The recession may be officially over, but you don’t need a Ph.D. in economics to recognize that its effects are still with us.
Local nonprofit agencies continue to see a surge in demand for the most basic of services — food and shelter, dental care, medications, help with rent and utility bills. In addition, many organizations are gathering toys, warm clothing and gift cards to distribute this holiday season.
We recognize that many of you already have a favorite charity in mind for holiday giving, but if you are looking for ways to help, we’ve assembled a list of ideas. Many are relatively quick and painless, others require a little more time and effort. Try one or two — and we guarantee it’ll lift your holiday spirits.
End of year clean out
Clear out your kitchen pantry or buy one or two extra items at the grocery store to donate to the Food Bank Coalition. Items can be dropped at the red barrels at Albertsons, Food 4 Less, Oak Hill Market, Scolari’s, Spencer’s Market, and Vons supermarkets throughout the county, or delivered directly to the Food Bank warehouses: 2212 Golden Hill Road, Paso Robles or 1820 Railroad Road, Oceano.
Pass out grocery bags to your friends, family, colleagues and neighbors and let them know that if they fill the bags, you will pick them up and drop them at the Food Bank.
Go through your bathroom cabinets and donate unused items (travel sizes are ideal) to homeless shelters.
Check closets and linen storage for new or gently used bedding — pillows, twin size sheet sets, blankets and winter clothing, socks, undershirts, pajamas and coats are needed at shelters.
Re-gift those gift cards that were never used or partially used to CASA or Big Brothers/Big Sisters so that volunteer mentors can redeem them for kids or pick up items needed for families.
Collect backpacks and school supply items for kids at homeless shelters. They need pencils and paper all year long, not just in September.
Volunteer to serve a meal at a homeless shelter or help at local food bank. Extra help is always needed during the cold/holiday months.
Call a local church; many donate their auditorium space for cold weather, homeless shelter overflow. Offer to clean before or after, provide supplies or volunteer to staff if needed.
Make in-home visits to seniors who live alone and just want company. Read to seniors who do not have great eyesight, or help with yard work or light home repair work.
Donate the gift of life
Blood supplies can run low over the holidays, when many regular donors travel or get busy with activities. Blood is especially needed over Christmas week.
Call United Blood Services at 543-4290 or log on to unitedbloodservices.org/centralcoast to schedule an appointment and find out about donor appreciation events, including a chance to win a free Christmas tree.
If you’ve been meaning to register as an organ and tissue donor, stop putting it off. Sign up today at www.donatelifecalifornia.org/register.
Valued added during holiday shopping
Several nonprofits — Transitions Mental Health is one — are selling holiday trees and plants as fundraisers. Others are offering holiday cards and calendars.
Shop local. You’ve heard this mantra before, but it’s been an especially tough year for many local businesses. They could use your support during the holidays and, let’s face it, our local government agencies could sure use the sales tax revenue.
Combine caring and pleasure
Host a holiday party for your favorite nonprofit organization. Invite a nonprofit staff person to give a quick, two-minute informational speech — no asking for money — just an opportunity to let your friends know what great work the organization does all year long.
Attend a fun fundraiser. Here’s one we especially like: The Needs ’N Wishes holiday event happening Dec. 11 in Los Osos. There will be silent and live auctions, a craft and gift sale, food concessions and an opportunity to buy toys to benefit children in need. Best of all, every penny benefits the Maxine Lewis homeless shelter. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 2180 Palisades Ave., behind the Los Osos Skate Park.
Indulge your inner child by shopping for a cool new toy and dropping it in a Toys for Tots bin.
Use your talents
Knit or quilt a blanket for the county Suspected Abuse Response Team (SART) office – they offer all sexual assault survivors a blanket/sweats/canvas bags, etc. when they have to go in for a forensic medical exam.
Some go straight from crime scene to SART office or hospital and often clothes are taken as evidence.
Knit winter scarves/ gloves for homeless shelter clients.