Spreading the Joy

by katherine stevens
Christmas seems to come earlier every year. You can’t hide from the decorations lining the shelves in mid-October, the children selling holiday wrapping paper door-to-door or the huge discounts at every major department store. Once we hit December shopping, giving gifts and going to holiday parties seem to take up every ounce of energy we have. But once in a while it’s nice to take a deep breath, put things into perspective and forget about all of the secular attractions. Spreading a little holiday joy could be the perfect getaway.
Our community is forever lending its altruistic hand. Organizations like the Sulzbacher Center, Second Harvest Food Bank and Hands on Jacksonville, Inc. are founded on the cornerstone of giving. They count on the support of volunteers in the community year round, but especially during the holidays. Whether it’s providing time volunteering at an event, donations in the form of money/toys or energy towards a project, every bit counts. So, instead of getting caught up in the craziness that is the holiday season there are some other feel-good options: to do something good for someone else.
The Salvation Army’s Red Kettles and bell ringers are perhaps the most visible community-wide holiday program. The nickels, dimes and dollars put into the kettles provide needy families with Christmas dinners, gifts for children and coats and shoes for kids with none to wear. Along with bell ringers, the Salvation Army will need volunteers to distribute gifts, hand out food, etc. For more information contact M. James Arrowood at 904.301.4875.
The Sulzbacher Center in downtown Jacksonville has been housing homeless men, women and children for over a decade. Throughout the month of December they will be in need of some helpful hands and donations. There are many volunteer opportunities available at the shelter including holiday decorating. Donation-wise they need Christmas centerpieces, new hats and gloves, travel coffee mugs and, as always, monetary donations. For more information contact Sara Dougherty at 394-1646.
Daniel Memorial Inc, a non-profit in Jacksonville (off Belfort Road) has been caring for abused, abandoned and neglected children since 1984. From December 1st through December 8th they are seeking volunteers to help bring the holiday spirit to cottages where the children reside. This will involve decorating with items on hand, purchased items or through art projects done by the kids. For more information contact Stephanie Cain at 296-1055.
Since money is tight for everyone this year you can volunteer without spending a dime. Here is a list of specific events happening in the First Coast this month:

December 4
Who: Hands on Jacksonville, Inc.
What: Teacher Supply Depot Giveaway
When: 2:30 PM to 6 PM
Contact: 332-6767, http://www.handsonjacksonville.org

December 7
Who: Episcopal Children’s Services
What: 1st Annual Locks of Literacy
When: Sunday, December 7th, 2008 from 1 PM to 7 PM
Contact: Eve Apel, 726-1500, www.ecs4kids.org, [email protected]

December 13
Who: HOPE Worldwide
What: Christmas Toy Loading
When: 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM
Contact: 292-2535 http://www.hopeworldwide.org

Who: Second Harvest Food Bank of NE Florida
What: Sorting Food, Packing family boxes
When: 9 AM to 2 PM
Contact: Larry Riley, 353-3663, [email protected]

December 15
Who: Hands on Jacksonville, Inc.
What: Cards of Caring, constructing uplifting and creative cards for non-profit distribution.
When: 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM
Contact: 332-6767, http://www.handsonjacksonville.org

December 24
Who: HOPE Worldwide
What: Christmas Toy Distribution
When: 4 PM to 6 PM
Contact: 292-2535, http://www.hopeworldwide.org

December 27
Who: Hands on Jacksonville, Inc.
What: Clean Green Earth! Monthly Cleanup, to restore Jacksonville’s parks and beaches
When: 8 AM to 10 AM
Contact: 332-6767, http://www.handsonjacksonville.org
If you’re shy on time but not on money the Nonprofit Center of North East Florida is offering many donation opportunities this holiday season. Visit WeGive.Org for more information.