How to Throw a Holiday Party That Gives Back

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Mark Addison, a top New York City event planner, is the expert on all things chic and has put his good taste to use with Kelly Ripa, Antonio Banderas and Jennifer Lopez. Here, he provides entertaining tips perfect for the holiday season.

How many of us are guilty of going through the motions of throwing the same old holiday party every year, without truly embracing the spirit of the giving season?

Perhaps you invite your family and friends to your home, play a round or two of Secret Santa and follow it up with the timeless holiday tradition of eating and drinking until your belt is ready to bust.

While you may not realize it, you are one of the lucky ones. Millions of people around the world (some as close as right next-door) are not as fortunate as you and in many cases, have no idea where they will find their next meal.

From Jennifer Aniston's work to support underprivileged children's education to Oprah Winfrey's creation of the Angel Network, celebrities are constantly using their influence and personal funds to help those in need. This year, as you prepare for your annual holiday celebration, take a page out of these stars' books by hosting a party with a higher purpose.

Here are a few tips to help put your helping hands into action and show that it really is better to give than it is to receive:

Get Creative for the Cause! Rather than buying expensive holiday foliage and flowers, decorate with household items and donate the money saved to a charity of your choice.

One of my favorite decorations is a tablescape of clear vases and containers of varying heights filled with colored water. Try a combination of red and green for a classic holiday palette or tones of blue for that icy wintery feel. Top off each beautiful display with a framed announcement on the table noting that, in lieu of holiday flowers, this decorative concept allowed you to make a donation to your chosen charity.

Host a Holiday Gift Drive! Spread the joy of giving with your own neighborhood holiday gift drive to benefit a local charitable organization. The concept is easy: Simply call a local shelter or charity and work with them to put together a list of items needed for the donation. Then assign your guests to bring one or more of the items, along with packaging and wrapping decorations. Set out snacks and drinks. Then create a wrapping assembly line or individual decorating stations.

Think Big! If you're looking to take the next step in getting really involved, host a Gifting Party — asking guests to purchase items that charities need on a yearly basis to operate. We're not just talking about toys, food and clothing…but bigger ticket items that that the organizations simply cannot afford due to budget cut backs and a shortfalls of corporate donations.

Once you identify an organization you'd like to support, determine what "needs" are their top priority. Guests can then bring a check to the party made out to the charity of choice to cover the cost. In recognition of their generosity, handwrite their name and the "need" that she fulfilled on a holiday tag. Then attach each tag to an ornament or holiday collectible and display them together at the party. Afterward, deliver the ornaments and checks to the charity.

By Mark Addison for UsMagazine.com. For more of Mark's tips, visit his Web site.

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