldn’t continue to support the animals at the Toronto Humane Society – a TD bank account has been set up, the funds in which will only go towards the direct care of animals, not towards THS’ legal fees. You can find the info here.

Out of the Cold.
We all have some blankets, sleeping bags or cozy clothes that we don’t need anymore – you can donate them to Out of the Cold, and feel good about helping to keep someone warm this winter.

We can’t possibly talk about every deserving charity you can give to this holiday season, but if you’re interested in learning about other charities you can give to, have a look at May you feel warm and fuzzy this season!