'Tis the season
provide many opportunities to volunteer time
or donate to
By Nikie Johnson
Daily Cougar Staff
As the winter holidays come upon us, many
people look for opportunities to help those in need around their communities.
"Any time is a good time to volunteer,
but around the holidays many children's charities and local food pantries,
places like that, could use some extra help," said Jimmie Thomas, director
of UH's Metropolitan Volunteer Program.
Thomas said MVP did a lot of work before
Thanksgiving, and only has one event before classes end dealing with the
holidays. The organization will be throwing a Christmas party for children
in need Dec. 5, and anyone who wants to donate any toys or clothes to help
those children is welcome to stop by Room 53 in the University Center Underground
to drop them off.
There are hundreds of opportunities to
volunteer or make donations across Houston. One of the easiest ways to
help out is by donating money to the Salvation Army bell ringers.
Nikie Johnson/The Daily
a volunteer for the Salvation Army, rings a bell in front of the Big K
on Telephone Road to collect donations for the Salvation Army's Kettle
Campaign. The campaign is expected to raise $560,000 in Harris and Montgomery
counties this holiday season.
Rolan Chambless, a public relations manager
at Salvation Army, said there are usually bell ringers out at grocery and
"Last year in Harris and Montgomery counties,
we raised about $540,000 in around 150 or 175 locations," Chambless said.
"This year, our goal is $560,000."
Carlos Martinez volunteers with the Salvation
Army's Kettle Campaign.
"I volunteer to help families in need.
They don't have enough money for food or toys, and this here will help
them out," Martinez said.
Chambless said the Salvation Army also
employs about 150 bell ringers.
"It provides temporary employment for those
needing jobs over the Christmas season, so even though we have to pay people,
it helps those who wouldn't have had a job otherwise," Chambless said.
The Salvation Army also has a dinner on
Christmas day for people who are in need. Anyone can volunteer to help
out with that event.
To contact the Salvation Army about volunteering
opportunities or ways to make donations, call (713) 752-0677.
Another popular way to help out during
the holiday season is Meals on Wheels, an organization that delivers meals
to elderly people who cannot prepare food for themselves. The organization
runs year-round, but during winter break students may find it easier to
"We mainly need people to deliver noonday
meals," said Marilyn Vargiu, a program manager at Meals on Wheels.
She said Meals on Wheels will be preparing
and delivering meals to people on Christmas morning. Anyone who is interested
in volunteering with Meals on Wheels over the holiday season can call Gerry
Pate at (713) 522-3955, ext. 221.
Food banks and homeless shelters also provide
many opportunities to volunteer time or make donations.
Channel 13 and H.E.B. Pantry grocery stores
are sponsoring the Share Your Holidays food drive on Dec. 8.
The donations will go to various charities
around the Houston area. For more information on drop-off sites, see Channel
13's Web site at abclocal.go.com/ktrk/features/SYH_index.html.
The Houston Food Bank, one of the beneficiaries
of the drive, is currently recruiting volunteers. The drive needs about
1,000 volunteers to work two-hour shifts, during which they will take donations
and take calls from people requesting food. Anyone interested in helping
with the food drive can call Carol Gooden or Blanca Flores at (713) 547-8609.
Last year, the Share Your Holidays food
drive raised 1,475,000 pounds of food. It has raised more than 10 million
pounds since it began in 1980.
Homeless shelters like Star of Hope are
always in need of volunteers and donations for programs during the holiday
Another good place for volunteering opportunities
are local YMCAs. Alison Dodson, director of special events at the downtown
YMCA, said each Y participates in different programs over the holiday season.
The downtown YMCA will be active in the Hermann Memorial Jingle Bell Walk
and Run and the Spirit of Christmas toy drive.
Proceeds from the Jingle Bell Walk and
Run, which will take place Dec. 10, will benefit the downtown YMCA's community
Organizers expect 10,000 runners and participants.
T-shirts, jingle bells and foam antlers will be given out to everyone,
and holiday costumes are encouraged.
For more information on the event or to
register, visit www.jinglebellrun.org or call Dodson at (713) 758-9295.
Dodson said most Houston YMCAs participate
in The Spirit of Christmas, a toy drive that is held across Texas in conjunction
with Bank One.
"Basically, we have a Christmas tree in
our front hall that has cards with gifts written on them," Dodson said.
"People can take cards and buy the gifts for children."
Social workers put children's names, ages
and Christmas wishes on the cards and distribute them to participating
sites. Last year, The Spirit of Christmas helped more than 22,000 Texas
children receive more than 45,000 gifts.
Other YMCAs around Houston all have their
own charities; contact one near you for information.
For students with church affiliations,
most churches also participate in food drives, clothing drives and other
charitable events throughout the holiday season.