Hey there holiday people! You know who you are! You had your tree set up days before Thanksgiving, played the music in October, and wear your ugly sweaters as a legitimate fashion choice.

To those who roll their eyes at the guys and gals I mentioned above, and could write a book about how retail holidays start way too early….I get you, you have your reasons!

No matter which camp you come in, we can all agree that the BEST part about the holidays are people’s expanded capacity for kindness, willingness to give back, and openness to others in a way that’s unique to this time of year. Don’t have money to donate? Totally fine! Many organizations are all-hands-on-deck this time of year and are happily accepting volunteers for one-time work shifts or returners. The Omaha area is full of opportunities to give – and I’ve compiled a list of organizations that need extra help over the holidays or have special events as we approach the end of the year:

 

Open Door Mission: This organization does so much good for the community. Their site says that they, “will provide more than 180,000 hot, nutritious meals this holiday season to the hungry and homeless in the Heartland.” That is A TON of meals! Consider donating food including canned meant, instant potatoes, canned veggies, boxed meals, canned fruit, or coffee.

Their Project Santa touches 6,000 girls and boys in the area, but they can’t do it without people donating toddler toys (18mo +), action figures, Hotwheels, Lego and Duplo sets, Puzzles, Board games, Barbies and baby dolls (they request ethnic dolls, too!), fleece throws, sport balls, activity and coloring books, and Play-Doh. Christmas Bells provides gifts for adults and asks for donations of alarm clocks, hair dryers/curling irons, watches, bath and make-up sets, board games, bus tickets, sports balls, flip flops (size 10+).

Their final holiday program is Adopt-A-Guest, where one would add a seat to their table to share his or her Christmas. Okay, that’s a lot of information but so many exciting opportunities to do good this season. For information click here or contact Rachel at 402.829.1509 or drive@opendoormission.org

Salvation Army: You’ve seen and heard them! You’ve probably given to them outside the groceries store before too. The Salvation Army is the group that rings bells and asks for change to promote holiday giving. This seems like the most fun way to give to this organization and I’m sure you’d have a better time at it than Phoebe…

However, did you know there is more to do with the Salvation Army at this time of year? Besides bell ringers, they need Volunteers for a variety of services. For general volunteering, contact Kay Weinstein at 402.898.6000

Winter in Omaha can be dangerous and even deadly to the homeless and near-homeless population. Winter Night Watch is a mobile unit that travels to people in need to deliver hot meals, clothing and blankets.

 

 

There are all kinds of important gifts that people give one another, and the Salvation Army provides a path planned gifting in the forms of appreciated securities, bequests  charitable gift annuity or deferred charitable gift annuities  life insurance, lead trust, retained life estates in personal residence or farm, charitable remainder trusts or wealth replacement trusts. Also, this organization provides energy assistance for those that need it. Black Hills Energy matches the money that the Salvation Army raises for this program, so giving a little can help double.

Similar to above, they also need donations in non-perishable food items, in-kind gifts and monetary donations, especially as the weather gets colder. Learn more about helping out here..

Project Linus: Calling all crafters! Actually…  no. If you can use scissors you can make a blanket! I might be partial to this organization because the pictures on their website are. so. cute. See below! This is a straightforward one: donate a blanket! Looking for a new knitting, crocheting or tie blanket project? I can’t think of a better use of time. This is a national organization, but its Omaha chapter is having its 14th birthday party on December 21st! They request that you bring a new handmade, washable blanket or afghan OR your knitting, crocheting, or sewing machine to create at the party OR bring your self and a friend to support. Click here to learn more about the event, and click here to learn more about the national organization. Check them out!

Ronald McDonald House Charities: This is an amazing organization that supports families in a vulnerable position – when a loved one is staying at a hospital. They lodge 6,500 nights annually to make families feel normal, with warm beds and friendly facilities. Their services typically cost $120 per night, and they don’t charge families to stay. Volunteer opportunities for individuals include front desk/greeter, data entry, pop tabs (weighing, sorting, bagging), writing thank you notes, prepare fundraising mailings, and help prepare for special events. In a group, you can serve meals or serve at a fundraising event. Students are encouraged to collect pop tabs for the House or do a donation drive to collect food and household items. Read more about their Omaha house here.

COPE (Christian Outreach-Program Elkhorn): COPE hopes to provide short and long term resources for families in Western Douglas County so that they may maintain dignity in their hard times. They provide comprehensive emergency services, special community distributions, a clothing closet, and home furnishings. Last year, they were able to help over 540 families (Wow!) by providing $18,000 in rent and utility assistance, 540 family food baskets, and many more substantial services. At this point, you know the drill. This organization needs monetary aid to finance all this good, but they also need food and clothing donations  as well as people to sort these things. They recommend hosting a neighborhood drive to help get them get as many blankets, coats, school supplies, diapers, toiletries, and Christmas toys as possible. Read more about getting involved here.

My family LOVES to get toys for little kids during the holidays. My dad heads this operation in my house, because he thinks he’s Santa (but doesn’t every dad?). How do you give back during the holidays? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter! And a warm and bright season, from us to you.

Written by Erin Johnson

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