Thanksgiving is the unofficial official start of the holiday season and with turkey day just around the corner – it’s time for you and your kids to start to think about ways to think about those less fortunate and/or those that are alone or far away from home. In addition to the traditional holiday outreach programs, such as visiting a home for the elderly and serving food at shelters during the holidays, I’ve listed four programs which I believe will go a long way.

1. Holiday Mail for Heroes – The American Red Cross encourages U.S. residents to participate in Holiday Mail for Heroes, an effort to collect and distribute greetings to U.S. service members, veterans, and their families. The program allows anyone to show their support for individual soldiers both locally and abroad by sending them holiday cards. “The Holiday Mail for Heroes program enables the American public to show their concern and respect to members of our U.S. Armed Forces, veterans and their families, many of whom are under a great deal of stress; now compounded by the Ft. Hood tragedy”, campaign CEO Elaine Acker said. “It’s an honor for our community to step up and take action to show them they truly are American heroes.” Do it now – December 7th is the deadline in order for them to be received in time for the holidays. You can even make it a class, church, or synagogue project.

2. Toys for Tots – This perennial, large-scale effort of the U.S. Marine Corps is a great opportunity for children to use their expertise to buy toys for those who otherwise might not get any toys for the holidays. The objectives of Toys for Tots are to help less fortunate children throughout the United States experience the joy of the holidays; to play an active role in the development of one of our nation’s most valuable resources – our children; to unite all members of local communities in a common cause for three months each year during the annual toy collection and distribution campaign; and to contribute to better communities in the future.. Please keep in mind -the Marines are flooded with toys for very young children, so consider a contribution for those 6 and older. See for more information. Visit the site.

3. Coat Drive – Anyone wishing to donate coats for men, women, and children can do so in drop-off boxes located in all Burlington Coat Factory stores and you’ll even get a receipt for tax purposes. A list of stores is located online at Coats should be in good condition, with working fasteners and no rips or stains. Donors will receive a receipt for tax purposes. I think I even saw a TV commercial for the program which gives a 20% discount on a new coat when you donate one to the program. Coats are often collected by local police stations – you can always check in your community.

4. Heifer International – Our animal-loving families will enjoy the user-friendly online catalogue of this decades-old worldwide food organization. From water buffalo to honeybees to trees, enjoy shopping for a living gift that can help change someone’s life. Choose a heifer that can supply four gallons of milk daily to malnourished families and her first calf is automatically pledged to another family. If the $500 is too steep, buy a share of a heifer for $50. The site, at, offers a gift registry and gift cards. We’re buying a couple of starter flocks of chicks, for $20 each, on behalf of our kids and to mark our two-month-old nephew’s first Christmas. Check out the site.

For those of you that might have interest in creating a program in your community, a food drive – that is for canned and dry goods is always something the Salvation Army will welcome with open arms. You may even want to do one for the local animal shelter or ASPCA – just some food for thought!

By yanam49

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