The holidays are a time of giving, and there are any number of ways Midlands residents can do just that - now, and all year through. We've put together a sampling, from volunteer opportunities to donation drives.
Lexington County Sheriff's Department Toy Drive: Deputies will be at the Walmart Supercenter, 1780 S. Lake Drive from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 19. New, unwrapped toys will be accepted for needy Lexington County children; toys will also be provided to the Salvation Army and distributed to patients at the Children's Hospital at Palmetto Health Richland. Donations may be dropped off at the Sheriff's Department until Dec. 24.
Lexington Police Department/Midlands Toys For Tots: The town of Lexington is also accepting new, unwrapped toys through Dec. 19, at the Lexington Municipal Complex, 111 Maiden Lane. Help stuff the SWAT van from 7 to 10 a.m. today and 4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 17 at Walmart, 5556 Sunset Blvd. and from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday and 7 to 10 a.m. Dec. 15 at Kmart, 748 W. Main St. For more information, call Cpl. Doug Lee, (803) 358-1504.
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Burlington Coat Factory's Coat Drive: Local Burlington stores are participating in the "Warm Coat & Warm Hearts Drive" running through Jan. 15. Gently used outerwear may be dropped off at 302 Bush River Road or 7201 Two Notch Road. Donations will be distributed to the needy by Christ Central.
Tripp's Coats For Kids: Running through Dec. 16. Gently used coats will be accepted at any Tripp's Fine Cleaners, Hampton Hill Athletic Club, KICKS Exceptional Shoes, Stiver Lincoln-Mercury and Strobler Home Furnishings. The coats will be cleaned and distributed to children in need in the community.
Salvation Army Family Thrift Store at 1312 N. Millwood Ave., needs clothing donations to restock its shelves and racks. Donations of electronics, household items and furniture also are needed. Call (803) 748-9964 for pickup.
Martin Luther King Memorial Planning Committee and Richland 1 schools: The planning committee and Richland 1 are teaming up for the Honor the Dream food drive. Nonperishable food items will be accepted at Columbia city parks and district schools through Friday. All donations will benefit Harvest Hope Food Bank.
Emergency food pantries: There are any number of community food banks that are in need of donations to keep up with increased demand because of the economic downturn. Many also need volunteers. At Harvest Hope Food Bank's Shop Road location, for example, volunteers are needed to sort and package food, answer phones and help with food drives. Call (803) 254-4432 ext. 115 for details.
Senior Resources and Banfield Pet Hospitals are conducting a pet food drive for Meals on Wheels clients. Through December, small unopened cans or bags of dog or cat food may be dropped off at either Banfield location, 246 Harbison Blvd. or 10136 Two Notch Road; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays at Senior Resources, 2817 Millwood Ave; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays at the Real Estate School of S.C., 101 Medical Circle Drive. Financial donations may be made online at www.seniorresources.org. Another component of the Season of Suppers partnership is the Pet Pals initiative. With a $20 contribution each month, a donor can provide care for a homebound senior's pet. In addition to pet food, the pet will receive yearly health care. (803) 252-7734, ext. 231.
Area schools: Many area schools have giving trees to benefit some of their families in need, as well as stock classrooms with basic supplies such as Kleenex, hand sanitizer and more. They also offer holiday drives to benefit community organizations. Contact a school in your neighborhood and see how you can help.
Friends Of The Cayce-West Columbia Branch of the Lexington County Public Library has set up a Wish Tree at the library in order to collect sets of 10 books of the same title for local book clubs. The tree will be in the browsing area of the library at 1500 Augusta Road through the end of the year. New or used donated books or any financial contribution will be accepted. (803) 794-6791, ext. 4
Tree of Blessing: Pick up gift tags - with holiday wishes from Lexington County foster children, Lexington County Recreation and Aging Commission senior citizens, and children from Nancy K. Perry Children's Home - may be picked up at Flight Deck restaurant, 109-A Old Chapin Road in Lexington. Gifts are due back by Dec. 13. (803) 957-5990.
Turning Pages (formerly the Greater Columbia Literacy Council) is seeking volunteers and financial contributions. Turning Pages provides educational services to adults who want to improve their reading, math and computer skills. Volunteer reading tutors will be trained and matched with adult learners. All financial contributions will be used to purchase computers/software, readers, workbooks and math books. (803) 240-2441; www.literacycolumbia.org
Beacon Of Light Thrift Center is accepting donations of food, toiletries, clothing, books, electronics and furniture 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays at 301 Sunset Drive (Spirit of Truth Christian Church). Store hours are 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays. (803) 771-8933
Friends Of The Lexington Main Library accepts donations of gently used books, magazines, movies and music for its ongoing book sale. Items may be dropped off at 5440 Augusta Road, Lexington. Tax donation forms available; proceeds help support children's reading programs at the library. Marlena White, (803) 261-8697
Home Works Of Columbia will sponsor a Christmas Break home repair blitz Dec. 27-30. Teens and adults are needed to help repair homes of the elderly and disadvantaged. A planning meeting is slated for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17, at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church, 5220 Clemson Ave. Refreshments will be served. (803) 781-4536
AARP is seeking volunteers to fill positions of coordinator, instructor and marketer for its Driver Safety Program. (803) 781-4726; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
The American Red Cross Of Central South Carolina is seeking volunteers in the following areas: administrative, disaster, grants, heroes, philanthropy, public affairs and special events. Volunteer activities include responding to local disasters, writing Red Cross stories, raising money, conducting grant research and placing thank-you calls to monetary donors. Disaster Services Orientation sessions are held 6-9 p.m. the first Monday monthly at 2751 Bull St. For more information, call (803) 540-1217 or go to www.centralscredcross.org.
The State Museum needs volunteer docents to give tours, teach lessons and help in other ways at the museum, 301 Gervais St. Benefits include a discount at the museum store and opportunities to learn about South Carolina's art, natural history, culture, science and technology. (803) 898-4912 or e-mail email@example.com
Road To Recovery is a program that provides cancer patients with transportation to and from treatments. Training is weekly at the American Cancer Society office, 128 Stonemark Lane. Volunteers must have a driver's license, good driving record and a reliable vehicle. Lang Hunt, (803) 750-1693
Reliant Hospice is seeking volunteers to assist its network of caregivers. Volunteers do not need medical experience. Opportunities range from patient companionship and assisting with home improvement projects to running errands and providing patient transportation to doctor visits. Health screening and SLED background check required. Call (803) 798-1102 or go to www.relianthospice.com for training information.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Columbia is looking for volunteers for the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Palmetto Health Richland Children's Hospital, the Ronald McDonald House and McMeals. (803) 254-0118, ext. 11 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Lexington County Volunteer Guardian Ad Litem Program is seeking people to serve as advocates for children who come into foster care because of abuse or neglect. GAL volunteers work with all agencies involved with the child, including the Department of Social Services, the Family Court, school and counselors. Volunteers must be at least 21, have the desire to work with children, the ability to pass background checks and complete the 30-hour training program. Call (803) 957-6484 or go to www.lexington.scgal.org for an application.
Rolling Readers, a nonprofit children's literacy program, is seeking volunteers to read aloud or tutor children in reading. Sessions are held at local schools, after-school programs, child development centers, shelters, children's homes and churches. (803) 733-READ or e-mail email@example.com
Palmetto Animal Assisted Life Services (PAALS) is looking for weekend foster families to help expose future service dogs to sounds and sights vital to their working roles. Puppies undergo training from ages 8 weeks to 2 years. For more information, call (803) 788-7063 or go to www.paals.org.