Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Seasonal Giving

image from Coalition for the Homeless
The faith-based homeless shelter I volunteer at asks its volunteers to do one night of service a month. Considering that we arrive at 7:30pm, grocery shop, set out food and beds, sleep in fold up cots, wake by 6am to set out breakfast and then clean up, I find this request to be quite fair. It is an exhausting 12 hours.

Of course, if I ever feel tired, I just think of the guests. They have far more grueling daily schedules of work or required classes followed by shelter assignments, busing to the shelters, making up cots, and settling into a school gym or church basement night after night without the reprieve of privacy at nearly any point for weeks or months on end.

For most months of the year, each volunteer does his or her requested monthly service, and the calendar fills up without too much struggle. This particular shelter has not had to close a single night due to lack of volunteers in over 30 years, and that's a point of pride because it means every night someone has stepped up to keep the guests from having to sleep on chairs at the city's drop-in center. But in the summer months, when many New Yorkers are out of town, there tend to be holes in the calendar, and those who keep the shelter running smoothly are forced to send a flurry of emails asking if anyone can step in on multiple dates.

In December, on the other hand, many new volunteers join, looking for a way to give back. It is one of the beautiful things of this season -- people start looking for ways to make additional charitable donations of their time or money.

If you're looking for a way to donate this season, and you'd prefer to give monetary help, here are a few options. Amazon Wish List makes giving a toy so easy -- just a few clicks and the toy is shipped off to the charity -- and one still gets to pick out the toy she'd like to give. One can also adopt a military family, or donate a tree to a family, if she prefers...

Coalition for the Homeless
Send a child a toy through Amazon Wish List
Tonight more than 22,000 children will sleep in homeless shelters - that's a 65% increase in the last decade alone. Homelessness is devastating for anyone, but especially a child. When moving from shelter to shelter, toys, books and other special mementos are often lost or must be left behind. A simple toy can make a world of difference to these youngsters. Please help us give these kids a happier holiday season!

The Family Center
Send a child a toy through Amazon Wish List
The holidays can be extremely challenging for the children we serve. Limited resources, parental illness, and other stressful situations make it difficult for our children and their families to celebrate. The Family Center holds an annual Toy Drive to serve hundreds of children in an effort to brighten their holidays.

New Hope for Kids
Send a child a toy through Amazon Wish List
New Hope for Kids’ goal each holiday season is to help provide gifts to the children and families in our grief and wish programs. In addition to the struggles caused by the economy, many of our families are also dealing with financial burdens caused by the death of their wage earner or because of medical expenses due to illness. Please help us make their holiday a memorable one!

Today's Toy Drive
Send a child a toy through Amazon Wish List
TODAY has kicked off our Holiday Toy and Gift Drive – and this year we’re celebrating 20 years of giving. Since 1994, we've distributed more than $335 million in donations, helping more than 3 million underprivileged children, to more than 200 organizations across America and to U.S. military bases abroad.

NYU & 9th Police Precinct 2013 Holiday Toy Drive
Send a child a toy through Amazon Wish List
Help brighten the holidays for local children living in the 9th Police Precinct, the East Village, and the Lower East Side, as well as children attending the Herbert G. Birch Manhattan Early Childhood Center serving those with autism and other special needs.

U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots
Check their page for a toy donation center near you.
The mission of the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community in which the campaign is conducted.

Thank Military Families
Adopt a family on their page.
Many military children wake up with little to no gifts on Christmas morning because their families are struggling to make ends meet. For so many of these heroic families the holidays can be a stressful, disappointing time...especially for families of troops deployed over Christmas. So, to say thank you to the families of deployed service men and women for their invaluable sacrifices, we launched a special program to help provide Christmas gifts for military families in need. 2013 marks our 7th year connecting individuals, businesses and groups with military families in need for the holidays.

Trees for Troops
Donate to send a tree, or buy a stuffed bear to help donate.
Imagine a smiling group of U.S. troops gathered around a Christmas Tree that was grown on an American farm and express shipped to arrive fresh and green somewhere on the other side of the world, just in time for Christmas. Or, imagine a spouse and children sharing joyous memories of Christmas through the gift of free, real Christmas Tree while their family member is away serving our country. Trees for Troops® makes this vision a reality!

I gave some Monster High dolls, because that's what I imagine I'd want if I were a child now. It was fun to go through the choices... if you give, I'd love to hear what you chose!

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"There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- God damn it, you've got to be kind."
-Kurt Vonnegut