By Ami Rolland
Glittered cotton and paper snowflakes hang in windows because in the South real snow is nothing more than a dream. The faint smell of pine fills the air. The classic, all too jolly voices of Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby sound out everywhere. The traffic on Youree and Airline are worse now than ever. And let’s not forget the familiar distant jingle of a bell in parking lots and those classic red buckets full of spare change.
That’s right, Christmastime is already back and as suspected everyone is on their best behavior minding every ‘P’ and ‘Q.’
On top of receiving gifts we are always reminded it is more important to give than receive, and that is the real spirit of the season. This holiday season challenge yourself not to limit your giving to tangibles, give your heart and your time. There are countless needy families in our community and several organizations are extending their hands to help others during this holiday season. There are several ways you can contribute.
While you’re out shopping for presents stop in your local Salvation Army stores and see what kind of treasures you can find because a percentage of your purchases cost will go for needy families.
If you want to get a little more involved, dedicate some time to First United Methodist Church in Shreveport and participate in their annual Love Feast on Christmas Day. Danielle Reans, director of local missions at First United Methodist, said the celebration brings in as many as 6,000 needy families and volunteers each year.
“The event is really for folks who don’t have anywhere else to go or have been coming for so long they just love it,” she said.
Reans said volunteers come from all walks of life. City leaders, members of other churches, local businesses and every day citizens volunteer. “It just really resonates with them,” she said. “It is such a wonderful event to take part in. It’s both an honor and a blessing. Any family in need is welcome to attend, and the more volunteers the merrier!”
If you are more of a behind the scenes donor then maybe the Providence House’s “adopt-a-family” program is the opportunity for you to contribute this holiday season.
Executive director at Providence House, Simone Hennessee, said the program gives families something to look forward to during the holiday season. “We provide a wish list from the family for you to purchase from,” she said. “We want them to have a Christmas as normal as one can. Just like your family.”
With 150 children, and more than 75 families currently being provided for, Hennessee said they are always looking for donations, monetary or tangible, in addition to volunteers. “We just really want to encourage people to call in and email to find out how to help,” she said.
During the holiday season Providence House strongly encourages monetary and gift card donations for places such as Walmart and Target so families can get exactly what they need. “It’s a great opportunity to give flexibility so that everyone gets what they desire,” she said.
Another way to give is with holiday tribute cards. “These are a great way to give the gift that keeps on giving,” Hennessee said. Send in a couple bucks to the Providence House with a list of people you want to buy presents for this Christmas and in return for your payment, everyone on your list will receive a holiday tribute card designed by a Providence House child.
In addition to all the wonderful opportunities to give back through Providence House, each Thanksgiving and Christmas season, food baskets are collected for less fortunate families. Although the deadline for bringing in baskets has passed, Hennessee said the day-to-day things are always needed and they welcome those donations year round. Theprovidencehouse.com has facts and information needed to help a local family.
Remember that any assistance offered to hungry or homeless families during the holidays alleviates hopelessness and makes life easier and happier for those less fortunate. Aside from these larger events and programs, altruistic opportunities are endless throughout the community; Salvation Army red kettles, volunteering in shelters, donating baskets and canned goods, Toys for Tots at various locations and more. Find the fund, program or cause that speaks to you and your family, and be an example of generosity this holiday season. Give back to our community; after all, we’re all in this together.
Also, remember that poverty is year round, not just the few weeks around Christmas.