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Tuesday, November 28, 2000 Volume 66, Issue 69


'Tis the season

The holidays provide many opportunities to volunteer time 
or donate to charities

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 Cougar

Carlos Martinez, 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 clothing stores.

"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 help out.

"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

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 season.

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 service programs.

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 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.

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