The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year. We are surrounded by our loved ones, delicious foods, and warm homes. Unfortunately, a vast number of our fellow community members aren't as lucky.
Rather than just talking about what you're thankful for this Thanksgiving, get your family involved in giving others something to be grateful for. We've compiled this list of ways you and your family (especially your children) can make a difference in Lee County lives during the holidays and beyond:
1. Donate non-perishable items to our local food banks. Both the Christians United Outreach Center (CUOC) and The Bread Basket are in serious need of non-perishable foods to help fill hungry bellies during their Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. But they also need those donations throughout the winter as low-income families are hard hit by escalating utility costs.These are just a few of the ways you can "give back" to the Lee County community this season (the entire season, not just for the holidays). If there's a certain activity or project your family, friends, or church are already doing, feel free to tell us about it (and let us know how we can help) in the comments!
Get the kids involved: Ask your children and their friends to each fill a paper grocery bag with non-perishable goods. This could be from their parents' pantries or during a special trip to the grocery store. Then let the children present their donations to the agency of your choice.
2. Donate money to a food bank, church, or local organization. Food donations are important, but cold, hard cash can go a long way. For instance, food banks can purchase what they don't receive in food donations, churches can share the money with families who need help with bills, and local organizations can invest the money in service projects.
Get the kids involved: Ask your children to host a bake sale, do neighborhood handy jobs for a small fee, or choose special chores around the house. They can then donate their profits or allowances to a cause close to their hearts. This can be very lucrative for a Scouts pack/troop, church youth group, or neighborhood.
3. Donate your time to a service project or meal kitchen. Your family and friends may not be able to afford to donate goods or money, but you can always donate time -- and, often, that's the greatest gift. The Bread Basket, CUOC, and Bread of Life Ministries all serve meals throughout the holiday season. Spend an hour with your family helping to serve those meals. You can also come up with holiday-related projects that will benefit area residents.
Get the kids involved: Your children may not be of an age that's appropriate for serving food, but they can still pitch in. Younger children can bus tables, refill salt and pepper shakers, or assist older children or family members with their assignments. And there are plenty of service projects appropriate for youngsters, including making wreaths for area nursing homes, going caroling, or helping elderly or disabled neighbors decorate for the holidays.
4. Nominate a needy family for assistance. Many of us know of a family that's struggling this year. Luckily, there are ways to make it easier on them. The Walker sisters have compiled gifts and cash for families who need help the most. You can nominate any family that might need the help by filling out a form located at the library, Department of Social Services, or the health department. Contact Stephanie for more information at 935-3422 or through email. The deadline is 3pm on December 13.
Get the kids involved: Poverty or financial struggles often carry a stigma, so you may not want to involve your children in naming a family. However, you can discuss with them why it's important to help others and talk about the affects of poverty on children.
5. Shop for a good cause. Many local people are selling goods that directly benefit those in need -- both in our area and across the globe. Rather than shop at Walmart this season, turn to those "shops" instead. For instance, NC Treasure Chest collects and distributes toys and clothing to needy children and Chunky Junk Jewelry benefits widows and orphans in third-world countries.
Get the kids involved: Ask your children to choose a gently used toy to share with the NC Treasure Chest or have them to add a piece of Chunky Junk jewelry to their holiday wish lists.
6. Make a shelter pup happy. Carolina Animal Rescue & Adoption needs supply donations throughout the year, but the winter months are especially bare. The animals can use donations of collars (medium size is most used), old blankets, dog and cat food, cat litter, paper towels, trash bags, and more (see full supply wish list here).
Get the kids involved: What's more fun than picking out dog toys? Let your children load up on tough dog toys (you want them to last!) and rawhide/bully sticks. Then take them out to the shelter and let them give the toys to the dogs. Not only will your children enjoy sharing with the dogs, but the dogs will lap up the attention.
7. Donate to Wreaths Across America. The holidays are the perfect time to recognize and remember our soldiers and veterans, especially those who've fallen in the line of duty. There's no better way to do this than to lay a wreath on their graves -- which is where Wreaths Across America comes in. For $15, you can donate a wreath for a soldier's or veteran's grave or for $30 you can donate three wreaths (buy 2, get 1). Contact Lorie for more information.
Get the kids involved: The local chapter of American Gold Star Mothers is leading a wreath-laying ceremony on December 11 at the Sandhills State Veterans Cemetery that will feature music and prayer. Participate in the ceremony by helping to load wreaths (10am, Spout Springs Emergency Services) or by attending the ceremony (starts at noon).