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Here’s how you can spread holiday cheer this season

Loveley Brown meets Santa on Christmas morning last year during St. Peter’s Church’s annual Christmas Feast.
Loveley Brown meets Santa on Christmas morning last year during St. Peter’s Church’s annual Christmas Feast. The State

Christmas is a time for giving and sharing, for helping neighbors in need so that everyone can have a happy holiday.

“The key to wise holiday giving is knowing where to give,” said JoAnn Turnquist, president and CEO of Central Carolina Community Foundation. “ Identify why you are giving and what causes you care about. Then, do your research.”

Turnquist said the South Carolina Secretary of State 2017-18 Wise Giving & Professional Solicitor Report is a great tool to use when researching nonprofits. “You can also find a number of impactful organizations on the Midlands Gives website,” she added.

Turnquist offered the following suggestions for folks looking to volunteer or help others during the holidays:

Volunteer together: There are many opportunities to volunteer during the holiday season. The Salvation Army provides a number of options for families to share their time sorting and distributing gifts or ringing the famous Red Kettle bell.

Adopt a family: Expand your family this holiday season. Palmetto Project’s Families Helping Families can assist you with finding a family in the Midlands to adopt. Pick out gifts and holiday meal fixings for the family with your children and spend time together wrapping the gifts and dropping them off at the distribution center.

Write a kind note: Begin the conversation of giving with your family by reflecting on your blessings. Have each member of your family write a note about what they are grateful for about another family member. Gather as a family to read the blessings and brainstorm joyful and authentic ways your family can celebrate those blessings by giving to your community.

Warm a heart: Collect coats, blankets, mittens and hats to give to the homeless through a local nonprofit such as Transitions or Cooperative Ministries. You can also distribute directly to folks in need. One local family collects these items at their annual Christmas party and gives them away in a local park on Christmas morning. Their kids now look forward to the yearly tradition even more than the presents they receive and the family now greets many of the people they give the coats to by name.

Spread cheer with a card: Create homemade cards for the holidays and mail to military, hospitals, nursing homes or to local emergency responders. Or, after the holiday season is over, send the cards you received to St. Jude’s Recycled Card Program.

Make giving a New Year’s resolution: Use the holidays as a starting point for a New Year’s resolution to make giving a part of your family all year long. Ask your children to collect their spare change and use it to fund a charitable project. One local family uses their spare change to make lunches for the homeless on Christmas Day. The children are responsible for putting together the lunches and the family delivers them in the early morning hours before they open their presents.

The following is a list of just some of the opportunities in the Midlands for folks who want to help others this holiday season. Discover more nonprofits at www.midlandsgives.org.

Families Helping Families of the Midlands: Adopt a family through this Palmetto Project holiday assistance program. Families are “adopted” by members of the and Palmetto Project becomes the intake location for gifts and then the distribution center for families. Families Helping Families helps families in Richland, Lexington, Newberry and Fairfield counties. In 2017 the program assisted more than 3,100 families and senior citizens with toys, clothing, books and food. If you’d like to sponsor a family or senior citizen, respond at www.fhfmidlands.org by Nov. 30. You will receive a profile of your family or senior citizen that will include names, ages, genders, and specific needs (including the clothing sizes and ‘wish’ lists) for the parents and children. Families Helping Families also needs administrative volunteers at the phone bank through Nov. 30, or at the distribution center Dec. 4-21. nkilloy@palmettoproject.org or www.fhfmidlands.org.

Coat collection: For the 14th year, Mast General Store is helping Share the Warmth by holding a coat collection through Nov. 30. Donations made at the Columbia store will go to Transitions Homeless Center. Donations should be clean and gently used so they are ready for the recipient. Blankets, gloves, hats and heavy sweaters are also accepted. 803-771-2300. www.mastgeneralstore.

Carolina Cares: The 50th annual Carolina Cares holiday donation drive needs your help to help others. Through the collection of stocking stuffers with the Salvation Army, holiday cards for soldiers with the American Red Cross, and family food drive program with Families Helping Families, the student body and faculty are able to help those in need this holiday season. The drive ends Dec. 3, and is celebrated at this year’s 64th annual Tree Lighting Ceremony on the Horseshoe at 6 p.m. Dec. 6. Attendees will be welcomed to college President Harris Pastides’ house for a reception with light refreshments directly following the ceremony. 803-777-7130.

Columbia food drive: The city of Columbia, Richland School District One and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation are collecting food at various sites throughout the city for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Honor the Dream Food Drive. Food collected will be donated to Harvest Hope Food Bank. Donations will be accepted at most Columbia parks, City Hall and other sites. Some requested items include canned fruit and vegetables, dry goods and canned meats. The food drive ends Dec. 7. 803-545-3100.

Angel Trees: The Salvation Army is seeking donors for its Angel Tree through Dec. 9 at Columbiana Centre, 100 Columbiana Circle. Children are represented by angels with their Christmas wishes and clothing sizes available as gift ideas and suggestions. Volunteers will help select children and collect donations. Angel Tree gifts are due back at the Cattle Arena at the State Fairgrounds by Dec. 12. 803-309-0436

Vets Christmas Charity Ride: Riders will meet at the Carolina Honda Powerhouse parking lot, 901 Buckner Road, and proceed to the Dorn VA Hospital at 2 p.m. Dec. 9. Boy Scouts of America will serve food from 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. for donations. Music will be provided by the 246th Army Band. Drop off gifts such as bath robes, warm gloves, sweatshirts, T-shirts, underwear, back backs, soft candy, warm socks, gift and phone cards at participating locations. www.vetsride.org, 803-252-3381.

Stocking Stuffer: Stockings are available at the Salvation Army, 3024 Farrow Road. Email sarah.newcomb@uss.salvationarmy.org to reserve stockings. Stockings are to be stuffed with age appropriate items and returned to the Cattle Arena at the State Fairgrounds by Dec. 12. 803-309-0436.

Christmas Toy Drive: The Salvation Army is accepting toy donations, from groups and individuals. All toy donations should be delivered to the Cattle Arena at the State Fairgrounds by Dec. 12. 803-309-0436.

Toys for Tots: Since 1947, the U.S. Marines have been collecting toys for needy children at Christmas in boxes located throughout the community. Members of the community drop new, unwrapped toys in collection boxes positioned in local businesses. The boxes will be picked up Dec. 12. Go to eastover-sc.toysfortots.org for box locations or to request a box (by Nov. 24).

The Lexington Police Department Emergency Services Team will participate in Toys for Tots collection with events at Kmart, Target, Walmart, Menchies and Mellow Mushroom. Toys also can be dropped off during the week from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. through Dec. 11 at the police department, 111 Maiden Lane, Lexington, through Dec. 11.

Wreaths Across America: At noon on Dec. 15, Task Force Marshall Navy IA volunteers will help Fort Jackson National Cemetery to remember and honor veterans by laying remembrance wreaths on the graves of our country’s fallen heroes. To sponsor wreaths or volunteer go to www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.

Ring the Bell: This longtime tradition gives families and groups the opportunity to collect money donations in a festive way, by ringing the bell outside participating businesses. Go to the Salvation Army’s Christmas volunteer website,columbiasa.volunteerfirst.org, for available locations and dates, or email sarah.newcomb@uss.salvationarmy.org for details. 803-309-0436.

Ronald McDonald families: Every year, more than 300 families spend an average of 11 days at the Ronald McDonald House in Columbia. And at least 16 families will spend the holiday season there this year. Help these families experience some holiday joy by participating in the Ronald McDonald House Adopt a Family Program. To adopt a family or for information, email Liz Atkinson at liz@rmhofcolumbia.org.

Sistercare: Sistercare is seeking gift cards and gifts for women and adolescents who have been affected by domestic violence. 803-926-0505 or volunteercoord@sistercare.com.

Lezlie Patterson, special to GoColumbia