Our latest issue out now!Fall 2016
The holidays often encourage more thoughtful, loving acts of kindness. The following organizations enable you to put those good deeds into action and help put the magic of the holidays in many people’s hearts. By donating your time and resources, you can make a positive impact in many people’s lives.
Friends of Dorothy Day
Friends of Dorothy Day is a large family home located on Cypress Street in Santa Ana. Here, doors are opened to the homeless and displaced. Shelter is offered, and warm, nutritious meals are served on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Assistance is needed to prep food, serve meals and clean up. The shelter is also in need of donations, including cash, gift cards, clothing, medicine, household items, hygiene products and more. One of the best parts about volunteering here is the interaction with the residents and visitors – being able to engage with the people you are helping and learning their personal stories is a wonderful part of the experience. This is a great opportunity for younger volunteers y to learn about the struggles individuals and families face on a daily basis and to put a face and name with the people they are helping.
Check Friends of Dorothy Day’s Facebook page for daily updates. Some days they have more than enough help, and other days they could use some extra hands – you can call before you visit as well.
Address: 316 South Cypress Avenue, Santa Ana, CA 92701
Information: 714.835.6304 or occatholicworker.org
Operation Help a Hero – Camp Pendleton
This organization is dedicated to the well-being and care of our American military members. There are ways to help throughout the year, and if you want to make a military family, Marine or sailor feel extra special this holiday season, get involved with Operation Christmas Spirit, which kicks off November 11 and runs through December 16. Programs include “adopting” a family and fulfilling the gift wish list for family members or providing gift cards so they can do their own shopping. You can also sponsor gifts and crafts at unit holiday parties for military children, and you can “adopt” single Marines and sailors who are away from their families. This is a great opportunity to give back while honoring the men and women who protect and serve our country. Volunteers ages 10–16 must be accompanied by a guardian.
Operation Santa Claus
Have you ever wondered where the toys you donate throughout the county during the holidays go? The County of Orange Operation Santa Claus program is Orange County’s only official toy drive. It provides gifts and toys to children in foster care or group homes; needy children in transition who are abused, neglected, or physically or mentally challenged; and homeless children in Orange County. Disadvantaged families and at-risk youth also benefit. Each year the program distributes over 45,000 gifts. You can simply donate a gift at one of the many donation sites throughout the county, or you can start your own toy drive.
Information: 714.679.2438 or email OperationSantaClaus@ssa.ocgov.com
Orange County Ronald McDonald House
This Ronald McDonald House is indeed a special place. Located on a residential street in Orange, very close to CHOC Hospital, is a house that is dedicated to supporting the families of sick children. It is part of a larger SoCal chapter that looks after six houses; operates two rooms in the CHOC hospitals of Orange and Mission; and runs a camp for kids with cancer and their families. The goal of each place is the same: Help children being treated at a local hospital that is far from home, enable the family to stay together, and provide the care/support they need in a truly trying time. The House is run by a staff, and volunteer assistance is needed on a daily basis. You can help make meals or deliver purchased or homemade meals to hospital sites for families caring for their children. Donations are also needed in the form of pantry items, cleaning supplies, home items, gift cards and more. During the holidays there is an even greater need as families with children fighting for their lives spend the holiday season away from home.
If you want to give back but don’t have time to do hands-on volunteering, consider making a donation to a worthy cause. If you aren’t sure where to donate your money, look for an organization that you have a personal connection to or find a cause that is important to you, whether it’s local, across the United Sates or in another country. For a list of reputable charities doing amazing things around the world, visit givewell.org. This nonprofit organization has done all of the legwork to ensure that the organizations you donate to are worthy and valid.
Kids Who Volunteer Are More Positive
If you have kids, it’s a parenting no-brainer to get involved as a family in a service project this holiday season. Several studies have shown that kids who volunteer experience a positive effect on their grades, attitudes toward education, and self-esteem. Volunteering also leads to reduced drug use and huge declines in dropout rates and teen pregnancies. There is also research linking youth volunteering to a higher quality of life as an adult, and showing that families that focus more on the material side of the holidays tend to feel less happy than families that focus on spending time together. What better way to spend time together than volunteering? It’s really the best gift you can give your children and yourself. If you don’t volunteer regularly, starting during the holiday season is a great beginning, and you can keep it up throughout the year with monthly or seasonal projects.
The Double-Duty Advent Calendar
Create an advent calendar that counts down the days to Christmas with daily acts of kindness instead of gifts, and watch your family relationships blossom. Examples of acts of kindness include taking cookies to the fire station, paying for the person’s meal in front of you in the driveway, letting someone who looks to be in a hurry go in front of you in line, delivering flowers to the senior center and making hot chocolate for the crossing guards – the options are really limitless.
Photos by Gigi Gaskell of gigigaskell.photography