The holiday season is approaching quickly and many have begun shopping, decorating, and arranging their family and social gatherings. Many people in our community, however, are struggling financially to bring a joyous holiday to their family, and some simply do not have a family around to spend the holidays with.

As individuals, there are so many ways we can volunteer some of our time, services, or money to ensure that other people in our community are happy and cared for over the holiday season.
Christmas can be a financial strain on everyone, especially students, but one does not necessarily have to spend money to be charitable.

One of the things people often take for granted during the season is that everyone has a family to celebrate with, which is not the case for many. By volunteering time at a shelter, hospital, or old-age home during the holidays, or anytime of the year, you could really make a difference in the life of someone who does not get many visitors. A trip to a senior’s home for carols, or Mummering at the Janeway could be the reason someone has a Merry Christmas this year.

Of course, there are many other ways to volunteer time during the holiday season, such as helping provide meals for homeless and low-income earners and their families through charitable organizations such as The Gathering Place which offers daily meals to those in need.

People can also volunteer with, or contribute to, charitable causes which provide services to those in our community. Volunteers can donate their time at fundraising campaigns, host their own fundraising campaigns, or designate their business or organization as a drop-off point for donations from various holiday collections.

The Shoebox Project for Shelters Canada is hosting a local campaign where community members fill a shoebox with various items such as cosmetics, accessories, toiletries, jewelry, and peanut-free treats, valuing at approximately $50, which will be distributed to homeless women and women in shelters throughout Newfoundland. These boxes can be filled by an individual, or by a group or organization.

The VOCM Happy Tree has been in operation for over forty years in Newfoundland and will launch its 2016 campaign November 19 starting at 9:30 AM at the Avalon Mall. Community members can purchase toys for children ranging from infancy to age 16, and drop them off, unwrapped at the Happy Tree in the Avalon Mall, on the lower level. Individuals, organizations, and businesses can also collect donations in aid of the Happy Tree in order to ensure that no one is left out this holiday season. Distribution of these gifts will take place from December 20 – December 22.

Organizations such as the Single Parents Association of Newfoundland (SPANL), the Community Food Sharing Association (CFSA), and MUN’s Student Food Bank are always appreciative of cash donations as well as donations of nonperishable food items for their locations. SPANL offers services to single parents in need within the province, and provides food hampers to qualifying families as often as every thirty days, all year long. During the holiday season, they help single parent households provide for extra expenses such as gifts and holiday meals.

The CFSA has three holiday partnership campaigns coming up for the holiday season. They will partner with Mount Pearl Tim Horton’s locations so that customers can drop off their nonperishable food donations over a two-week period towards the end of November. During the two weeks before Christmas, the CFSA partners with Dominion supermarkets, taking donations from customers at the register, and for the month leading up to Christmas, CFSA partners with CBC broadcasting for an annual turkey drive. People can drop their donated turkeys off to any CBC location or College of the North Atlantic location province wide.

Food banks appreciate all donations, but unfortunately they do not always receive the items that they need most. Some items that are particularly in need at food banks include: canned soups and stews, peanut butter, canned beans, macaroni and cheese, dry pasta, noodles and rice, pasta sauce, canned meat and fish, beans and legumes, canned vegetables and fruit, canned and powdered milk, hot and cold breakfast cereals, baking supplies, and school lunch snacks.

Food banks also accept donations of cash and gift cards so that they are able to purchase necessities, which they do not get through donations, as well as providing perishable food items such as fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, milk, cheese, meats, and eggs.

No one is expected to make unnecessary sacrifices during the holidays in order to help others, and sometimes it is not always possible to contribute as much as we would like to, but even what seems like a small donation, a short amount of time, or simple act of kindness could make all the difference in someone else’s life this holiday season.

For more information on volunteering opportunities, visit www.gatheringstjohns.ca.
For more information on the shoebox project, and to find shoebox drop-off locations, visit: www.shoebox project.com.
For more information about Happy Tree donations, and collecting contributions, visit the www.vocmcares.com or call 709-579-2273.
To learn more or to make a donation to SPANL go to the storefront location at 472 Logy Bay Road or visit them online at www.envision.ca.
To learn more or to make a donation to CFSA go to their location at 21 Mews Place, or visit them online at www.cfsa.nf.net.
To learn more about MUN’s food bank services or to make a donation, visit the campus food bank located in the basement of Corte Real, Burton’s Pond Apartments or email foodbank@mun.ca.