Feeling all bah hum-bug?
Jumpstart the spirit of the season with 12 Ways of Giving
Ready or not, the holidays are here. And for most people, that means the holiday stress has also arrived. If you’re suffering from a case of the holiday blues, we have a great way to re-energize your defunct holiday spirit – kick off the season on a charitable note.
It really does feel good to know you’re helping others, and if you’re concerned about your budget, don’t worry. Some of the ways you can help your neighbors won’t cost you anything but a little bit of your time.
To help you get started, we compiled a list of 12 ways you can give this holiday season. Some are in keeping with the holiday season, others aren’t. Some are local; others are national organizations. But all are guaranteed to get you back in touch with the real meaning of the season.
Salvation Army — Bell ringers volunteer their time each year to help raise funds for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign, and even dropping spare change in the kettle can make a difference. Donations collected during the Kettle Campaign provide Christmas dinners, clothing, and toys for families in need. Financial assistance also helps with basic necessities, along with seasonal aid. Families of prisoners often are included. Volunteers distribute gifts to shut-ins in hospitals and nursing homes, and shelters are open for sit-down dinners. It is also important to note that many families receive aid for a period of time after the holiday season, particularly those struggling with difficult family, emotional or employment problems. The Kettle Campaign is just one initiative of the Salvation Army. The organization offers assistance to those in need of food, shelter and warmth all year long, and its efforts range from disaster relief to adult rehabilitation, elderly services and much more. To learn more about making a contribution, or volunteering, visit www.salvationarmyusa.org.
Food Banks — Let’s stock the shelves of local food banks so no one goes hungry this holiday season. You can make a monetary donation in any amount, or pick up one or two extra canned goods the next time you’re at the grocery store. It all adds up, and it all helps. To find the major food bank distributor in your area, call 1-855-501-6785.
Marines Toys for Tots — You don’t have to spend a fortune to help brighten a child’s holiday this year, and donations to Toys for Tots makes a tremendous difference for those in need. While you’re out shopping this year, why not pick up a coloring book and crayons or a copy of your favorite book from childhood? Any new, unwrapped toy will be appreciated by a child in need in your community. (Remember, you don’t have to limit your donation to a toy that’s appropriate for a toddler. The campaign assists children up to age 12, and in some communities, the age limit may be extended to age 16). To find a collection site near you, visit www.toysfortots.org. Donations will also be accepted at the opening reception for the Festival of Trees on Dec. 14 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Electric City Trolley Station & Museum in Scranton. Tickets are $20 to attend the reception. To learn more about the Festival of Trees, visit www.lackawannacounty.org.
Libraries — You may not think of your local library during the holidays, but why not? Book donations are always welcome (be sure they are new or in good condition) and many libraries offer memorial or honorary book plates that you can purchase in a loved one’s name. At the Osterhout Free Library in Wilkes-Barre, these memorial contributions cost between $20 and $25. If you’d like to offer a literary gift this holiday season, contact your local library for more information.
Dress for Success — If you’d like to help economically challenged women find economic independence, a donation to Dress for Success is a great option. We’re fortunate to have to have two organizations in The 570 — Dress for Success Lackawanna, and Dress for Success Luzerne. Dress for Success provides work appropriate clothing for an interview, and once clients get a job, the organization provides them with a week’s worth of working wardrobe. They also offer resume assistance, networking support and more. The search for employment doesn’t take a break for the holidays, so if you’d like to help, monetary donations are accepted as well as donations of clothing, shoes and accessories in very good condition. To learn how you can help and get in touch with the Dress for Success office in your community, visit www.dressforsuccess.org.
Donate Blood — It may not be the first type of donation that comes to mind during the holidays, but donations of blood are always needed this time of year. This year, the need is even greater due to the impact of Hurricane Sandy. It won’t cost you anything more than an hour of your time. To learn more about making a blood donation in your community, visit www.redcrossblood.org.
Hurricane Sandy Relief —Many of our neighbors along the east coast will still be trying to recover from the devastation of Sandy during the holidays. To make a contribution to the American Red Cross, visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
You may also send contributions to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC, 20013. Donations will be used to defray the costs of providing food, shelter and emotional support to those impacted by Sandy. Another way you can help is by organizing a fundraiser in your hometown. To get started, contact your local Red Cross so that they can be sure you have the materials you need to conduct your fundraiser. For more information, contact your local Red Cross Chapter. In Lackawanna, Bradford-Sullivan, Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties, call 207-0111. In the Wyoming Valley and Hazleton, call 823-7161, extension 325. In Wayne and Pike Counties, call 476-3800.
The Gift of Shoes — We all buy shoes, and if you buy yours from Toms Shoes, a pair will also be given to a child in need. It’s all part of the “One for One” program, which has put new shoes on the feet of 2,000,0000 children in need across the world. To learn more, visit www.toms.com.
Christmas Holiday Bureau — Established in 1950 to provide limited financial assistance during the holidays to low-income families in Lackawanna County, the Christmas Holiday Bureau of the Voluntary Action Center (VAC) accepts donations starting at $1. Here’s how it works: through gift cards, eligible recipients can purchase clothing, food or toys to help make the holiday season special. Volunteers play a critical role in this program, which serves more than 3,000 people annually. The VAC also coordinates with the Salvation Army to avoid duplication of services. This year, the Christmas Holiday Bureau hopes to help approximately 4,000 people. To learn more about how you can help, visit www.vacnepa.org
Don’t forget our furry friends — There are numerous animal shelters in the area, including the Humane Society of Lackawanna County, the SPCA of Luzerne County, Blue Chip Farms Animal Rescue, just to name a few, all are in need of donations and volunteers. From picking up an extra bag of kitty litter the next time you’re shopping to volunteering to walk a pup that could use a buddy, there are lots of ways you can help. Contact your favorite shelter for donation and volunteer opportunities.
Goodwill Industries — Goodwill Industries of Northeastern Pennsylvania recently opened a new center at 1501 Wheeler Ave., Dunmore. The center accepts clothing, household goods, furniture, books and toys (in good condition, of course). If you’d like to make a donation, stop by the center Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. or Sunday from 12 to 6 p.m. For more information, call 290-1575. To find a Goodwill store or donation site near you, visit www.goodwillnepa.com.
United Way — With numerous initiatives to help those in need, the United Way accepts monetary donations and offers plenty of volunteer opportunities. To learn how you can help, visit www.uwlc.net if you live in Lackawanna County, and visit www.unitedwaywb.org if you live in the Wyoming Valley.
OK, so we couldn’t limit ourselves to just 12 ideas. Here’s one more!
Wounded Warrior Project — Their mission is “to honor and empower wounded warriors.” The Wounded Warrior Project aims to raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members; help injured service members aid and assist each other; and provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members. There are lots of ways you can offer support to this cause, from monetary donations, to running in the next Tough Mudder competition, and even donating a Facebook post or tweet. To learn more, visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org.
— julie imel