12 Terrific Ways to Be a Holiday Angel

12 Terrific Ways to Be a Holiday Angel
by Jennifer LB Leese

Did another year go by that you found yourself saying, "I wish I had volunteered more this year"? Well, you still have time. 2007 isn't here yet!
It's easy to "catch the spirit" of community involvement. Start today. Become a Holiday Angel.
1. Give, Give, Give
Put together a shoe box gift. First, get an empty shoe box. Wrap the box and lid separately. Second, determine whether your gift will be for a boy or a girl, then decide the age group. Third, fill the box with a variety of gifts that will bring delight to a child. Here's a few suggestions: small cars, balls, dolls, stuffed animals, yo-yos, jump ropes, pencils, crayons, markers, batteries, stamps and ink pad sets, writing pads or paper, coloring books, picture books, toothbrush, toothpaste, washcloth, candy, T-shirts, socks, ball caps, sunglasses, hair clips, watches, flashlights and more. You may even want to add a small note to the child. [Note: Always use new, unopened items.] Samaritan's Purse/Operation Christmas Child collects these show boxes for children all over the world. For more information on where to send, visit www.samaritanspurse.org
2. Shelter S.A.N.T.A.
Become a Shelter S.A.N.T.A. (Sending A Nifty Treat Along) at the Humane Society of Washington County's "Homes for the Holidays" campaign. All you'd have to do is collect toys and treats for the animals to take along when they go to their new homes.
To see the wonderful animals available for adoption stop by the facility at 13011 Maugansville Road, Hagerstown. If you have questions about "Homes for the Holidays" or if you would like to participate call Katherine Cooker at 301-733-2060, ext. 237.
3. Volunteer Your time
If you find yourself wanting to give something back to your community this Christmas--think about volunteering. Even though the efforts of one person may seem small, every act of service can have an important impact on someone. Volunteering can expand your horizons and become a satisfying, lifelong commitment.
There are a number of reputable charities throughout the world. Some of you may already have a charity in mind, others may be looking for one. Take time to think about what problems or issues your neighborhood or community concerns you.
Here's a small list of charities you can send to. [NOTE: Be sure to research each charity before sending monetary donations.]
St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital: A gift to the Hospital at year's end is a perfect way to further support the wish we all share--finding cures and saving children. To donate visit www.stjude.org, call 800-822-6344, email donors@stjude.org or send by mail to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105.
American Heart Association, Inc.: also known as American Heart Association and The Heart Association. Stated purpose: "To reduce death and disability from cardiovascular diseases and stroke." Address: 7272 Greenville Ave., Dallas, TX 75231. Web site: www.americanheart.org
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society: formerly known as: The Leukemia Society of America. Stated purpose: "to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families." Address: 1311 Mamaroneck Avenue, White Plains, NY 10605. Web site: www.lls.org
4. Unsurprisingly, many opportunities lie within the homeless sectors. Every city has one and everyone in that shelter needs your generosity and compassion. Four States Christian Mission at 125 N. Prospect Street in Hagerstown is a great place to start. Call 301-739-1165 for more information.
5. Foster-A-Soldier or Foster-A-Unit by visiting www.treatsfortroops.com. Thousands of men and women from every branch of the service are registered with Treats for Troops. If you want to send a care package to show your support, Treats For Troops will match you with a soldier who'd love to hear from you. You can choose your soldier by branch of service, home state, gender, general location, birthday, or you can let the program automatically select the soldier who's been waiting the longest to receive a package.
6. Gather with your daughter's Girl Scout group, your son's Boy Scout group, church, or grab a few neighbors and head on down to area nursing homes. Volunteer your voice and time singing to the elderly. Children have been doing this for years. It's fun, free, and gives so much to those listening.
7. Offer to shovel your grandparents' or an elderly neighbor's sidewalks this winter season. This is a gift that keeps them out of harm's way and who knows, you may get some hot chocolate and cookies just for being an excellent Holiday Angel.
8. Join the Caring Hands Gift Wrap at the Valley Mall by calling The Washington County Chapter of the American Red Cross. Any individuals, groups, or organizations wishing to participate or schedule a date please contact Donna Scotti at 301-739-0717, ext. 210. Availability is on a first come first served basis.
9. Emptying your bureau drawers, closets, and shoe boxes can benefit thousands within your area. Donate unused or unwanted items to your local Horizon Goodwill Industries (14515 Pennsylvania Ave., Hagerstown,) or Salvation Army (541 George St., Hagerstown) today. You can donate toys, household furniture and appliances, as well as cars.
10. Katrina's Toybox, a Smithsburg-based non-profit organization, works as a toy disaster distribution center by donating toys to thousands of children. Katrina's Toybox accepts only new toys. To send toys, monetary funds, or to help out, call Dottie Gruhler at 301-824-1048.
11. Talk with your preacher or pastor about volunteering at the church. Many churches need help with donation and distribution efforts.
12. Find out where you can help in handing out supplies, coats, clothing, food, blankets and such to the homeless. Everyone deserves the pleasures of everyday simple living.
Of course, the mentioned aren't all the volunteer opportunities out there. These are just a few that I found during my search. You too can find more opportunites by taking a few minutes to search via the Internet or by using the phone directory.
In case you need more convincing, here are my Top 10 Reasons to Volunteer This Holiday Season...
1. It opens up new opportunities and challenges.
2. Experience diversity and integrate with the community.
3. Gives pride and confidence to volunteers as well as those receiving.
4. It is exciting, fulfilling, and fun.
5. Changes lives by restoring hope and dignity.
6. Volunteering builds your confidence.
7. Is a great family opportunity, working together for a common goal.
8. Saves the community money.
9. Volunteering makes a positive difference.
10. Builds empowerment: "We can change things; look at what we did today!"
Whether this is your first year, or twentieth year...congratulations on being a Holiday Angel.