Give of yourself this holiday season

This is a departure from my usual employment column to address something that is urgent right now in society. The economy and the current politics of greed is causing many of the safety nets the most needy of our society depend upon to break down.

Many of you, my readers, are among the unemployed. But many of you also have resources that some Americans do not have, such as investments, retirement funds, home equity and so on. While it may seem painful to downsize, it is important to remember that many don’t have anything TO downsize. Those of us who are fortunate, even if unemployed, have a moral obligation to help those who are less fortunate, not only in this holiday season, but every day of the year. Here are some ways to do this.

1). Food banks. The Food Bank of the Rockies is experiencing an unprecedented call on its resources, and record low donations. This food bank is a lifeline to many smaller foodbanks, as well as directly distributing food to the needy. This is where many people do their grocery shopping.

If you want to donate: Donate ready-to-eat meals in a can, not side dishes. They have plenty enough canned green beans, and not enough canned hams, cans of chile, and so on. Money is also always appreciated.

2). Toys for Tots. The brave men and women of the United States Marine Corp. run this toy drive every year, giving children a happy holiday. How does a single mother who has become unemployed explain to her child that, even though he or she was a good boy or girl that Santa didn’t come? With Toys for Tots, she doesn’t have to.

3). Winter Coats. Some people lack even a warm coat. Colorado winters can be brutal. 7 News conducts a winter coat drive every year, but it is now over. Instead, donate winter coats to religious organization clothing banks, especially in the downtown areas. The Roman Catholic Church’s Samaritan House Shelter  and the Denver Rescue Mission  take in hundreds of the homeless over the holidays and throughout the frigid Colorado winters. They can always use warm coats and other new or gently worn clothing.

4). The Women’s Bean Project. Want to help some deserving women learn job skills and get on their feet? Donate generously to the Women’s Bean Project. These women put together “ready to cook” packages of soup and stew ingredients that are sold in many local supermarkets and gourmet shops. The proceeds help the women of this worthy cause learn to be responsible for themselves and give them saleable job skills.

5). Denver Works. Denver Works helps people learn essential career skills and helps them to find employment – vital in the economy. They partner with Colorado employers to find openings for those with evolving job skills. They are great people whom we encourage you to get to know.

6). Jeffco Action Center. We think of the homeless as being centered in the downtown areas of a city, but there are many suburban homeless as well. It is more difficult for these folks to even find a place to camp for the night, much less a warm shelter.

The Jeffco Action Center provides a large food bank, a clothing bank, medical care, housing assistance, counseling (career counseling and personal counseling), and many other services to the suburban homeless. Like all other charities, they are not receiving enough donations to cover the need.

7). The Volunteers of America. The VOA has a variety of programs to help the homeless, assist the elderly, and give aid to abused and neglected children. While funded by a church organization, they are not overtly religious, and do not try to “preach” to anyone. They just give aid to those in need.

Finally, if you want your children to understand the true meaning of the holidays, volunteer on some weekends at one of the places that feeds the homeless. Don’t bother trying to do this on Christmas, as most places have tons of volunteers that day. But the spirit of the holidays isn’t limited to one day or one week. It should be with us every day of every year.

And volunteering to help or giving funds to those who are the poorest of the poor will help you to understand just how blessed you are to have a roof over your head, food in your stomach, clothes on your back and the ability to stay warm. Blessed Holidays!
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