Giving—Thanks, Gifts, Money, Time—This Holiday Season

Regardless of which candidate you voted for in the recent election, many of us were reminded of a hard truth about life these days. We are not always aware of what our neighbors are thinking and feeling. We may not know about the difficulties or hardships they may be facing. There are many people throughout our community who may be feeling lost, alone, or simply in need of the basics. One refrain I have heard over and over since the election is that we cannot rely on our elected officials to make our country better. We have to pitch in and lend our support to the causes and organizations we find meaningful. A nation needs an engaged citizenry in order to be truly great.

The holiday season can be a wonderful way for all of us to come together to help each other, and build a strong, supportive environment so that everyone can thrive. There are a wide variety of organizations in New Jersey serving their communities, from soup kitchens and shelters to community centers, after-school rec centers to public libraries. Many of them can use donations of money or time in order to fulfill their missions.

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, there is a dedicated time period in which we get to enjoy the indescribable pleasure of sharing meals, company, and gifts with others. It can be a truly fun family affair to think about where to give back. The options are as wide as your creativity: holding a (gate, yard, stoop, or garage) sale to sell items you no longer need in order to donate the profits, volunteering as a family or group to feed meals to the homeless and hungry, or visiting a homebound neighbor on your block who might enjoy a spot of company and conversation. Volunteerism and community spirit can come in many different packages.

If you are interested in helping those in need, but are not sure where to start, the organizations below are just a handful of local options for philanthropy and volunteerism.

Anchor House—Trenton
Anchor House works with abused, homeless, runaway, at risk, and aging-out youth. They would benefit from monetary donations and volunteers. They also have a “wish list” on their website for a wide variety of items that would assist them in their mission of helping children, youth, young adults, and families.

Catholic Charities—Trenton
Catholic Charities assists with basic needs, as well as support services for a variety of mental health issues. They can use donations of food, clothing, household items, and vehicles, as well as monetary support.

Friends of the Mercer County Library System Libraries
Love the library? Friends groups support their local branch by raising funds for library programs, materials, and equipment. To get involved, visit your branch’s web page, or drop by your local branch for more information.

Habitat for Humanity of Trenton
Habitat partners with volunteers in the community to build affordable housing. They can use volunteers on projects, as well as monetary donations.

Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County—Princeton
JFCS welcomes donations and volunteers, with opportunities such as delivering Kosher Meals on Wheels, collecting food for their kosher food pantry, and more.

Lawrence Community Center—Homefront
Homefront’s mission is to end homelessness in Central New Jersey. They accept donations of food, clothing, household items, as well as financial donations. They also have volunteer opportunities.

Mercer Street Friends—Trenton
Mercer Street Friends’ mission is to help families and communities break the cycle of poverty. They can use donations of nonperishable food, gifts in kind, monetary donations, and support from volunteers.

RISE—Hightstown
RISE’s goal is to serve their neighbors in need and fight poverty. RISE has opportunities for volunteers, and can use donations of nonperishable food, funds, and goods. They also operate a thrift shop where you can volunteer or shop in support of their mission.

Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK)—Trenton
TASK feeds the hungry and provides programs to improve self-sufficiency. TASK has a web page with “30 Ways to Help,” for those who want to get involved

Womanspace—Lawrenceville
Womanspace provides programs and services for those affected by domestic and sexual violence. They are in need of monetary donations, volunteers, and their website has a wish list of things donors may provide to support their mission.

Interested in learning more? You may want to check out some of these titles for inspiration.
Being a Good Citizen
Being a Good Citizen: A Kids' Guide to Community Involvement by Rachelle Kreisman
Great ideas for ways kids can get involved in their communities.

Can We Help?
Can We Help? Kids Volunteering to Help Their Communities by George Ancona
A book about ways kids have given back.

Charlie Mike: A True Story of Heroes Who Brought Their Mission Home
Charlie Mike: A True Story of Heroes Who Brought Their Mission Home by Joe Klein
The true story of two combat veterans who found a way to help fellow veterans give back after returning from service.

Every Three Seconds
Every Three Seconds (DVD) by Daniel Karslake
This film profiles five individuals who have dedicated themselves to alleviating poverty and hunger in different ways.

Frommer's 500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference
Frommer's 500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference
Ideas for both short- and longer-term volunteer options while you travel.

Starting and Building a Nonprofit: A Practical Guide
Starting and Building a Nonprofit: A Practical Guide by Pakroo Peri/NOLO
Sound information on starting your own nonprofit.

Volunteer: A Traveller's Guide to Making a Difference Around the World
Volunteer: A Traveller's Guide to Making a Difference Around the World Lonely Planet Publications
Make your travel experience more meaningful and meet new people.

Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others
Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others by Bill McMillon
Make a difference while you are on vacation with a short-term volunteer opportunities.

Wide-Open World: How Volunteering Around the Globe Changed One Family's Lives Forever
Wide-Open World: How Volunteering Around the Globe Changed One Family's Lives Forever by John Marshall
The tale of a family who traveled the world, volunteering in different projects along the way.

—Jeanne at Twin Rivers Branch

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