12 ways you can do your bit for charity this Christmas - and you don’t have to spend a penny

Norwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

In an ideal world, we would help charities all year round.

Norwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

But they call the festive time the season of goodwill for a reason - most likely because, as we gear up to spend time with our families, opening presents and eating a hefty lunch, it's hard not to think of those less fortunate.

So, if you are feeling charitable, here are 12 ways you can help worthy causes around the county this Christmas - for some, you won't have to spend a penny.

1. Give the gift of reading to a child in care

Shoppers in Norwich Waterstones can give a child in care the gift of a book at Christmas.

The Giving Tree Appeal, now in its 12th year, invites people to pick a card off a Christmas tree in the shop and buy the book for a child in care.

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2. Help families in need stock their cupboards

Foodbanks are in need of support all year round, but demand spikes for food parcels around the festive season.

Norwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The Norwich foodbank in particular says its most needed items are fruit juice, long life milk, rice pudding, tinned tomatoes and shampoo and shower gel.

There's plenty of information about drop-off points on foodbank websites.

MORE: T'is the season - city foodbank launches Upside Down Christmas

3. Donate your time

It sounds cheesy, but if you want to help without spending any money, the best way is to donate your time.

There plenty of wonderful charities around Norfolk that would be grateful for the help. For more information, click here.

4. Help others through Christmas cards

A really easy one - instead of heading to a shopping centre or supermarket to buy your Christmas cards this year, instead visit the Original Norwich Charity Christmas Card Shop on St Stephens Street.

The pop-up shop has been up and running for 52 years, and has raised almost £2m to date.

It sells cards from various local and national charities, and is staffed by volunteers.

MORE: Charity Christmas card shop to open in Norwich next week

5. Jump out of a plane - in a big red suit

UK Parachuting, based at Beccles Airfield, organises festive skydives for people who fancy jumping out of a plane dressed as Santa. This year, several jumps will be held on December 1, in aid of charities including Leeway and St Luke's Hospice.

6. Charity Christmas campaigns

Unsurprisingly, many charities organise festive campaigns, from hospitals seeking donated Christmas presents for its patients to causes hoping to stock refuge centres. Those with campaigns this year include Leeway, the Salvation Army and the Benjamin Foundation.

7. Give yourself a chance of winning £5,000

The Samaritans is running a Christmas raffle from December 3 to 18, with tickets costing just £1.

The main prize is £5,000, but there are 12 other prizes up for grabs.

The beloved charity, which has branches in Norwich, King's Lynn, Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth, says that the cost of five raffle tickets is the equivalent of answering one call for help.

To enter, visit samaritans.charitylotteries.co.uk

8. Help a hamper scheme feed a family

The Norwich Basket Brigade initiative was inspired by Anthony Robbins and is part of a wider network which has been running around the world for more than 30 years.

It sees teams create food hampers for families and people who may be in need of help around Christmas.

There are plenty of roles on offer locally, including volunteer fundraisers, crafters, basket makers, drivers and photographers, or you can donate goods which will be used in the hampers.

And if you know anyone who you think could do with help around the festive time, you can nominate them to receive a basket by clicking here.

9. Norwich Open Christmas donations

The Norwich Open Christmas lunch has become a loved part of the city's festive calendar.

Norwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich Open Christmas at St Andrew's Hall.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Held at St Andrew's Hall in the city centre, it serves lunch to hundreds of people who are homeless or alone at Christmas.

As well as a hot meal, served by an army of volunteers, it also gives goods to those in need, including warm clothing and food to take home.

The cause is looking for donations of goods including breakfast cereals, tinned stews and soups, instant mashed potato, hats, gloves, scarves, coats, compact sleeping bags and plenty more.

To find out more, click here.

At a similar event in Great Yarmouth, the team is appealing for minibus drivers to transport passengers and donations from local businesses.

MORE: Norwich opens its arms to hundreds at beloved Christmas Day lunch

10. Take someone in on Christmas Day

There are plenty of people who don't have someone to spend the holidays with. Community Christmas aims to ensure that no elderly person spends the day alone, and encourages people to start community events where people can meet.

While it supports bigger events - trips to the pub or showing a film in a village hall, for example - the charity also encourages smaller gestures too, such as inviting an elderly neighbour round for lunch.

To find out more, and for events in Norfolk, click here.

11. Shop through the right website

If you do your Christmas shopping with the right websites, you'll be donating to charity without even realising it.

Sites including Easy Fundraising have links with retailers including M&S, Sainsbury's, Amazon, Ebay and John Lewis.

Search for your cause on the website - there are plenty of Norfolk ones which have signed up - create an account, and shop as normal, and the charity will receive a portion of your spending.

12. Befriend someone on their own

Age UK, which has Norwich and Norfolk teams, is always on the look-out for people who can become befrienders.

Volunteers are matched with someone aged 60 or above, and can either call them weekly or pop round to see them.

The opportunity to talk or just watch a television show together can provide companionship to someone who may otherwise not have it.

• If you are a charity looking for extra help over the Christmas period, please leave details in the comments section.