This holiday season, raise spirits for yourself, others

We don’t mean to sound like Scrooge (before his transformation), but the holidays can sometimes take a toll. Between the strands of Christmas lights that burn out the minute you untangle them and the endless online search for that vintage, limited-edition Star Wars action figure that so-and-so just has to have, it can be a bit much.

But here’s a guaranteed way to raise your spirits: Take a lesson from the reformed Scrooge and lend a hand this holiday season. It doesn’t have to be a big deal; just dropping a buck or two in a Salvation Army kettle can put a smile on your face and a lift in your step.

Here are 10 more ideas — in no particular order — for chasing away the bah-humbug blues. If you have other suggestions, email us at letters@thetribunenews.com.

1. Put food on a table. The Food Bank Coalition’s Hope for the Holidays campaign runs through Dec. 31. Green collection barrels for canned foods and other nonperishable items are at many local supermarkets (go to http://www.slofoodbank.org for a list). Or, go online and make a monetary donation. Thanks to a corporate sponsorship, all donations up to $20,000 will be matched.

2. Give the gift of life. Remember, blood supplies can run low during the holidays, when many regular donors travel. Schedule an appointment by calling United Blood Services, 543-4290, or log on to http://www.unitedbloodservices.org  .

3. Give the gift of warmth. Donations are needed to buy warm coats that will be distributed at a Christmas Day dinner for the homeless in San Luis Obispo. Contributions can be made via the United Way of San Luis Obispo County (http://www .unitedwayslo.org) or checks may be sent to P.O. Box 14309, San Luis Obispo 93406 and marked “coats.” Coats cost $20 each for small through large sizes and $25 for XL through 4XL sizes.

4. Can some gifts. Before you invest in more “world’s greatest whatever” sweatshirts or coffee mugs that probably won’t ever make it out of their original gift boxes, consider donating to the recipients’ favorite causes or find something that benefits their communities and/or their interests. Two examples: The Atascadero Librar y is shy of $110,000 needed for anew library (http://www.atascaderofriendsofthelibrary.org) and The Friends of Wild Cherry Canyon is collecting for a $1 million endowment to cover startup and maintenance costs for the property, which is a proposed addition to Montana de Oro State Park (http://www.lcslo.org/wild_cherry _cyn.html ).

5. Pledge some time. In lieu of making a cash donation to your giftee’s favorite charity (see above), pledge to volunteer some time in the coming year. Friends of Wild Cherry Canyon, for example, is taking pledges from volunteers willing to work at Montaña de Oro.

6. Make a senior smile. If you hurry, there’s still time to select gifts for a local senior citizen through a program called Be a Santa for a Senior. Gift trees decked with ornaments listing seniors’ requests will be up until Wednesday at several local businesses, including Walmart in Arroyo Grande, KSBY and the San Luis Obispo Surgery Center. Go to http://www.beasantatoasenior.com   or call 773-3744 for more information.

7. Shop the toy aisle. Toy drives, such as Toys for Tots, are in full swing, and yes, donations really can make a child’s holiday a memorable one. Toys for Tots says there’s a particular need for toys for children older than 12. Go to http://www.toys4totscentralca.org for gift ideas, or if you prefer, you can go online and make a monetary donation to Toys for Tots.

8. Make a clean sweep. Homeless shelters always need gently used sleeping bags, blankets, sheets and towels, as well as travel-sized shampoo, conditioner and soap. Clean out your closets and cupboards and donate any extras to your local shelter. And if you come across any unused or partially used gift cards, re-gift those to a shelter or to another nonprofit, such as CASA, Big Brothers Big Sisters or the Prado Day Center.

9. Ring some chimes. The SLO Salvation Army is still seeking volunteer bell ringers. Two-hour time slots are available through Dec. 24. Call Juan at 323-243-5811 or Patricia at 772-7766.

10. Be a friend to Fido. Donate pet food, pet toys and other items for distribution to families in need with pets. There are several collection sites throughout the county (many pet supply stores and vets offices have donations bins available), or drop off supplies at county Animal Services during their regular business hours (http://www.slocounty.ca.gov/AServ.htm ).