How to help others (or find help) during the holidays

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It's that time of year again, time to get together with family, time to give and receive presents, time to contemplate the new year approaching.  It's also a time when those less fortunate than ourselves are in our hearts and minds.  Ask yourself: Who can I help this holiday season? Below find some great ways to easily help brighten the holidays for others in need;

Be a Secret Santa
A vast number of the people who do without over the holidays are children.  You can make a difference in the life of a child simply by donating a gift.  Remember, some of the most rewarding feelings come from giving, not receiving. Be the one who gives someone the gift of knowing they matter. So many people are struggling in this down economy. You have the chance to make this holiday feel just a tiny bit special by giving to those who have less to be grateful about this year.

My friend Shawn Mosch, a former scam victim and now crusader for scam victims, and co-founder of  realized that families who have been effected by fraud are often left unable to provide basic needs to their family. Shawn and her husband Jeff were hit with a Counterfeit Cashier's Check Scam just before the holidays in 2002. That year, they did not know where they were going to find the money to provide a magical Christmas for their then 2 and 9 year old children. Because of that, they created the Secret Santa Program, which accepts donations of money or gifts to match with a family who has recently been impacted by scams. Shawn and Jeff initiated a Secret Santa project to help lighten the load on these parents and their kids. "Children don't understand that Santa cannot bring them a gift because Mommy and Daddy were scam victims, so now we help people who were in the situation that we were in so that children will still have the magic of Santa on Christmas morning" says Shawn.

To become a Secret Santa visit one of the below links. 

On Facebook: visit their Cause Page
or you can go to their Donations Page to donate by PayPal

Don't forget our military families this holiday season

Members of military families are often far away from one another over the holidays.  You can opt to say thank you and help the families of our wounded warriors, families of fallen soldiers or the families of deployed troops who are away at war.  A few simple gifts that show that understands the sacrifice that they make throughout the year and most especially this time of the year can help to show them you care. To send holiday packages directly to our troops, visit Operation Gratitude.

Sometimes the most basic gift is the most welcome.  For example, Cleaning for Heroes, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides screened and free housecleaning, maintenance, and repair services to elderly and disabled veterans in need.  Based on the same concept that our nation's heroes volunteered to serve their country and communities, Cleaning for Heroes is an all-volunteer effort that brings donors, providers and recipients together. Cleaning for Heroes relies on volunteers, sponsors and donors who can contribute their time, money or services to the needs of their applicants. If you would like more information on how you can improve the lives of heroes in your community, or would like to apply for assistance, please visit their website at or call (401) 732-7856.

Put a smile on a child's face
A vast number of the people who do without over the holidays are children.  You can make a difference in the life of a child simply by donating a gift.  Fire stations and schools often sponsor gift drives, and of course the U.S. Marine Corps has Toys For Tots.  While you're out shopping for something for your niece, why not pick up something for another little girl?  Even an inexpensive gift can become a cherished memory.

Think outside the toy box
This time of year, kids--and adults, too--are in need of warm clothing. No one should be without coats, hats or mittens. Consider donating a colorful pair of mittens, or a soft, warm hat.  Boots of all sizes are in high demand in winter, as are coats.  The organization One Warm Coat puts collection drives at schools and community centers nationwide.

Make an unexpected gift
If you are interested in helping families in your own community but don't know where to begin, try contacting your local news stations for their help on finding a needy family, charity or local organization in need. You can also look for Food Bank bins at the exit to your local grocery store.  It's easy to slip in a can of cranberry sauce or a package of pasta on your way out the door.

Basic needs such as warm clothing and small toys are always important for every child to feel safe and loved.  Simply by donating a small item you can be part of that experience and discover for yourself how giving a small gift to strangers can be the best gift of all.

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My wife is the only one currently working. Very embarrassing for me being as I can't provide gifts or a decent Christmas dinner for my wife. Hoping I could find a way to make Christmas magical for her. She pays all the rent, and what she can on utilities. Such a good woman knowing I'm in between jobs. Please let me know if there is any org. out there where I can make Christmas possible for her. Thank You, and God Bless.

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