Monday, November 10, 2014

Holiday Volunteer and Donation Opportunities; specific to the Austin, TX area

Original photo by Jeff Sheldon

The Holidays are upon us! This year I wanted to do more giving than receiving, and I wanted to do it in a way that really helped people in my community and city. I've been wanting to do this every year, for many years, as a lot of people would like to. But of course, I never really do much 'giving back' at all, not since I was in high school anyway. Like most of us, I spend the Holiday season running around like a crazy woman, stressing out about how I'm going to get the 100 hours worth of things I need to get done; my daughter's dance and karate classes, crafts and activities, new recipes for my blog, breakfasts/lunches/dinners, grocery shopping, house work, Holiday events, family gatherings, etc. all into the few short hours each day provides me with.

Basically, it's all about me and my family, us, and all the things we feel like we need need need and just absolutely have to get done! But we're losing touch with the world around us. This year, I finally took a step back, breathed, and decided; I will do what I can do, and everything else, I've got to let go. *insert over-heard Frozen song here* But what really does matter, you might ask?

Our planet; its animals, people... Our families matter, and the time we have to spend with them that we aren't detached, lost in our cell phones and televisions or dragging them around to spend money on junk we've convinced ourselves that we have to have. Our neighbors matter, strangers matter, the state of the hearts around us, really matter.

Taking a step outside of my bubble I see that there are people in need, all around me. I've known this for a long time. But I'm choosing not to ignore it anymore, and I hope you do, too. It's not just homeless people we believe don't want to work, but real people just like you and me. Kids just like ours. They're people who've lost a spouse or a home, children who only eat what the school provides because there isn't enough food at home, women who are victims of domestic violence with no place to go and no way to start over. It's elderly who can't go to the grocery store on their own or change a simple light bulb, homeless animals with no food or shelter from the winter, families who've just been given life changing diagnoses for their children that they can't afford...

These people are also coming up on the Holidays, just like you and me. I implore you to put the one-sided thinking aside, about how these people could have and should have done something differently at some point, to avoid getting into the situations they're in. I implore you to feel it on your heart, to think about people who are hurting physically and emotionally, especially at the Holidays. You can care, and you can teach your children to care, too.

I've compiled a seriously huge list of links (with descriptions) to organizations that welcome donations and volunteers all year 'round, but some also have specific Holiday programs as well, to get you guys into the giving back mood this Holiday season. Many of these places also welcome children, so long as they're accompanied by an adult. If you're choosing to just donate, then your children can absolutely help and you can use this as a great learning experience for them!

If you're interested in giving back in other ways as well, check out my other post that's a list of things you and your kids can do easily to give back to your friends, family, neighbors, animals and community! *Stay tuned - as I haven't published that post yet. I will link it here when I have!*

Keep in mind that all of these places also accept cash donations, but my point of this post was to help y'all get more involved in the world around you and to help teach your children some seriously important values. :) Remember that the Holidays aren't the only time to care about one another and give back and perhaps you guys will find something you can help out with/donate to year 'round!

SafePlace is all about ending sexual and domestic violence. You can volunteer, sponsor a family during their Holiday program, or simply donate some items on their list of things desperately needed. You can even donate old, unused or broken electronics through The SafePlace Electronics Recycling Program, which SafePlace has recycled in accordance with EPA regulations, and 100% of the proceeds go towards funding their programs and services. And you get to claim a tax deduction on the donated items! For the animal supporters out there, you can even foster a family's pet while they're away from their home.

ADB is a non-profit organization that collects diapers which are in turn given to not only families stricken by disaster or poverty, but the elderly as well. Take a look at what they're looking for and consider donating unused diapers or picking up a pack on sale for a donation during the Holiday season!

The Foundation for the Homeless accepts donations of furniture,  travel sized toiletries, clean socks, new or gently worn clothes, backpacks, sneakers, blankets, and warm winter gloves/hats, etc. There are other ways to get involved, too, by volunteering to help serve breakfasts and more!

There are a lot of ways to give back through the Capital Area Food Bank. Did you know that nearly 46,000 Central Texans rely on the Capital Area Food Bank to deliver nutritious foods that they wouldn't otherwise be able to afford, and that one third of those are children? Did you know that due to the fact that Central Texas is among the fastest growing regions in the nation many of those families had to choose between paying for food and paying for housing in the past year? You can help by donating food or what you can gather in piggy bank coins (which ended up being over $200 for us last year!), or by volunteering your time for various things. You can even host your own food drive!

MoW delivers more than 3,000 meals each business day to the homebound and disabled, older adults and veterans. You can volunteer in many ways, such as delivering hot meals, transporting pets to and from the veterinarian and delivering pet food, dog walking and pet grooming, helping those with Alzheimer's via Mike's Place, helping with home repairs and modifications (also via Handy Wheels - for the more minor things like light bulb changing, installing safety rails, raking lawns, etc.), and many many more.

While some families are displaced at the Ronald McDonald House because their children are hospitalized nearby, you can volunteer by cooking a meal or  having a meal delivered, adopting a room by providing frequently used items, be a weekly house volunteer, help deep clean, or simply donate items to help these families live comfortably and cope during this hard time in the Holiday season.

Providing coats for children this Holiday season, Coats for Kids is in particular need of volunteers who speak languages aside from English, particularly Spanish and American Sign Language. They are also in need of, you guessed it, coats! Check out the website to find drop off locations and dates for coat drives.

ML&F provides food and clothing while promoting dignity to the homeless. You can volunteer to help make sandwiches and load the trucks, drive a truck and pass out food and goods, pick up donated items from local businesses, bake desserts, etc.

Make and/or donate to Seton's Care Wear for Infants; blankets, positioning logs, wraps, diaper shirts, hats and booties and mittens in all sizes from premature to extra large.

The Austin Humane Society is a non-profit animal shelter that welcomes volunteers as well as families interested in fostering a pet/litter temporarily. They are also looking for a great deal of items, including bedding, heating pads, can openers, kitty litter, medical supplies, cleaning supplies, bowls, crates, treats and more! You can also adopt a kennel or check out their Holiday Giving Guide to find out how else you can give back to the Humane Society this Holiday season!

Through Caritas of Austin there are many ways you can get involved to help other families at the Holidays. You can donate kitchen items, hygiene items and cleaning supplies, adopt a family, individual or refugee family, as well as volunteer by picking up and delivering donations, serving in the community kitchen and more.

An adult day health care center with activities, exercising, dances, and other things in need of volunteers to help with those things and others, to engage in conversations and help run activities, assist with regular jobs at the ACT, count and list inventory, accept and organize donations, repair and refurbish donated equipment, answering phones, running classes, etc. They also need and gladly accept donations of these things.

Operation Blue Santa is a non-profit organization that's organized by the Austin Police Department. Every year they provide each family they work with a full Holiday meal and wrapped Christmas gifts for children under 14. You can choose to volunteer, perhaps sponsor a family, or simply donate unwrapped toys to one of the many drop off locations.

A program of the Travis County Sheriff's Office. Brown Santa is dedicated to helping out needy families, and you can help, too! Check out their list of donatable items here, donate funds via Roger Casanova's fundraiser page, or volunteer. Check out their page for more opportunities to help!

The Salvation Army's mission statement is this: "The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination." The SA helps everyone from elderly, homeless, veterans, disaster relief, victims of domestic violence, to job loss, emotional distress, physical disabilities, mental and substance abuse issues and more. With that said, the Salvation Army has a Christmas Assistance program that helps families in need of Christmas dinner, toys for their children, meals for the homeless, and more. They also have an Angel Tree program, specific to giving a child in need, a Christmas. You can also volunteer to be a bell ringer, for disaster assistance or project and event help. Or donate items from their wishlist for their programs. Visit the website to find more opportunities to donate or volunteer!

El Buen Samaritano is committed to helping families lead healthy, productive and secure lives through high-quality and affordable healthcare, education and financial security services. You can volunteer in the daycare, sorting and bagging food, or you can donate toiletries or foods to help stock the Food Pantry. See the list of things they could use here.

If there's an organization I've missed, please feel free to link me to it in the comments so that I can review it and add it! I'm sure there are loads of other places in the Austin area, and encourage you all to look into doing something that will impact others' lives for the better. Please share with me your stories; Have you been the person in need? Have you helped others in need? How have these experiences changed you?

He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them will receive many curses. - Proverbs 28:27

♥Mother Bear

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