The commercials have begun, The Toy Insider’s Holiday Toy Guide has been released, Santa will soon be arriving at the mall, and the peppermint mocha is flowing. Whether you consider yourself a pre-Thanksgiving or post-Thanksgiving participant, the reality is that the holiday season is upon us. The time has come to think about the spirit of giving.

Raising two daughters and working with toys on a daily basis, I’m always mindful of the fact that our family is very fortunate to be able to live and play like we do, but also that many others are having a tough time and may be doing without.

This year is already a little bit different. For the first time, I know that our girls are friends with kids whose families are struggling. You can learn a lot from what kids tell each other. However, it’s particularly heartbreaking to have another child that’s not your own start sharing their concerns. These are kids in the 4 to 7 age range, and sadly, their plight is not unique.

There are many fantastic national organizations that accomplish some great things during the holiday season, but I’ve always been in agreement with the old saying that “charity begins at home.” Or, at least close to it.

Much like shopping local can have a genuine positive impact on our communities, giving local can lift spirits of families. Many we may see in passing every day, all without knowing what they’re dealing with. With that in mind, I started my own holiday toy giving program. I provide gifts for children in the five towns served by our local township. Each year, my daughters and I make a delivery to a case worker who places the toys with families who will never know where they came from. I’m acting as a “Rock Father Santa” of sorts, while teaching my little “elves” what doing good is all about.

The power of play is a magical thing. There’s few things better than the joy of a child unwrapping a new toy. However, toy donations aren’t the only area ripe for local giving. Diaper Banks and Food Pantries are entering their busy season and could use some help stocking the shelves. You can even read about how to donate stuffed animals and how to give gently used toys a second chance.

As you prepare to open your hearts and wallets this holiday season, I invite you to take a real look at the area in which you live and work. Whether it be your town, your city, your township, parish or county, there’s probably smaller, hyper-focused initiatives taking place. Initiatives where even a small donation could make a major difference for families close by—quite possibly for one of your neighbors.