'Tis the season for charitable giving
BY TERRA COONEY For Sun-Times Media
Patty Mullin, a Mind Over Matter staff member, banding shoes for delivery.
Carolyn Miller, certified professional organizer and owner of Mind Over Matter Organizing realizes that the holidays can be a very sad and lonely time for many people, making it the perfect time for random acts of kindness.
“We always encourage our clients to give to those in need, particularly at holiday times when we know that new gifts and items will be coming through their door,” Miller shared.
“During the holidays, feelings of gratitude for what you have and the undeniable warmth of giving to others is very strong,” said Miranda Barfuss, development manager for TriCity Family Services in Geneva, a nonprofit community counseling and mental health agency for central Kane County.
Through word of mouth, social communities, the web and newspapers, you can find out about nonprofit agencies in your area and how you can help. Here’s a great start.
“A great family tradition to start is to choose an organization and make a charitable gift to support their work,” Barfuss said.
TriCity hosts programs such as Adopt-a-Family Thanksgiving and Spirit of Christmas. Through these programs, anyone can provide a food basket for Thanksgiving or decorations and cooking tools to a family in need.
In the Adopt-a-Family Spirit of Christmas program, sponsors can provide similar food donations and/or gifts for the families after receiving a wish list and clothing sizes. Gift cards are also a great way to help multiple families in need.
Miller encourages people to start with local charities, churches, YMCAs, women’s shelters, nursing homes, food pantries, homeless shelters, etc.
“The possibilities are endless,” she said. “We are so blessed in this area to have drop-off centers for every charity imaginable.”
Currently Miller and Mind Over Matter are driving the force behind businesses in her community to serve as drop off centers for Soles4Soles, an organization that has provided more than 16 million pairs of gently used shoes to the victims of abject suffering. You can contribute your shoes if you live in the Oak Park area at one of the five drop off locations including Ananas, LaFemmena, Mind Over Matter, Nora’s Shoes and Trends. You can also check out Soles4Souls online to help from anywhere in the country.
“Every time you donate whole blood, you can save the lives of up to three people,” said Tammy Basile, spokesperson for LifeSource Chicago Blood Center, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in Illinois. Blood is one of the only gifts one human can give to another that is not manufactured. During the holidays, you can add the gift of life to your giving list.
Basile said traditionally donations decline during the holidays as people get busy with plans, so it’s a great time to get involved here. Jill Bernard, mobile recruitment director of Heartland Blood Centers throughout Illinois agrees.
“We receive 25 percent of our blood collections on mobile drives at high schools and colleges,” Bernard said. “When high schools and colleges are out of session, our inventory levels tend to drop.”
Since collections of blood are lower on the days leading up to, and just following, the holidays, due to busy schedules of donors, they hope to make up the loss all year round.
LifeSource’s Basile stated that 90 percent of the population will need donated blood it its lifetime, yet fewer than three percent of eligible donors in the Chicagoland area regularly give it. Both LifeSource and Heartland hold mobile blood drives at volunteer host locations. Log onto their websites to find out how to get involved.
“Volunteers mean the world to us,” said TriCity Family Services’ Barfuss.
On the organization’s website, find out how to become one of these “friends” or “angels” as Barfuss calls them. Time spent giving can extend from just being a worker bee on a committee to serving on the Friends Board and taking on leadership roles. One of the upcoming events that TriCity is putting on in December is the Snowflake Shuffle 5K.
“We encourage participants to fundraise for us and collect pledges, but even just participating is a great big help,” she said.
Mind Over Matter’s Miller pointed out that you might even spend your time writing a letter of encouragement to a wayward teen or a soldier on duty. Also, look for opportunities to tutor a child, teach an adult to read, or being a Big Brother or Big Sister.
“Sharing your enthusiasm for a cause is a great way to get others involved,” Barfuss said.
Go to your friends, family or co-workers and ask them to give back with you or sponsor a donation for a cause you believe in and you may find that people really are very generous.