Run Santa Run: Gift Your Time and Talent

‘Tis better to give than to receive, and there’s no shortage of ways to give back this holiday season. Many charitable organizations, civic groups, and individuals throughout the city open their doors and their hearts to those in need of a helping hand, a warm meal, a new coat, or toy donations to bring Christmas cheer to the less fortunate.

This year, the Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless currently has 66 children in the shelter and the goal is for each child to receive three presents on Christmas morning. To help reach the goal, sign up at www.sulzbachercenter.org to participate in the annual holiday toy drive. Stocking stuffers will also be collected to distribute to the hundreds of homeless men and women. After all the toys are in, the shelter will need a few extra hands to help get them wrapped and under the tree. Volunteers are needed to help at wrapping parties taking place from 6:30-8pm December 21-23. Participants are asked to bring scissors, tape, wrapping paper, and bows.

The Salvation Army also offers numerous volunteer opportunities during the holiday season. Help stock the food pantry to ensure First Coast families will have enough to eat. Sign up to sort, bag and distribute food to hungry families. Administrative help is also needed to complete the intake process. Volunteers can also help serve nightly meals. Angel Tree gifts and filled stockings are also collected and distributed through the Salvation Army’s Toy Shop. Volunteers are needed for pickup and delivery of items which are distributed a few days prior to Christmas. Sorting of the items is done weekdays throughout the month of December (www.salvationarmyflorida.org).

Sulzbacher Kitchen Volunteers

At the City Rescue Mission, people are always needed to sort through donated items and help serve meals. Get a group together and make a difference. Make it a family activity. Kids ages 12 and up are eligible to volunteer. Applications are available online (www.crmjax.org).

Be a good neighbor and contribute a new or gently used sweaters, jackets or blankets to Mister Rogers’ Sweater Drive this year to help provide a little warmth in the cold winter months. WJCT and Vystar Credit Union, in partnership with the Duval County School PTA, distribute the donated items to needy families in Duval, St. Johns and Nassau counties (www.wjct.org/events/sweaterdrive).

Donations are always needed for our four-legged friends. The Jacksonville Humane Society takes in more than 6,000 homeless dogs and cats every year and relies on donations to provide them with compassionate care and find them new loving homes. The non-profit shelter is in constant need of dog and cat food, kitty litter, blankets, and medical treatments like vaccines, spaying and neutering, and emergency surgeries than can help save the lives of abandoned pets. Make a monetary donation online at www.jaxhumane.org and receive an itemized cost breakdown of how far even $20 will go to provide love and care for a litter of stray kittens or a senior dog who would love the opportunity to join a new home.

There’s nothing wrong with having a little fun while you’re helping others. The Run Santa Run 5K benefitting the National Blood Clot Alliance is held December 22 at Henry J. Klutho Park in historic Springfield. A one-mile run begins at 5:30 followed by the 5K at 6pm. Participants are encouraged to wear Santa suits provided to all entrants for the run. The route will be illuminated with hundreds of twinkling lights, and decorations. Runners can enjoy festive music, a candy cane station, Hershey Kiss station, cookies, and hot chocolate. All participants will receive custom Santa medals. Registration information is available at 1stplacesports.com/santarun. A portion of all entry fees will be donated to The National Blood Clot Alliance to raise funds and awareness for its “Stop the Clot, Spread the Word” campaign, which is personal cause supported by race sponsors Dr. Loren and Elana Clayman of Clayman’s Plastic Surgery Center and Miracle Spa. The Claymans’ son, Bobby Clayman, suffers from blood clots as a result of a sports injury two years ago.

Clayman’s Plastic Surgery Center and Miracle Spa will also contribute to the Boys and Girls Club, donating prizes for the center to use as raffle prizes for the children. These prizes include movie theater bundles with theater gift cards, popcorn, and candy. For the second year, Dr. Clayman’s Plastic Surgery Center and Miracle Spa will help stage a puppet show and visit from Santa, Mrs. Claus and his elves at Riverside Presbyterian Church’s VPK program. The puppet show features over 20 puppets and each child will receive a gift from Santa.

Sign up to serve a meal, donate a soft blanket, a new toy, or a few hours of your time. Find an event that donates proceeds to a local organization and do it. Big or small, every little bit counts.a

About Liza Mitchell

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