Caring for Christmas
Giving is always better than getting. But giving a gift that does extra good in the community—that’s the best.
There are a lot of people in our community that need a little extra love this holiday season. Mr. Rogers said you can always “look for the helpers” to restore your faith in humanity. And you can be one of those helpers this year. Whether you pluck a name off of an angel tree, or you choose to purchase a special gift from a charitable organization, or maybe you want to roll up your sleeves and join the helpers, now is as good a time as any to give back.
So enjoy the decorations and the cheesy songs and wrapping gifts, as long as you put a little care in your Christmas. We have a few suggestions on how you can do just that.
Bring a pet home for the “Pawlidays”
During the Thanksgiving holiday, local shelters offered the chance for people to take cats and dogs home for a few nights to spend the holidays in a home instead of a kennel. This helps staff get to know more about an animal’s personality while also giving them a break from the shelter. And Santa Rosa County Animal Shelter will be carrying the program over during the Christmas holiday. Fill out a foster form at santarosa.fl.gov.
Send a homemade gift to a deployed soldier
Handmade gifts are always heartfelt, which is why it could be nice to receive one when you’re thousands of miles away from friends and family. Through Operation Gratitude, you can send scarves and hats, drawstring bags and totes, and handmade greeting cards for soldiers to send their loved ones a note. And even if you’re not crafty, you can send a care package of goodies. Find out more at operationgratitude.com/get-involved.
Help children with incarcerated parents
More than 2.7 million children have a father or mother in jail. And locally, there are children in need who may not have a Christmas because they’re separated from a parent by bars. United in the Family, along with the Poarch Creek Indians, has set up a longstanding program with the Prison Fellowship to make sure children with an incarcerated parent still get presents. You can help by choosing a child to purchase gifts for or by making a monetary donation by contacting Dr. Calvin Avant of United in the Family at 748-0675 or by visiting unityinthefamilyministry.com/angel-tree-network.
Make a pup your ‘angel’
Feeling guilty about all the adoptable dogs out there? Sponsor one of Amazing Grace Bully Rescue’s dogs. Pick a pup from the Angel Tree at Wild Lemon, and then you can drop off your donations to the studio, located at 3000 N. 12th Ave. Dogs are probably the easiest to shop for — just go for the treats. For more information, visit facebook.com/beawildlemon.
Serve a meal to someone in need
A hot meal goes a long way. You can serve the community in more than one way by volunteering at the Waterfront Mission annual Christmas banquet that provides meals to anyone who is in need. Sign up for positions ranging from serving to clean up by calling 429-0656. Learn more information by visiting waterfrontmission.org. And year-round, families staying at Ronald McDonald House will always need some sustenance. You can volunteer to provide a prepared or homecooked meal seven days a week for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Learn more by visiting rmhc-nwfl.org.
Send the gift of reading
If you have family in town and you run out of things to do (even though that’s impossible this time of year), why not get people together to send books to inmates in Florida prisons with Open Books? Volunteer your time by stopping in to help pack books on Wednesday nights or Sunday mornings, or stop in to donate funds to help ship books. You may also find something for yourself in the bookstore. For more information, visit openbookspcola.org.
Make a patient smile
A stay at a hospital is no vacation. And if you’re a child missing out on Christmas, it’s even less fun. There are a few ways to volunteer at The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart that can make their stay a little special. You can provide a playroom activity or provide much-needed homemade donations such as baby blankets, pillowcases or finger puppets. You can even volunteer as staff support stocking supplies and doing clerical tasks to help. Learn more by visiting healthcare.ascension.org.
Put your dollars to work
If you’re out shopping, why not purchase a gift that doubles as a donation? Purchase the Goodwill Easterseals 21st annual Christmas on the Coast ornament. This year’s limited-edition brass- and gold-plated ornaments feature the National Naval Aviation Museum, so you can show your hometown pride and support Goodwill’s programs that help to employ and train thousands of individuals with disabilities each year. Purchase the ornament online for $15 at gesgc.org. You can also find handmade gifts at The Dove Gift Shop, located in West Florida Hospital at 8383 N. Davis Highway, and support the Arc Gateway or thrift unique gifts at the Beverly Barkway Thrift Store, at 817 Beverly Parkway, where proceeds benefit the Pensacola Humane Society.