10 ways you can help those in need this season

Sure, Christmas is a week away, but not to worry. There are still seven days to shop; still time to get those cards in the mail; and still plenty of ways to celebrate this season of giving by helping those in need.

While some nonprofit organizations are wrapping up their toy and food drives, it’s not too late to contribute in some manner.

Without further ado, here is a list of 10 ways you can make a difference during this holiday season. We suggest you try one or two; we guarantee it will lift your holiday spirits.

1. Donate the gift of life.

Blood supplies can run low during 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 visit unitedbloodservices.org/centralcoast to schedule an appointment and to find out about upcoming blood drives.

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.

2. Provide some warmth.

A Coats for Christmas Day Drive to benefit homeless people runs through Dec. 24. Monetary donations will be used to buy highly discounted quality coats. Contributions can be made via the United Way of San Luis Obispo County website, or checks may be sent to P.O. Box 14309, San Luis Obispo, CA 93406 and earmarked “Coats.” The coats cost $20 each for small through large sizes and $25 for XL through 4XL sizes. Call 541-1234 for more information.

3. Do a good turn for a teen.

Sure, it’s fun to buy Barbies and Legos and remote-control cars for the little kids, but many nonprofits find themselves short on gifts to distribute to teenagers. Gift cards are the safest bet — to places such as Best Buy, Target, Forever 21, Boo Boo Records and fast-food restaurants. Movie passes are also appreciated. The Family Care Network at 3765 S. Higuera St., 781-3535, and the Prado Day Center, 43 Prado Road, 541-6351, ext. 822, are among the agencies in need of gifts for teens.

4. Think big.

Dee Torres, county homeless services coordinator, says there also is a great need for large-size adult clothing. Sweatpants and T-shirts in extra-large sizes are ideal.

Gifts for all ages — kids, teens and adults — can be dropped off at the Prado Day Center, 43 Prado Road in San Luis Obispo, throughout the week. Or, email dtorres@capslo.org or call 541-6351, ext. 822, to arrange a pickup.

5. Give a good read.

The Paso Robles Library Foundation is asking donors to help “undecorate” the library’s holiday Giving Tree. The ornaments feature book covers of titles for children and adults that the library would like to add to its collection. Donations of $25 are requested. The library is at 1000 Spring St., Paso Robles. Call 237-3870 for more information.

Or, contact the Friends of the Library organization in your community for ideas on how to help. Even better, join your “friends” group so you can help your local library throughout the year.

6. Make a dog’s day.

County Animal Services is hosting a Holiday Pet Food Drive to collect donations of pet food for families in need. Drop off pet food, pet toys and other supplies at 885 Oklahoma Ave., San Luis Obispo, through 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

7. Feed the kettle.

What could be easier? The next time you see a Salvation Army red kettle, drop in a few bucks — or $10 or $20, or whatever you can afford.

For many families, the Salvation Army is literally that — salvation. By helping with basics such as utility bills and rent, it can save families from eviction. We also like the fact that the money you donate in your community stays there, to help families in your hometown.

8. Stock some pantries.

The Food Bank Coalition’s Holiday Food Drive runs through Friday. Canned foods — fruits and vegetables, meats and tuna, soups, beans — as well as peanut butter, spaghetti, dry cereal and rice are among the most-needed items. Items can be dropped off at Albertsons, Food 4 Less, Vons, Scolari’s and Spencer’s markets; at the Oak Hill Market in Lake Nacimiento and at food bank warehouses, 2212 Golden Hill Road in Paso Robles and 1820 Railroad Road in Oceano.

Or make a cash donation; for every $1 donation, the food bank can provide enough food for seven meals. For information on how to donate, visit www.slofoodbank.org or call 238-4664.

9. Spring clean in December.

Homeless shelters have a year-round need for gently used sleeping bags, blankets, sheets and towels, as well as for hotel-size toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner and soap.

Check your closets and drawers, and donate any extras to your local shelter.

10. Volunteer.

It doesn’t have to be a lifetime commitment. Many churches, shelters and nonprofit organizations need help serving meals and cleaning up after holiday events. Or, volunteer to read or write a letter for a senior who may not have great eyesight, or help with yardwork, grocery shopping or home repairs.

If you do want to make a longer-term commitment, www.volunteerslo.org lists many opportunities.

Editorials are the opinion of The Tribune.