Small drops of effort wash communities with hope.
In the frenzy of holiday shopping for friends and family we can forget that we are surrounded by those in need—the sick, the lonely, the hungry, the hurting. While it may seem that our individual efforts aren’t significant enough to impact so much despair, little drops of effort can wash our community with hope.
Contribute yours by choosing one (or more) of these gifts of service.
Drop coins in the red kettle
One of the most convenient charitable opportunities presents itself in the form of those iconic red Salvation Army kettles visible at the entrance to many stores. The money collected in these kettles provides needy people with Christmas dinners, clothing, toys, and financial assistance. Go a step further and donate or shop at The Salvation Army Family Stores- the proceeds from these sales provide 100% of the funding for The Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Centers.
Drop in as a docent
Donate your time as a docent at an area museum. Armand Bayou Nature Center encourages people who are interested in preserving the environment to participate in one of their many volunteer opportunities—everything from leading a night hike to participating in farm demonstrations.
Drop in to advance literacy
Transform lives through the gift of literacy by volunteering with Literacy Advance. According to Volunteer Services Coordinator Anna Zubkova, their greatest need is for Adult Basic Education tutors as they expand their program throughout Pasadena (they also have a Clear Lake site).
Drops of blood save lives
For the ultimate in giving, consider donating a part of yourself, such as your hair or blood. Hair donation organizations include Pantene Beautiful Lengths and Wigs for Kids. Though each hair donation organization has different requirements, they often prefer at least eight inches of hair that has not been chemically treated.
To donate blood, contact your nearest Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center. Each blood donation can save up to three lives. Healthy individuals, age 17 or older (or 16 with parental consent) and weighing at least 110 pounds are eligible to donate blood.
Drops of nature’s perfect food
Breastfeeding mothers can donate breast milk, which is vital to helping sick and premature infants survive. Mothers’ Milk Bank of Austin maintains three Houston-area collection sites for prescreened donors who have accumulated 100 ounces or more.
Drops of one-on-one care
The well-known mentoring program Big Brothers Big Sisters requires only a few hours of service per month. It has even expanded volunteer opportunities so that families can volunteer together through the Big Couple and Big Family programs.
Drop into a child’s life
Child Advocates work on behalf of 2,000 abused and neglected children each year, seeking to place each child in a safe and loving home. The program seeks volunteers to work directly with the children as well as volunteers to help with fundraising and other administrative tasks.
Drop into a senior’s life
Similarly, liaison opportunities exist for the other end of the age spectrum. In Texas, certified Ombudsman volunteers visit their assigned nursing home weekly, investigate complaints and empower nursing home residents. Greg Shelley, Volunteer Coordinator and Staff Ombudsmen at the University of Texas Center on Aging Ombudsman Program says,“We ask folks to plan to spend at least a year with us volunteering, spending at least two hours a week visiting an assigned facility.”
Sweet drops for service
Consider offering gifts to those who serve us all year long. Bake a batch of brownies and drop them by your nearest fire station. Leave a new pair of gloves for the postal carrier. My mom, a retired postal carrier, said that even a cold or warm drink (depending on the weather) is much appreciated by those who deliver our mail. Present your child’s teacher with a gift card for something indulgent—like coffee or a massage.
Caring drops for soldiers
Thousands of men and women serving in the armed forces spend the holidays away from their families. Blue Star Mothers, headed by mothers with children in the military, collects care packages (filled with everything from M&Ms to Baby Powder) to send to deployed service members. See their website for instructions on filling and dropping off care packages. Volunteer through NetPets.org's MilitaryPetsFOSTER Project to care for the pet of a deployed service member.
Drop off treats for homeless holidays
During the holidays, the homeless men and women of our community are literally left out in the cold. A friend of mine keeps “brown bags” in her car at all times. She fills these lunch sacks with ready-to-eat snacks such as granola bars and water bottles and hands these out when homeless people approach her at stoplights. She brings similarly constructed “birthday bags” to nearby women’s shelters, stocking these bags with cake mixes and candles so that children spending their birthdays at the shelter will be able to enjoy a special treat.
For more information on these organizations:
Salvation Army Houston
Armand Bayou Nature Center
Pantene Beautiful Lengths
Wigs for Kids
Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center
Mothers Milk Bank
Big Brothers Big Sisters
The University of Texas Center on Aging Ombudsman Program
Blue Star Mothers
NetPets.Org's MilitaryPetsFOSTER Project